How Smart Is Your Home?

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Knowing that what’s cutting edge today may become obsolete tomorrow, developers often take a less-is-more approach to smart-home features. Digital tastes vary, the thinking goes, and who wants to get stuck removing unwanted technology?

But a new 42-story Murray Hill condo is betting that when it comes to temperature and lighting, buyers essentially want the same thing and that the latest equipment for controlling them will stay relevant.

One United Nations Park, the condo portion of a condo-and-rental tower from the developer Solow Building Company, at 689 First Avenue, is offering a built-in automation system in its 148 units that will turn on the heat, lower the shades and turn off the lights.

Having all three features is unusual in a new development, brokers say. What also seems notable is that the digital extras, from Crestron Electronics, are not options but will be ready to go in every apartment as soon as buyers move in next year.

“Developers see the need to differentiate themselves,” said John Clancy, a vice president at Crestron, which once focused on single-family houses. But about a decade ago, the New Jersey-based company began expanding into multifamily projects with the installation of sophisticated smart-home systems in Walker Tower, the Chelsea condo, and has become an industry leader.

The creators of smart-home offerings like to promote how someone can easily turn up the heat in their living room while heading home in a cab.

But brokers say that users are increasingly interested in amenities that don’t require being tethered to a phone. Indeed, it might be frustrating to have to enter a dark apartment just because a phone is lost in the bottom of a bag.

Wall-mounted touch screens, which are hard-wired and don’t depend on internet connectivity, then, are growing in popularity.

At One United Nations Park, which faces the East River at East 40th Street, near the United Nations complex, every apartment comes with a single seven-inch screen, typically mounted near the kitchen. The screen also has programmable options, like “party,” which can be set to dim lighting and bring up the shades, or “sleep,” which can lower the shades, turn off the lights and set the temperature.

With the shades, the outside-facing sides are gray, to complement the facade’s obsidian hue. Buyers select the color of the interior sides from among 500 options, according to Crestron.

Credit…Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Solow has also included the wiring for automated audio, video and security services, making it easy to hook up stereo speakers, install a television or set up an alarm system without ripping out ceilings and walls.

“Developers don’t always go this extra step,” said Melanie Estrada, the agent with Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group overseeing sales.

At 90 Morton Street, a 35-unit West Village condo conversion, the developer Brack Capital Real Estate installed wall-mounted five-inch Crestron screens, which works as an intercom They also adding wiring for shades, but did not include shades or wiring for controlling heat and lights. Buyers would need to cover those features themselves.

But at 275 West 10th Street, a nearby 38-unit condo conversion called the Shephard, buyers will only encounter Crestron technology in common areas like the lobby. Apartments are merely pre-wired, said Miki Naftali, the chairman of the Naftali Group, the building’s developer, who added he regretted installing smart-home systems when redeveloping the Plaza Hotel as a condo in the mid-2000s; its technology quickly became outdated. “We don’t want to force anybody to use a specific system,” he said.

Credit…Sean Hemmerle
Credit…Sean Hemmerle

At One United Nations Park, one-bedrooms start at $1.385 million, while two-bedrooms are priced from $2.695 million. On average, units list for about $2,300 per square foot. In Manhattan, new construction units were $2,600 per square foot in the third quarter, according to Douglas Elliman.

Whether One United Nations Park’s bells and whistles are doing the trick is unclear. Brokers declined to provide an update on sales at the building, which began marketing in spring 2018 and has cycled through two sales teams. One- and two-bedrooms received price cuts of five to seven percent last year.

The condo has also changed its name, from 685 First Avenue, which is now used solely by the 408-unit rental portion.

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