Survey shows most desired home features

NAR: Buyers rank central air conditioning, cable TV, Internet tops

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Of all the compromises homebuyers are willing to make when it comes to features, the two features they seem either least willing to give up or most able to find are central air conditioning and cable-, satellite TV-, or Internet readiness, according to report from the National Association of Realtors.

NAR’s 2013 Profile of of Buyers’ Home Feature Preferences is based on survey responses from 2,005 households who purchased a home between 2010 and 2012. The survey was fielded in October 2012 and asked respondents about the importance they placed on 33 features and 12 rooms commonly found in homes. Results are broken down by region, demographics and household composition.

Realtors and other real estate professionals can use the report to assist homebuyers when searching for a home and help home sellers evaluate the desirability of various features when marketing a home for sale, NAR said. NAR last released a similar report in 2007.

The typical recently purchased home was 1,860 square feet with three bedrooms and two full bathrooms and was built in 1996, NAR said. Repeat buyers, buyers of new homes, married couples and families with children typically purchased larger homes and first-time buyers and single women tended to buy older homes, the trade group said.

The most desired home feature among all buyers was central air conditioning: 65 percent overall said it was "very important," including 79 percent of respondents in the South. The next most-desired home feature was a walk-in closet in the master bedroom: 39 percent of respondents said it was very important with the highest percentage among buyers of new homes: 63 percent.

Cable-, satellite TV-, or Internet readiness was No. 3 with 37 percent of buyers saying it was very important, including 57 percent of new-home buyers.

When it came to the homes respondents actually purchased, 94 percent of those who thought a home with central air conditioning was somewhat or very important bought a home with that feature, the same share that bought a home that was cable-, satellite TV-, or Internet ready and thought that feature was somewhat or very important.

Of those who placed importance in a walk-in closet in the master bedroom, 86 percent purchased a home with that feature. Of those who thought an eat-in kitchen was somewhat or very important, 89 percent bought a home with that feature. Percentages for other features important to buyers and present in the purchased home were: one or more fireplaces, 88 percent; single-level home, 87 percent; 9-foot or greater (or cathedral) ceilings: 86 percent.

Of the features considered somewhat or very important to buyers that were least likely to appear in the purchased home were: age of more than 100 years (only 41 percent bought a home with this feature); waterfront property (50 percent); and handicap accessibility (55 percent).

Predictably, the oldest age group (55 and above) was least willing to compromise on the latter feature: 66 percent in that age bracket who considered accessibility important bought a home with that feature, compared to 43 percent among those under 35.

Of those who bought a home without a desired feature, the feature buyers would pay the most for was waterfront property and a home less than five years old. Buyers were willing to spend a median $5,420 and $5,020 extra, respectively, for those features. Nonetheless, only 32 percent and 40 percent, respectively, would be willing to pay more for those features.

By contrast, 69 percent each were willing to pay more for central air conditioning and new kitchen appliances, and 60 percent would pay more for a walk-in closet in a master bedroom.

The most-desired room among homebuyers was a living room: 55 percent considered finding a home with a living room very important. That was followed by a laundry room (47 percent) and a bedroom on a main level (41 percent). The least-desired rooms were an in-law suite (4 percent), an exercise room (4 percent), and a sun room (7 percent).

There was some regional variation. A home with a dining room was most important to those in the Northeast (48 percent), while a home with a basement was most important to those in the Midwest (45 percent), and a home with a bedroom on the main level was most important to those in the South (49 percent).

Among those who considered a particular room somewhat or very important, 97 percent purchased a home with a living room, 93 percent bought a home with a bedroom on the main level, 92 percent bought one with a dining room, and 89 percent bought a home with a laundry room, basement, or attic.

Among buyers who did not purchase a home with a particular desired room, the highest share — 63 percent — were willing to pay more for a laundry room with $1,590 the median amount they were willing to pay. Forty-four percent were willing to spend a median $1,920 for a room that served as a den, study, home office or library. Thirty-three percent were willing to pay a median $3,200 more for a home with a basement — the highest median among those willing to pay more for an extra room.

Just over half of respondents said they would have preferred a home with more storage or more or larger closets. Just over two out of five would have preferred a larger kitchen. Most respondents were satisfied with their home’s age, size, number of bedrooms, and number of bathrooms.

Within three months of a home purchase, 53 percent of buyers took on a home improvement project and spent a median $4,550, NAR said. Though new-home buyers were less likely to take on such a project, they were more likely to spend more if they did.

The most common home improvement project was remodeling the kitchen, followed by bathrooms with 47 percent and 44 percent of buyers, respectively, upgrading those rooms.

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