In most cities in the Bay Area, it's still a strong seller's market. But that doesn't mean you can count on a buyer paying your desired price without making needed upgrades. Selling a home successfully requires providing what homebuyers want. That means offering in-demand home features and avoiding what home buyers don’t prefer. It is hard to know the answers on your own and it’s even harder to know what upgrades provide the greatest return on investment. It’s best to consult closely with your real estate agent and do your homework. Learn what home features are most popular in your area and the best way to handle the investment. Compass Concierge helps my clients sell their homes faster and for more money by covering the cost of services to prepare their home for market with fees being repaid at closing. Susan Ward Compass Concierge
. Most importantly, the majority of buyers do not want to do the necessary improvements themselves, especially during COVID. Having a turnkey, updated and ready to move-in home is very appealing right now.
What the research suggests
The National Association of Home Builders' What Home Buyers Really Want report indicates these home features are most in demand:
Laundry room - 91% (rated as "essential/must have" or "desirable")
The cost of a new laundry room ranges from $500 to relocate your hookups to over $5,000 for a small addition or closet conversion. The project would include appliance installation, new floors, storage and plumbing.
Energy Star-rated windows - 89%
The average cost for a 2,500 square feet house is about $20,000.
Patio - 87%
The cost of a new patio can vary widely depending on the size and materials. Pavers, concrete and flagstone can cost $5 to $30 a square foot. So, a 16' x 18' patio might cost $1,440 to $8,640.
Energy Star-rated appliances - 86%
The average cost of a new washer is $750, a new dryer is $550, a new air conditioner unit is $220, a dishwasher is $550 and replacing a furnace is $1,400 on average. New waters run $300 to $1,200 depending on their size. New refrigerators cost about $1,100, but if the old one isn't at least ten years old, you won't save much on your power bill.
Ceiling fan - 85%
Ceiling fans can cost under $100 or run into thousands. But the average cost, installed, runs between $150 and $350.
Garage storage - 85%
Garage storage can be as basic as a few shelves, but most people prefer some cabinetry. Costs, depending on how fancy you get, run between $650 and $2500 on average.
Exterior lighting - 85%
Lighting fixtures cost about $500, installed. But if you opt for solar lighting, you can do it yourself easily. Each unit runs between $25 and $100 on average.
Walk-in pantry - 83%
Cooks love walk-in pantries. The cost of converting existing space averages $1,000 to $6,500, depending on the size, features and grade of construction.
Hardwood flooring - 83%
This classic surface runs $6 to $22 per square foot installed.
Energy Star whole home - 81%
The average cost of an energy audit is about $400. But Energy Star certification requires builders and home energy raters to inspect during the building process, so existing homes usually cannot meet the requirements.
Why focusing on the right home features is important.
Dr. Jessica Lautz
is vice president of demographics and behavioral insights for the National Association of Realtors (NAR). She says it's crucial for sellers to consider amenities wanted by buyers carefully.
“Homebuyer expectations have increased over time. Buyers today want their homes to look like those they see on TV. They want homes to look beautiful in photos they see online, have great curb appeal as they drive up, and look beautiful. You want to ensure that your home isn't outdated. Prospective buyers want modern-looking homes that offer quality, comfort, and convenience. If your home doesn't appear to have those traits, it could linger on the market. Realtors often know best what improvements sellers should make in their homes before listing.”
Home features to consider
Based on NAR's 2019 Remodeling Impact report, Lautz says Realtors believe three particular projects are most appealing to buyers: a complete kitchen renovation; kitchen upgrades; and an HVAC replacement. Other projects that appeal most to buyers, per the report, include new wood flooring; a bathroom renovation; hardwood flooring refinish; new master suite/owners' suite; new bathroom; basement conversion to a living area; attic conversion to living area; insulation upgrade; and closet renovation.
In addition, anything that's a minor repair should be fixed. Chipped paint should be repainted. Carpets should be cleaned, landscaping should be refreshed and any plumbing repairs should be handled. Finally, decluttering the home, performing an entire home cleaning, and removing pets is a must for showing a home.
Then there are a number of light construction renovations that won't break the bank. These will make a major visual impact and appeal to a larger pool of potential buyers. I recommend painting dark kitchen cabinetry white or a lighter color. Replace dark countertops with seamless countertops in light neutral colors that mimic marble. Sand and stain wood flooring. And modernize light fixtures and hardware."
Features buyers don't want
Then, there are "upgrades" homebuyers, especially younger buyers, don't want. They include:
Wall-to-wall carpeting (buyers prefer hardwood and rugs)
High maintenance landscaping
Rigid floorplans and formal dining areas (the open concept still rules)
Trophy, game and media rooms.
Home offices (Remember this was written over 6 months ago, things have changed considerably)
Today's buyers want modern interiors and sleek lines that gravitate toward a neutral color palette. Their living patterns are very different than those of present and past generations so listen to your buyers and give them what they want.