Top 10 list of “Must-Haves” in Today’s New Home!

Ris-Media recently published an article about their opinion of the top 10 items or features that top the list for today’s buyer. Click here to read this informative article.

However, one must always remember that real estate is local and the items may vary from area to area. In our market of Katy, TX and surrounding suburbs west of Houston, many of the features listed are the same but there are subtle changes and reasons for those changes.

The Ris-Media list is as follows:

1. Large kitchens, with an island.

2. Granite countertops.

3. Energy-efficient appliances

4. Home office/study.

5. Main-floor master suite.

6. Outdoor living room.

7. Master suite soaker tubs.

8. Stone and brick exteriors.

10. 2-car garages.

We live in an area where the average buyer moves about every 4 to 5 years as opposed to the national average of moving every 7 or more years. This is due to the transient nature of many of our residents who are employed with local oil, gas and chemical companies that tend to move their folks around more often than say, a local employer.

When building or buying a home, many of my clients ask me how their selections can affect resale later. I have a two-fold answer to that question. First, how long with they be in the home? If only for a short time (say less than 7 years), then it is best to purchase a home with the most popular features of the time because home trends should not have changed too drastically and those items should still be hot-ticket features that their future buyers will want. Of course, if we are talking about a long-term goal of ownership, it really does not matter what you install because when you move, trends will dictate a completely different set of priorities for buyers and and chances are the home will be ready for an update to accommodate those changes.

In dealing with today’s buyer in our area, I would suggest the following list of must-haves (in no certain order of importance):

1. Master-planned Community: In our area, the developer of a community is many times more important than the actual floor plan or builder of the home. It is easier to change the home to fit your needs than to try to change your community. Choose wisely as this can affect your future sales price and time on the market. Buyer’s who plan to stay only a few years will chose the community with the best schools and best track record for resale. In short, where you buy may be more important than what you buy!

2. Large Kitchens: I agree with this one as it is still a hot item and builders continue to provide incredible choices. Large islands and warm, stained cabinetry with custom touches are all the rage.

3. Granite counters: Yes, granite still rules. I know there are many alternative choices out there but none that compete with cool, hard granite. Buyers love that it is natural and hardy. Perhaps in the Loop Cement, Stainless Steel and other modern materials are desired, but in the ‘burbs, Granite rules.

4. Stainless appliances: still the top choice for today’s buyer but of course, this can be limited by the buyer’s budget. Black is very complimentary to many kitchen designs and we still see White but not often. As for energy efficient models, most builders include this at all price ranges. At the top tier custom level, you see professional grade appliances including warming trays, double convention ovens, convection microwaves and more.

5. Downstairs Master Suite: I realize that those from the North prefer to sleep upstairs so they can open the windows at night and enjoy a cool, gentle breeze. However, down in Houston we live in a much different climate where most days windows are sealed shut and the A/C is blasting cool air to keep us cool and control humidity in our homes. We like a downstairs bedroom because it keeps the kids and their noise and clutter out of sight and away from our tranquil retreat.

6. Study/Home office: this room has taken over the formal living space in almost all but the upper price ranges. People live a more casual lifestyle in our area and this floor plan choice reflects the need for home office space that is functional and not just pretty.

7. 3-car Garage: There are several reasons people request more than the standard 2 car garage: we do not have basements and limited attic space, many homeowners use their garage for storage and we live in a very family-oriented area with lots of teens of driving age and need the space for that extra car(s). Some builders offer tandem or stacked garages as an alternative to three full bays. This is fine but can affect resale if buyer does not want to do the old car shuffle when parking 3 vehicles.

8. Media Rooms: this feature started appearing in custom homes and worked it’s way down to the production homes about 5 years ago and is still a very popular feature. Many builders are adding upstairs mini-kitchens with microwaves, sinks and refrigerators. I do not see this item going away any time soon.

9. Hard Flooring: choices today are leaning away from carpet and toward wood and tile. 3″ wood planks are being replaced with larger planks and are more often hand-scraped and dark. Tile is best if larger than 12″ and many times laid in diagonal designs with natural stone or very elegant stone-like porcelain.

10. Pool-friendly Yards/Outdoor living spaces: Our climate lends itself to long, warm summers with nice breezes… perfect for cooking in our outdoor kitchen and diving into your crystal blue pool. Even if you do not plan to install a pool, it is wise to buy a home with sufficient backyard space to handle a private pool so it is easier to sell later. If you do install a pool, be sure your design matches your home in detail and price range. Popular pool items include: spa, water features, rock features, fire features, outdoor kitchens and fireplaces.

If you are thinking about building a new home, you may want to keep these popular features in mind. No, you do not have to select any of them but if you need to sell in the immediate future, your buyer may want them and that can hit your bottom line.

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2 Responses to Top 10 list of “Must-Haves” in Today’s New Home!

  1. Joel Luks says:

    There is a reason why we get along. I agree with all your must haves. A couple of the other features that as a builder we see being requested over and over again that could possibly be a contender for the list depending on the area are:

    – second bedroom downstairs in a two-story. Whether for a nursery, guest room, for for visiting parents, this is a feature i think that makes a home very flexible for a variety of lifestyles.
    – larger master showers. I hear this a lot being described as a walk-in, car wash-style, spa style etc.

    I am curious as to what you think the demand of 1 or 1.5 story homes will changes in the next 5 years. Something worth looking into.

  2. christiborden says:

    I did not mention number 11: Keep the master bath but enlarge the shower. Yes, so many people expect an amazing shower but make sure it is not at the expense of the large oversized tub. They may not use a tub themselves but their next buyer will and that is a show stopper for many.

    And Number 12: 1 or 1.5 story… I have been asking our builders to spend more time concentrating on what the aging baby-boomers will want and that is “no more stairs”. You find more of these single story homes in the lower price ranges but when you get to the semi-custom and custom range, very few builders will build a speculative 1 or 1.5 story. That is too bad because I am asked about this every week by consumers who are willing to pay for a high end product but hardly anyone is listening. I know Fedric Harris has a beauitful one story that is available in a few communities and Darling builds a pretty one story. Perry has a huge one story plan but it is usually built on too small a lot. I hope we have a custom builder out there brave enough to build a fantastic one story with all the goodies our buyers expect… I know it will be a HOT item.

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