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Miami-based Lennar Corp., the largest builder of houses in the U.S., is betting new home buyers will want to live with an invisible roommate named Alexa.
On Wednesday, Lennar announced a partnership with online shopping giant Amazon that turns some of Lennar’s model homes into “Amazon Experience Centers” — showcases for smart-home products powered by Alexa, Amazon’s voice-activated digital assistant. The homes will be equipped with Echo Show and Echo Dot devices, wireless speakers, video doorbells and smart locks, thermostats and lights.
Fifteen Lennar model homes in 14 cities are now Amazon-branded, including two units — a single-family home and a townhouse — at the Satori gated community development at 16201 NW 87th Ct. in Miami Lakes.
The Satori development is comprised of 226 townhomes between 1,593-1,906 square feet; 222 executive estates from 2,187-3,162 square feet; and 34 presidential estates ranging from 2,530-4,105 square feet. Prices range from $360,000 to $800,000. The homes are built around a 67-acre lake. Lennar paid $74 million in 2016 for the entire 142-acre Miami Lakes property.
Carlos Gonzalez, president of Lennar South Florida, said that more than 50 percent of the properties have been sold and that the final phase of the development, a luxurious lakeside clubhouse, will be completed by the end of 2018.
Nearly 35,000 homes Lennar plans to build in 23 states this year will be Alexa-ready and designed in conjunction with the Wi-Fi Alliance to have no dead spots anywhere inside the residence.
David Kaiserman, president of Lennar Ventures, said the prices of the homes would not be affected by the technological additions and will include initial activation costs. People who move into the homes have the option to activate as few or as many of the services Amazon offers as part of the program.
Lennar offers a 90-day activation service to allow people time to decide if living in a voice-activated environment is for them. After that window elapses, you would pay for the elected services through Amazon Home Services.
The Lennar model homes also serve as Alexa showrooms for people who already own a place but are curious about the smart-home technology.
“A lot of people are intrigued by all the home-automation tech out there, but they’re not sure if they want to put it in their own home,” Kaiserman said. “The Amazon Experience Centers let consumers come interact with the tech and buy anything you see there. A lot of people go see model homes just to get ideas on how to improve their existing homes. This is no different.”
The venture with Lennar could give Amazon an extra boost in the increasingly competitive home-automation industry. According to a report by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP), the number of voice-activated speakers sold in the U.S. stands at 45 million units — a whopping 900 percent increase from November 2016. Amazon Echo units account for 69 percent of the installed base of devices, or 31 million. Google Home owns 31 percent of the market, or 14 million units.
“Amazon is working very hard to make the Alexa operating system the winner in home automation,” said Josh Lowitz, partner and co-founder of CIRP. “Streaming audio and Internet inquiries are the entry point to these devices for many consumers, but true integration of home automation is the goal. Embedding [Alexa] technology in new construction housing is a great way to sell it to new home buyers and further establish it as the norm in U.S. residences.”