You've heard the real estate adage "location, location, location" as the golden rule of a home's desirability. But today, homebuyers are thinking "features, features, features" -- ones that add "convenience, livability and energy efficiency" to a home, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders.
Inspired by HGTV real estate shows and by images of gorgeous home designs on Pinterest, buyers -- especially younger buyers who want a home to be turn-key, not needing upgrades or repairs -- look for the following top features, and may put higher bids on homes that have them:
--An open floor plan. Buyers love to see wide-open spaces, with the kitchen open to the dining room and great room, as opposed to each room being blocked off by walls. An open floor plan fits with their dreams of entertaining, as guests can be in different spaces, yet all in the same area together. Guests are not out of view, sequestered in different, closed-in rooms.
--Big kitchens with lots of counter space and granite counters. With families cooking together more, and again with entertaining high on the home buyer's lifestyle wishes, a roomy kitchen with plenty of space for the preparation of meals and the display of buffet-style platters is a must. Granite counters, especially on a kitchen island with its own sink (making this grand kitchen a double-sink design), offer beauty as well as easy maintenance, as do tile floors, another wish list feature.
--Updated kitchen and bathrooms. Buyers prefer updated kitchens with modern appliances and designer hardware and faucets. Since buyers plan to put most of their budget on the down payment for a home, they prefer to see that they won't have to then spend a fortune on bathroom and kitchen remodels, which are among the priciest home projects. Kitchens are gathering spaces, a hallmark of the owner's style and affluence, and bathrooms are now considered the home's peaceful oasis, so they may have glass-wall showers, steam rooms, multi-jet showers and claw-foot baths as well as chandeliers and fireplaces.
--High ceilings. The National Association of Home Builders says that the desirability of high ceilings is important, perhaps a deal-breaker, with first-floor ceilings at least 9 feet high to begin with. 20-foot ceilings impress homebuyers who love the lofty, open look.
--A home office. Buyers who work from home full time and those who have office spaces but spend time working from home as well want a sizable, well-decorated, modern home office. Not a corner of the dining room with a laptop. They desire a large room, connectivity, great lighting and a view, in addition to plenty of storage space. The experts at Bankrate say that female homebuyers are especially interested in home offices, although both genders list this feature as among their preferences.
--A laundry. Buyers want efficiency, and they also want their laundries to be presentable, well-designed and modern, with the latest technology and organizing space.
--Outdoor living spaces. The 2011 design survey from AvidBuilder.com says that 31.4 percent of buyers moving to a larger home said they must have, or really want, an outdoor fireplace. Again, the appeal of HGTV real estate designs feeds a need for outdoor entertaining features as well as cozy relaxing spaces for the family. Outdoor patios also have stone paver grounds, water features, outdoor lighting and even sound systems. And fire tables may be brought in by the buyer to add to the allure of the outdoor space, extending its use to most seasons.
--Walk-in closets. In the master bedroom, in guest bedrooms and in kids' rooms, walk-in closets -- especially those that are more like actual rooms with a central island and clothing and accessory display style -- are another mark of affluence and a desired feature.
--Energy efficiency. Homebuyers are invested in finding a home that won't cost a fortune to run. So they're looking for low-E windows, a good home energy ratings score, eco-friendly flooring materials, radiant heating, energy-efficient cooling, Energy Star appliances, and more for an earth-smart home. They're also looking for room in the yard for a garden and expansive, tall window to let in warming sun and create a grander design effect.
--Technology. From eco-friendly thermostats to home settings accessed via apps, to other high-tech capability, buyers love modern, if not futuristic features that add to the efficiency and energy-friendliness of a home. In addition, buyers want to know that the home has good cell and Internet service for optimal livability.
--A two-car garage with organized workspace and storage systems. A two-car garage is, for many buyers, the minimum. New home designs often offer three-car garages. And storage and workspace areas allow space for projects and hobbies.
If your home on the market has many of these features, you're in good shape to attract decent offers. If you're looking to sell a few years from now, it may be wise to incorporate some of these features into your home now to help its selling strength later.