Talking Tech: Millennial buyers demand amenities like Wi-Fi, surround sound and smart-home technology

Information provided by the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City

Willis Custom Homes brings the "inside out" with an outdoor fire pit and courtyard.
Willis Custom Homes brings the "inside out" with an outdoor fire pit and courtyard.

When it comes to in-home communications, homebuilders can’t win, depending on the client. If the buyer is a millennial and the builder puts in a landline, the millennial will laugh at the builder for putting in outdated technology. But if the buyer is a boomer, the builder will get kudos for that very same decision.

“We don’t typically put landlines in for basic telephones anymore, but we do stub everything for future technology,” said Matt Ernst, partner in North Kansas City-based Ernst Brothers Home Construction ( “We try to anticipate needs and what to run inside such as HMDI cable. Those can be added at a minimal cost up front, and it’s easier than to do that than for us to come back in later.”

Ernst says millennial buyers come in with specific ideas and requests because they do a lot of homework on Houzz and Pinterest.

“They come in knowing what they like and knowing what they want,” Ernst said. “They are pushing the envelope on design trends and not settling for anything traditional.”

Ernst Brothers is displaying its tech ready design during the 2016 Spring Parade of Homes with a four-bedroom, reverse 1-1/2-story home in Riverstone. The home is one of 347 homes open for viewing on weekends through May 8.

For Tony Libra and co-partner Steve Gilliland of Aspen Homes ( integrated technology is a big trend for millennial homebuyers. The Pleasant Valley, Mo.-based homebuilder has designed some exciting and innovative homes with integrated smart home technology in Northgate Village in North Kansas City.

“Our millennial clients want smart, functional technology integrated into the design of their home,” Libra said. “They want to do everything from their smart phone—from turning on their porch light before arriving home—to controlling the thermostat while they’re away at work.”

Smart technology fits nicely into Aspen Homes’ goal of creating livable spaces that are both functional and beautiful, while serving as the backdrop to their clients’ lives for years to come.

“With many millennial clients gravitating toward high energy efficiency and made-in-America products, it’s a trend we are excited about and predict will continue to grow,” Libra said.

Six homes by Aspen Homes are featured on the Parade this year. They are in the communities of Benson Place, Running Horse, Seven Bridges, Woodneath Farms, Staley Hills and Northgate Village, all in Pleasant Valley.

Justin Pfeifer, vice president of Pfeifer Homes Inc., said when people think of technology applications in new homes they typically think about energy efficiency. But high-tech bells and whistles, such as touchless kitchen faucets and phone charging stations tucked away in kitchen drawers, are part of the overall technology palette.

“I wouldn’t say there is any one certain area of the home that technology is most important in because every buyer had their own ideas,” said Pfeiffer, who has four homes in the Spring Parade. “Some buyers are really into electronic type technologies in their home, and others are more concerned about energy efficiency in theirs. It all just comes down to what is important to each buyer.”

John Jamison, president of Spring Hill, Kan.-based First Choice Custom Homes (, also is seeing more demand for high-tech offerings and smart home amenities.

“I get quite a few inquiries for NEST, which operates hearing and cooling from a cell phone, so basically we are wiring and stubbing for all technology,” said Jamison, who has two reverse 1-1/2-story plans on the Parade, one in Stone Bridge Park in Olathe and the other in North Ridge at Piper Estates in KCK. “I am seeing a lot more surround sound and practical items like garage door openers and monitors being used off of cell phones too.”

Spring Parade of Homes

Presented by the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City

Dates: Runs from April 23 – May 8

Admission: Free

Hours: Open daily 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Program: Pick up your Parade Guide at the Home Builders Association (I-435 and Holmes Rd.) or at any of the 347 Parade homes in the metro area.