6 Things Buyers Want in a New Home (and 6 Things They Don’t)

In real estate, it’s a seller’s market these days. Homeowners who sold their property in the first quarter of 2017 realized an average gain of $44,000 over their purchase price, according to a report from ATTOM Data Solutions. Strong demand from buyers and low inventory mean many homes sell almost as soon as they hit the market. Things are moving so fast that some people are actually reluctant to list their homes for sale for fear they won’t be able to find a new place to live, a Redfin survey found.

In a market this hot, it might seem like homeowners don’t have to worry about whether their home will attract buyers. But even in a strong market, sellers still need to pay attention to what people want if they hope to get top dollar for their property.

So what catches the eye of picky home shoppers? Mid-sized homes that are good for families rather than huge houses with flashy amenities are in high demand, according March 2017 data from real estate website Realtor.com. It looked at what features attracted the most and least interest from shoppers on its site.

“While we often think of dream homes as being big and bold, that’s not what we’re hearing from potential buyers today. These insights can help guide potential sellers in deciding which rooms or features to invest in before listing their homes,” said Sarah Staley, a housing expert for Realtor.com.

Here are six of the things most important to people shopping for a new home.

1. A single-family house

house for sale

Buyers want single-family homes. | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Most buyers want a home of their very own, not a townhouse, condo, or apartment. Fifty-three percent of shoppers were looking for single-family properties. The older the shopper, the more likely they were to want a traditional, standalone house. More than three-quarters of people over age 55 wanted a single-family house. Buyers under the age of 35 were the only group more interested in townhouses, attached row houses, condos, or apartments.

Next: Buyers’ favorite home style probably won’t surprise you.

2. A ranch-style or contemporary home

ranch house

A real estate agent shows a client a ranch-style home. | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Ranch-style homes took over American suburbs in the mid-century boom years, and their popularity hasn’t waned. Forty-two percent of all shoppers on Realtor.com were looking for a single-floor, open-plan ranch home, and it was the most popular architectural style among all age groups.

Ranches are also the most popular home style in 34 states, according to Trulia. Contemporary-style homes were the second-most popular, capturing the interest of 28% of shoppers. Craftsman and colonial homes also attracted a lot of interest.

Next: It’s all about privacy and space.

3. Privacy and space for a family

young family taking selfie on the floor

Buyers look for privacy and space in a home. | iStock.com/shironosov

When Realtor.com asked shoppers about their primary goal for homeownership, most people said they wanted privacy and space that was solely their own. Shoppers also wanted a family-friendly place to live. Fewer people were interested in purchasing a home in order to become a part of a bigger community or as a sign of personal accomplishment.

Next: You might want to complete this home upgrade before you try to sell.

4. A great kitchen

Professionally designed new white kitchen

Buyers want homes with great kitchens. | iStock.com/Chefmd

Kitchens sell homes, or so the conventional wisdom goes. Shoppers on Realtor.com would seem to agree. Eighty percent named the kitchen as one of the three most important spaces in the house. (The master bedroom and living room also topped the list.)

Fortunately, you might not need to rip out your entire kitchen because small upgrades tend to pay off more than a big overhaul in this room. Homeowners who opt for a minor kitchen remodel will recoup 80% of their investment at resale, according to the Remodeling.com’s 2017 Cost vs. Value report. You’ll get 65% of your investment back with a major kitchen renovation.

Next: You don’t need a crazy number of bedrooms to please.

5. 3 bedrooms

bedroom interior with pillows and reading lamp

Three bedrooms is the ideal home size, according to buyers. | iStock.com/Kwanchai_Khammuean

Your home doesn’t need to have half a dozen bedrooms to catch the attention of most buyers. More than half of shoppers on Realtor.com are in the market for a three-bedroom home. Another 22% want a four-bedroom.

Shoppers might be interested in smaller homes, but builders are putting up more McMansions than ever. Forty-seven percent of the 648,000 new, single-family homes built in the U.S. in 2015 had four bedrooms or more, according to U.S. Census data.

Next: More bathrooms only mean more cleaning.

6. 2 bathrooms


A man looks at a bathroom during a home tour. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As the number of bedrooms in newly built homes has multiplied, so has the number of bathrooms. In 2015, 38% of new construction homes had three bathrooms or more. But among shoppers on Realtor.com, a modest two-bath home was most desirable. Three-quarters of people were looking for a place with no more than two bathrooms, and just 17% wanted three baths.

Next: Find out which features are least appealing to would-be buyers.

Those were six features buyers look for in a home. Now, here are six potential deal-breakers.

1. A multi-family property

brooklyn rowhouses

Most buyers weren’t interested in multi-family properties. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Most homebuyers aren’t interested in becoming landlords. Just 6% of shoppers on Realtor.com were looking for multi-family properties, even though buying a duplex or two-flat can help make a mortgage more affordable and offers some tax perks.

But the hassles of having to deal with renters, the reduced privacy, and the limited number of multi-family homes in some areas means these types of properties aren’t on the radar of most buyers. Buyers under 35 were most likely be interested in a multi-unit building. Duplexes and triplexes were also more popular in the Northeast and West, according to data from Zillow.

Next: Mobile homes don’t get most buyers excited.

2. Mobile homes

mobile home park

Buyers aren’t looking for mobile homes. | John Moore/Getty Images

Mobile homes were the least popular property type among shoppers on Realtor.com. Just 4% of people using the site were looking for a manufactured home. These homes are often more affordable than traditional single-family homes, making them appealing to lower-income buyers.

But one reason they’re more affordable is also one of their downsides. You might own the building, but you typically don’t own the land it sits on, and changes in lot rent can place a strain on tight budgets, as PBS Newshour reported. Plus, the homes often depreciate as they age, so they’re not usually a great investment.

Next: You might love your French-style chateau, but it might not appeal to that many buyers.

3. Unusual architectural styles

tudor house

A Tudor-style home is for sale. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The more unusual your home’s architectural style, the less appealing it is to buyers. Shoppers on Realtor.com favored familiar styles, such as ranch, contemporary, and craftsman. Buyers were much less likely to say federal, pueblo, Georgian, French provincial, and Tudor style homes were among their favorites.

But if your home is in a less-favored style, don’t panic. Twenty-nine percent of shoppers weren’t picky about style, as long as they liked the home itself.

Next: Just 5% of people say this room is important.

4. An office

man on phone in his home office

A man works in his home office. | iStock.com

More than a third of U.S. workers telecommute at least occasionally, according to Gallup, four times the share who were working remotely 20 years ago. But even though more Americans than ever are making their home their workplace, a dedicated office isn’t a highly prized amenity for most homebuyers. Just 5% of shoppers on Realtor.com said a separate office was one of the most important rooms in a home.

Next: Man caves might look cool, but they don’t sell homes.

5. A man cave

men watching TV

Guys watch TV. | iStock.com

A guys-only hangout space might be a nice-to-have feature, but it’s not the main thing shoppers are looking for when buying a home, according to Realtor.com’s data. Only 3% of people named a man cave as one of the their favorite spots in a home. These rooms were slightly more popular with buyers younger than 35 and those between the ages of 55 and 64.

Next: Bigger isn’t necessarily better when it come to homes.

6. A ton of bedrooms and bathrooms

mansion for sale

A mansion is for sale in California. | Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Massive homes just weren’t that popular among buyers on Realtor.com. Only 4% were looking for a house with five or more bedrooms. (Homes with lots of bedrooms were most popular with buyers between 35 and 44.) Extra bathrooms were even less appealing. Only 2% of shoppers were interested in properties with five or more bathrooms.

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