So much has changed over the past few years in the housing market. But one of the biggest changes I have seen is that people have shifted their attitudes, and where housing was once seen as an asset, many people now view a home as a liability.
With that change in philosophy, buyers have become much more focused on buying for the long term. What does that mean? In part, it means that homes with obsolescence (located on busy streets, next to industrial areas, irregular floorplans, etc.) are shunned because buyers believe the home they buy today is the one they will live in for the next 10, 15 or 20 years.
So what characteristics do buyers desire most? Based on my experience, here’s a list of what I think buyers desire most heading into 2012:
1) Value – there it is, the bottom line. Buyers want to know that whatever they buy today will be saleable tomorrow. That means whatever they purchase needs to be priced right and be marketable to other buyers. The three most important words in real estate remain “buy it right”.
2) Location – with buyers looking long-term, the emphasis on quality neighborhoods has never been greater. Buyers want safety and predictability, which means stable neighborhoods around good schools.
3) Condition – if buyers are going to pay “retail” for a home, it needs to shine. No deferred maintenance, no inherited deficiencies. Buyers have very high expectations about the condition of a home, which often makes the inspection resolution process loads of fun for sellers these days.
4) Orientation and Floorplan – for years, I have gotten a lot of mileage from the phrase “Light, Bright and Airy” in my listing descriptions. You know why? Because buyers like like, bright and airy. Especially today, there’s a premium for south facing homes (snow melts faster in the winter) and homes with pass-through light. Our mood is affected by our surroundings, which means it’s hard to sell a dark house, and even harder in the winter.
5) Walkability – another trend on the rise. Because “staying in the new going”, people want walkable neighborhoods with good amenities. Parks, shops and schools in walking distance all count for a lot.
6) Privacy – no one likes a neighbor’s house perched up on the hill overlooking your bedroom. In fact, I can’t think of one buyer I’ve worked with who has said, “Gee, I’m glad my neighbor can watch me get dressed in the morning.” Lot location and orientation is important – privacy is an intangible that sells.
7) Ranches – as the population ages, there's strong and growing demand for one-floor living. Builders can’t build ranches affordably because the land costs too much and buyers are reluctant to pay a premium… but as the Baby Boomers continue downsizing and flatsizing, ranches will come with a greater and greater pricing premium.
8) Space and Flow – If buyers like “Like, Bright and Airy”, they love flowing, open floorplans. Connectivity between rooms is all the rage these days, while “single use” rooms (like dining rooms and living rooms) are on the way out. Show me your great room, baby!
9) Finished Basements – with 28 million adult children living at home today, need we say more?
10) Three Car Garage – those with toys can’t afford to store them and with HOA’s that don’t allow them to be on display, the value of a three car garage (or two cars and a boat, or motorcycles, or jet skis) is going up.
11) Large Closets – I have a middle schooler, so I get it. Kids need lots of clothes, especially in a four season state. Having grown up in Southern California, I would say you need a closet that’s at least 50% bigger to hold all of your seasonal clothes, shoes, jackets, etc.
12) Master Bath – since household size is increasing (thanks to those grown kids coming back home), a nice master bath is a must.
13) Cul-de-Sacs – no passthrough traffic is always a plus, especially if you live near a school.
14) Green Features – there definitely as a rising awareness of all things green, but as the economy has tanked I’ve seen people pull back from this. Can you expect to get your money out of a solar panel installation? In today’s market, I would say no. Good windows count for tons, and a competent home inspector can tell you the difference between quality insulation and toilet paper shoved between sheets of drywall.