What Buyers Are Looking For

What Buyers Are Looking For

  • April Lepito Smith
  • 05/20/21

There's no question that the coronavirus pandemic changed the real estate market for the foreseeable future. In addition to creating a supercharged seller's market thanks to pent-up demand, low housing supply, and even lower interest rates, the pandemic shifted what buyers—and really, almost all homeowners—want out of their homes.

Although the demise of the urban core is largely overstated, enough homebuyers took the pandemic as an excuse to reevaluate their living situations or accelerate the timetable for planned relocations. And with many employers extending the option to work from home either part or full time, the next few years will see people on the move—including millennials upgrading their housing situations and Gen Zers buying their first homes.

So what are their expectations? What do buyers want from their next home?

Let's explore what buyers are looking for in 2021 and beyond.

Flexible Spaces

Even with the promise of the pandemic ending, its effects on the housing market are expected to continue for some time. One such effect is the need for more space.

With restaurants and retail stores closed or operating in a minimal capacity and employers telling their teams to work from home, people spent an excessive amount of time in their houses over the past year.

Some enjoyed it. Others didn't. But most homeowners realized they didn't have enough space to live and work at home. This is why rooms with a purpose or multiple purposes will be popular in the coming years.

Home offices, dens, exercise or playrooms, or flexible spaces such as lofts or a finished attic or basement will be high on buyer's wish lists.

Even if the home you're listing doesn't include the dedicated rooms noted above, experiment with your home's flexibility. Consider staging a third or fourth bedroom as an office or exercise space. Do you have multiple dining areas? Consider staging your formal eating space as a playroom or sitting area.

Even if a buyer reverts the space to its original use, you'll show off your home's versatility and generate a lot more interest in the process.

Extra Storage

Homebuyers are also looking for storage—lots of it.

This storage can take various forms based on a buyer's needs, but they often want closet, pantry, and garage storage. If your home has all three, great. If not, ensure you emphasize what extra storage it does have.

Are your closets unusually tall? Highlight the potential for extra shelving. Do you have an extra-large garage? It's worth it to stage storage cabinets along one wall to show off the square footage. Do you have attic space that can accommodate all manner of boxes and storage totes? Make sure you disclose it.

If your home sits on extra acreage, it may even be worth the minor investment (between $500 and $750) to install a small storage shed—an extra carrot to encourage a sale.

Laundry Room

Separate, stand-alone laundry rooms are a sought-after feature for those moving from city apartments or starter homes, where a closet or hallway nook was the only spot for a washer and dryer.

Laundry rooms represent a considerable upgrade. In addition to signifying "I now have a real home with space to spare," laundry rooms also serve a practical purpose.

Laundry rooms help keep the rest of the house tidy when people are spending more time at home. Aside from being a place to wash and fold clothes, they provide additional storage for unsightly but necessary cleaning supplies.

When selling your home, spruce up your existing laundry room with fresh paint and, if applicable, new pulls, fixtures, and lighting. 

Updated Kitchens and Bathrooms

The pandemic may have exposed the spatial needs of homebuyers, but our next entry proves that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Updated kitchens and bathrooms are and will forever be high on a homebuyer's wish list. In fact, for many shoppers, particularly those in the luxury segment, a home without at least an updated kitchen is a deal-breaker. In other words, it's not just a want but a need.

If your home has an outdated kitchen or the bathrooms are showing considerable age, expect it to affect the overall value of your home. If the comps in your surrounding neighborhood possess these types of renovations, the value may dip even more.

To remedy the issue, consider making some updates to improve the home's overall value. You don’t need to break the bank to do so, but make sure any upgrades align with the house and the neighborhood.

Minor kitchen remodels (in the neighborhood of $10,000 to $15,000)  will improve your sales position considerably.

If your home already possesses the necessary updates, make certain they stand out. Depending on surrounding comps, it may also be prudent to make minor updates to freshen the look of your kitchen and bathrooms. Fresh paint, new fixtures, and cabinet pulls, and updated lighting can all reinvigorate a space.

Outdoor Space

If there's one thing the pandemic highlighted, it's the love that many of us have for the outdoors. Homebuyers are looking for something to do outside. They want a patio, a yard, a pool, a garden, a barbecue area, a place to sit and have drinks or dinner or entertain family and friends, or all of the above. And they want the space to do it.

Outdoor space is exceptionally high on the list for home buyers coming from urban areas. Accustomed to tiny balconies and shared green spaces, these buyers are looking at the backyard as an extension of the interior's living spaces—a private outdoor oasis all their own.

Should your home have little to no patio area, but the space is there for it, install a small sitting area (from 100 to 150 square feet runs approximately $1,000) to increase your home's appeal.

If your outdoor patio is already established, don't neglect to stage it as you would an interior room.

Beyond the backyard, ensure your home's general curb appeal is well-maintained throughout the listing process. Homebuyers may be after the living space in the back, but they want an appealing front yard as well.

Essential Features

Ask ten home buyers what they view as an essential feature every home should have, and you're sure to hear ten different answers. Hardwood flooring. Ceiling fans. Updated lighting.

Though not technically essential, these are upgrades that buyers want. To a certain degree, they expect a number of them in the homes they target.

It's impractical for your home to meet every single want and need of every buyer who shows interest. You can, however, check off enough boxes that your home carries the most sought-after features they're looking for.

For starters, hardwood flooring continues to be one of the most in-demand features on a buyer's wish list. They're easy to clean. They stand up to wear and tear better than carpet. They look great paired with practically any style of furniture or room setup.

Should your home have old or worn carpet, consider installing engineered wood flooring to upgrade your home's style.

Updated lighting and new ceiling fans are an easier need to meet. As a general rule, fans are fairly common in mid to high-end homes, though not all have them. If a ceiling is already wired for a light, it can accommodate a ceiling fan light kit. If your existing fans are old, replace them with new kits. They run around $150 for a nice basic setup.

Lighting can prove a bit trickier since there's so much of it throughout a home. Homebuyers appreciate outdoor lighting due to its aesthetic appeal and function as an extra safety feature. Inside, focus on ensuring the spaces that require lots of light—the kitchen and bathrooms—are well lit.

If your fixtures are dated, or they don't produce enough light, replace them to increase your home's wow factor along with its value.

Energy-Efficient Homes

Finally, we end our list with a very modern-day want. Buyers may not go out of their way to target energy-efficient homes, but they do appreciate it when they come across one. All other things being equal, they will typically favor an energy-efficient home versus one that's not.

From energy-efficient windows to Energy Star appliances, the main draw for buyers is the potential to save money on their utility costs. For younger buyers, energy-efficient homes have the appeal of being more environmentally friendly as well.

Ready to explore the best of Marin County real estate? Contact April Smith today to start your home buying or selling journey. From Sun Valley real estate to San Rafael homes for sale, allow April and her team's years of experience and expertise to be your guide to the Marin County luxury real estate market.


Work With April

April was honored with the California Association of Realtors Rising Star Award. She has succeeded in a multitude of varied sales positions throughout her professional career, garnering top awards at both Fortune 500 companies as well as smaller, family-operated businesses.