Digital Living Home Buying

Finding the Right Home for Your Digital Lifestyle

Don’t overlook digital convenience when searching for a new home

Nearly 10 years ago I purchased a home that had been built in the 1960s. While it was equipped with few technology frills, over the years I managed to build out an impressive digital footprint within its walls.  That work, however, came at a cost that could have been avoided (or at least minimized) had I planned out my technology needs upfront and found a home more conducive to those needs.

Therefore, as I planned a move to a new city, I spent time assessing the digital attributes I valued in a home and set forth finding a new place that provided a foundation on which to build a meaningful, though more thoughtful and simple, digital footprint. In this article, I lay out six things to consider when searching for a digital-friendly home.

Proximity to OTA TV

With an ever-increasing number of cord-cutters and the inflation-busting price of cable TV, over-the-air (OTA) television is making a comeback.  While my original home was a mere two miles from the broadcast towers of all the major networks – I still had major trouble picking up the signal. Large trees, my home’s location at the bottom of a hill, and above-ground power lines all contributed to the spotty reception. I couldn’t reliably count on catching any of the live shows I cared about, and at times reverted back to paying for streaming when I couldn’t miss the big game.

When I set out to find a new home, I tried to be as cognizant of its location in proximity to broadcast towers, as possible.  So before you lock in a new home, consider not only how far you are from the towers, but how good a line of sight you have to those towers.  Try a tool like Antenna Web to assess the location, and once you move in cut cable and run your antenna into an Over the Air (OTA) DVR like the Amazon Recast (my personal favorite), SiliconDust HD Homerun, or Tablo DVR.

Ability to Build a Kick-Ass Home Theater (or Entertainment) Room

Bonus rooms and extra bedrooms are great, but a room that can truly serve as (or can be built into) a home theater is extra special, and not all bonus rooms are created equal.  Great theater rooms require exceptional light control, solid sound dampening, the ability to run wiring to your speakers and entertainment cabinet. The most important thing to look for is a well-sized bonus room that’s typically larger (or at least longer) than a typical bedroom.  Finished basements with lots of space, unfinished basements with endless potential, or an attic space that can fit a big screen and control the light are all options to suit your need for an entertainment room.

Wiring for TV and Networking

In a world of wireless, it’s often easy to overlook the importance of good wiring.  Even if you cut the cord in favor of streaming TV, keep an eye out for how your home is wired.  Coax that runs to convenient locations can enable you to get OTA signals directly to your TV.  Even though many of the new wireless Over the Air (OTA) DVRs can be placed in any room in the house, good old-fashioned phone, coax, and ethernet cables are hard to beat. 

It’s unlikely any home will be wired the way you want, but it’s still important to assess how easy it will be to make changes once you move in. The way the floor joists run can impact how easy it is to get new wiring through the ceiling or floor. Conduit may exist in newer homes and allow you to run new cable through existing spaces, thus reducing the cost of getting things set up the way you want. The worst thing is buying a new home with beautiful lines (or curves), only to find the sight lines broken up with unsightly wires to your new TV.

Power to the Doorbell

A smart doorbell is a near necessity in this day and age – it provides security, lets you check in on the weather when you’re away, and enables you to drop in on your front door without physically doing so.  As a result, functional low-volt wiring to your doorbell is important.  While many doorbells, such as the original Ring, can be charged without wires, it can be a nuisance needing to pop out the battery for a recharge every few months. Battery-powered doorbells tend to lose their charge when you least expect them, and it’s inconvenient in the winter months (when the batteries drain the quickest) to constantly head outside and replace the battery when you’d rather be inside next to the fire.  By having wiring available at your front door, you’re able to select from a broader list of choices and can avoid the nuisance of needing to re-change at the most inopportune time.

High-Speed Cable & Internet Availability

The only utility more important than the internet may be power, and in this day and age, even that’s debatable.  So why buy a house without knowing what high-speed internet options are available?  Most folks assume the internet is a monopoly, like gas and power companies, but that’s not always the case.  Many locations have at least DSL and Cable options, but depending on your city (or geography within a city) you may have other options too.  Cellular companies are rolling out 5G wireless trials, some cities have independent fiber providers, and there’s usually satellite internet available in most areas. Check out your options before your move in day, so when that moving truck rolls up – you’re already set up with the best broadband option for your area.

Acoustics & Noise Dampening

The digital lifestyle means music, loud movies, and good old fashion rock ‘n roll.  That means the acoustic properties of a house are incredibly important.  Whether you’re in a multi-family unit with shared walls or a single-family home, it’s important to isolate the audio as much as possible.  A thin wall between you and a neighbor, or worse yet, between your home theater and your child’s bedroom, can be a nightmare.  And the last thing you want is a family member or neighbor complaining every time you turn up the sound on your favorite movie, just so you can hear the dialogue from your new speaker system’s center channel.

This becomes challenging in a world where wood and ceramic floors, which reverberate noise, are prevalent.  Finding ways to enclose certain spaces or dampen the noise can help reduce the problem. Simple things like placing a shaggy rug in a cavernous room can help. Placement of sound dampening materials can also save you and your family members the headache of hearing everything that’s happening around the house. But better yet, finding a home that’s well laid out and well-insulated (from both noise and weather) can help you avoid these problems entirely.

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