Buyers Value Storage Space, In-Law Suites, NAR Survey Finds

Geography and demography strongly influence what buyers value in a home. The typical recently purchased home was 1,860 square feet and was built in 1996. Repeat buyers, buyers of new homes, married couples and families with children typically purchased larger homes. First-time buyers and single women tended to buy older homes. The typical buyer purchased a home with three bedrooms and two full bathrooms. Slightly over half of the homes purchased were on a single level.

These are some of the findings revealed by the National Association of Realtors 2013 Profile of Buyers’ Home Feature Preferences. The survey captures buyers who purchased a home between 2010 and 2012. Following are additional findings:

Southerners tend to buy newer homes; they were more likely to want a home less than five years old and in a wooded lot with trees when compared to other regions. Not surprisingly, buyers in the South also placed a higher importance on central air conditioning.

While more than three-fourths – 78 percent – of all buyers purchased a home with a garage, garages were more popular among new-home buyers, Midwesterners, and suburbanites. Forty-one percent of homes purchased had a basement, but this feature was more popular among buyers in the Midwest and Northeast. Northeastern buyers also value hardwood floors more than people in other regions. Southerners typically bought the largest home at 2,000 square feet. Those in the Northeast followed closely behind with a typical home purchase of 1,850 square feet.

Among buyers 55 and older, 42 percent considered finding a single-level home very important, compared to just 11 percent of buyers under age 35. Single women also placed higher importance on single-level homes, while single men wanted finished basements. Both single men and married couples placed higher importance on new kitchen appliances.

Among all 33 home features in the survey, central air conditioning was the most important to the most buyers; 65 percent of buyers considered this feature very important. The next most important feature was a walk-in closet in the master bedroom; 39 percent of buyers considered this feature very important. Closely behind was having a home that was cable-, satellite TV-, and/or Internet ready, as well as an en-suite master bathroom.

When it came to actually buying a home, among buyers who considered central AC and cable-, satellite TV-, and/or Internet ready very or somewhat important, 94 percent bought a home with these features. The next most common feature was an eat-in kitchen; 89 percent of buyers who thought this was important purchased a home with an eat-in kitchen. 

Buyers value some features so much that they are willing to spend more money to have them. Sixty-nine percent of buyers who did not purchase a home with central AC would be willing to pay $2,520 more for a home with this feature. Sixty-nine percent of buyers who did not purchase a home with new kitchen appliances would be willing to pay $1,840 more for a home with this feature. A walk-in closet in the master bedroom was the third most common feature on which buyers would spend more. Sixty percent of buyers who did not purchase a home with a walk-in closet would be willing to pay $1,350 more for a home with this feature.

The features on which buyers placed the highest dollar value were waterfront properties and homes that were less than five years old. Thirty-two percent of buyers would be willing to pay a median of $5,420 more for a home on the waterfront, and 40 percent of buyers would be willing to pay a median of $5,020 more for a home that was less than five years old.

The rooms that buyers were willing to pay the most for were a basement and an in-law suite. Thirty-three percent of buyers would be willing to pay a median of $3,200 more for a home with a basement, and 20 percent of buyers would be willing to pay a median of $2,920 more for a home with an in-law suite.

When it came to rooms that buyers want in a home, 55 percent of buyers thought it was very important to have a living room, although buyers in the Northeast placed more importance on a home with a dining room. Buyers aged 55 and older placed more importance on a bedroom on the main level of the house. Buyers aged 35 to 54 placed more importance on a laundry room, while those with children placed more importance on a family room.

The two most common rooms buyers were willing to spend more for were a laundry room and a den/study/home office/library. Sixty-three percent of buyers who did not purchase a home with a laundry room would be willing to pay $1,590 more for a home with this room. Forty-four percent of buyers who did not purchase a home with a den/study/home office/library would be willing to pay $1,920 more for a home with this room.

Although 97 percent of recent buyers were satisfied with their home purchase, there are always features buyers would like that they don’t have, said NAR Vice President of Research Paul Bishop. “Most satisfied homeowners still said they would like more or larger closets and storage space. In addition, nearly half of recent buyers would prefer a larger kitchen, and two out of five would prefer a larger home overall.”

Within three months of a home purchase, 53 percent of buyers undertook a home improvement project. The typical buyer spent $4,550 on various projects. Remodeling the kitchen was the most common home improvement project; 47 percent of buyers undertook a project in the kitchen. Bathrooms were a close second at 44 percent. Forty-one percent of buyers who made home improvements added or replaced lighting, and 37 percent added or replaced appliances soon after becoming a homeowner.

In October 2012, a sample of households that had purchased any type of residence real estate during 2010 to 2012 and still owned the property was surveyed. The survey sample was drawn from a representative panel of U.S. households monitored and maintained by an established survey research firm. A total of 2,005 qualified households responded to the survey. Households were sampled to meet age and income quotas representative of all home buyers drawn from the 2011 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.

The 2013 Profile of Buyers’ Home Feature Preferences can be ordered by calling 800-874-6500, or online at www.realtor.org/prodser.nsf/Research.  The study costs $14.95 for NAR members and $49.95 for non-members.

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