Selling a Home with Extensive IoT

by R. Preston McAfee, November, 2021

Over the years, I've added automation and WiFi control to the sprinklers, blinds, lights, thermostats, and leak detectors. I installed eleven security cameras, monitored by a program that runs on a PC, and put solar panels on the roof that are monitored through an ethernet connection. There is a door that can be opened by an app. I put in a semi-professional Ubiquiti WiFi mesh network, which requires occasional updating through a PC. Finally there is a security system that also has a wired ethernet connection as well as a cellular connection if the internet is down. I'm an early adopter, so the blinds are Hunter Douglas generation 1, which still work but are not supported by home hubs, and similarly the sprinker control is Rachio generation 1, which has better support but is missing some features.

We decided to move, so I'm selling a house with all this IoT. How do you transfer IoT to a new buyer? Some of it I could just rip out, but a buyer has to be able to open the blinds and pause the sprinklers when it rains.

Most of these functions are tied to an email address, so my first move was to create a new email address for the house. Then I set about changing the user name and password for all of these devices, and for some services like termite inspection that are not part of my IoT but should go to the buyers. Every single service -- and there are 27 of them on my list for the new owners -- had a different process for changing usernames, passwords and emails. A couple of services, like YoLink, make it impossible to change the username on an account. Yolink makes great leak detectors -- I recommend them -- but this part was frustrating.

But just changing ownership doesn't make it possible for a new owner to operate the system. Moreover, the system itself depends on having a PC to record video and update the access points when needed, and something like a home hub to operate the system conveniently.

Digression: I don't use a home hub. None of the home hubs support my blinds and sprinklers directly, but can be tricked into doing so using IFTTT. But using IFTTT adds additional complexity. Moreover, I am concerned that these home hubs are listening too much. So my solution instead was to deploy an old cell phone with only the IoT apps on it. That way there is no listening and easy control through the native apps. Older cell phones have a negligible resale value and yet a 2014 cell phone is about 50X more powerful than needed for operating IoT. So rather than install a home hub, I left a cell phone on a stand that can operate the IoT easily and intuitively.

I have several older PCs and tried to set up the worst of these -- a third generation I3 with 8 GB of RAM -- but it turned out to be too weak to monitor the security cameras. So in the end I've left a sixth generation HP desktop with a Core I5 and 12GB of RAM and a TB SSD in the house.