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CES packed with ‘connected home’ products as home ownership falls


While strolling through the CES floor here in Las Vegas, it’s difficult to go more than a few steps without seeing another “connected home” company or product. Some make intuitive sense, while others seem silly. But almost all of them have something in common: An appeal to homeowners. After all, an apartment-renter isn’t going to pay hundreds of dollars (or more) to improve his landlord’s property – nor is the landlord likely to even permit such a renovation.

Watch more about this year’s CES from Fortune:

All of this comes, however, as U.S. home ownership rates are falling. The Q3 2014 rate of 64.4% was nearly a full point lower than the Q3 2013 rate, and also down 0.3% from Q2 2014. In fact, U.S. home ownership rates have been falling pretty steadily for the past decade:

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce


Moreover, a lot of the new homeowners are buying urban condos or apartments that would not require the same scale of connected devices as would a larger, single-family home.

Per my Fortune colleague Leigh Gallagher, author of a book titled The End of the Suburbs: “All of the momentum in home-building right now is in multifamily/apartments and condos. And urban development is going up everywhere, not just cities— a lot of it is happening right in the suburbs.”

To be sure, a lot of these connected home devices could become part of new building construction, much like GPS and other connected technologies have become part of original auto manufacturing. But B2B is a much different (and slower) sales process than is B2C, and people don’t typically buy as many homes as they do cars.

I asked a couple of the connected home exhibitors at CES about this trend, and none of them seemed worried about it. “Home Depot and Lowes are doing just fine,” one of them said, in dismissing any TAM shrinkage. But were I investing in such companies, it would have to work into my future projections.

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