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Easy access to the conveniences consumers once enjoyed outside their homes — from spas to gyms to restaurants — is likely to remain limited for the foreseeable future. It’s therefore no surprise that home amenities remain front of mind for luxury buyers.
Regardless of where your buyers and sellers are located, the activities they’re doing at home have shifted. Here are three rising trends in exterior amenities, and advice on how you can empower your buyers and sellers to make the most of the great outdoors.
1. Not your typical swimming pool
“The number one trend is people looking for pools or space for a pool,” notes Omar Kinaan, REALTORⓇ and Certified International Property Specialist with Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty. “The pool companies are going crazy trying to keep up with demand. Prices have skyrocketed.”
Kimberly Cammarata, Licensed Salesperson with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, has witnessed the same trend. “Most buyers purchase a home and immediately invest in landscaping and pools if the property doesn’t provide that,” she says. “One of my clients bought an acre property in Portola Valley with a large guest house and approved plans to install a pool,” adds Kinaan.
“I just sold a family a home on a few acres in Fort Wayne,” says Lynn Reecer, Real Estate Advisor and Broker Associate with Encore Sotheby’s International Realty. “They left their previous home in an urban neighborhood, and are now doing a huge renovation on the interior and adding a pool in the backyard.”
But all three of these agents understand that today’s buyers are looking to up the ante. “Instead of enclosed pool houses, there’s an increased demand for outdoor cabanas and the accompanying fireplaces. Also, hot tub attachments to the pool are big, along with sun decks,” says Cammarata.
In Reecer’s Indiana market, which is home to more than 400 lakes, clients are taking their pool dreams to the next level with unprecedented demand for waterfront properties. “Everything we list flies off the market with multiple bids,” she says. “In July, our lakes market sold nearly 20% more homes with an average sales price of 60% higher than the previous year.”
2. Landscaping with a purpose
While perhaps not an amenity in the conventional sense, landscaped greenery has become an extension of the home where people want to enjoy themselves and spend time. But it can serve a practical purpose too.
“There is a continued focus on having enough space and sun to accommodate organic gardening,” says Cammarata. “As the farm-to-table movement continues, buyers are seeking sustainability in their land.”
Reecer has another reason why landscaping is necessary. “A house without any landscaping looks stark,” she says. “We had a gorgeous, newly built home with zero landscaping, and people just felt it was too bare and lacked any privacy. There were few showings, no offers, and all you can do is continue to reduce the price by tens of thousands. It’s much wiser to invest in a great professional landscaping package to finish the project before presenting it to the market for sale.”
In such a situation, Cammarata suggests helping the buyer envision their perfect property. “One time I sold a house in Quogue with an empty backyard, and I could see so much potential. I hired a designer to put together a plan of what the backyard could look like. Ultimately, this plan and vision was what sold the property,” she says.
3. Taking the rec room outdoors
Related to the rising demand for pools and landscaping is the need for spaces dedicated to outdoor physical activity. Kinaan lists some of the features that buyers are requesting: “Large lawns to run around and burn off energy, sports courts, playsets, gyms, and even more lighthearted things like zip lines and bocce ball greens.”
He notes that with gyms closed for health reasons, homeowners need to create a space to work out. “I recently visited a home that turned a one-car garage into a conditioned workout room with padded flooring, free weights, and exercise equipment. They said it was the best improvement they have made and the entire family is making use of it. It helps in stressful times to work out, and now they can keep up their regimen in their own backyard.”
Communicating the new outdoor normal
Luxury agents are managing both sides of the market — the buyers who cultivate demand, and the sellers that supply it. It’s important to bring these two together in a mutually beneficial arrangement that showcases the outdoor amenities on offer.
“Buyer demands and tastes are ever-changing,” says Kinaan. “I’ve found that working with buyers helps me guide my sellers. I know what the buyers want today because I am working with them all the time.”
Reecer involves her sellers in the marketing process, since they can speak to the features that potential buyers will love most. “I just wrote a property description on a condo with the clients watching over my shoulder, and it was actually so much easier, better, and more fun,” she says. “The lakefront condo had four offers in three days and sold for way over asking price.”
She adds that mentioning the brand names of outdoor appliances, such as grills and smokers, adds value. So do great visuals of the landscaping.
“Move up yard pictures and amenities in your marketing — give these items a prime position in copy, photos, and video,” agrees Kinaan. “Highlight these items in your copy. Realize that the way we live is changing, and show how your listing meets the needs of today’s buyers.”
And in highly desirable markets with low inventory, be prepared to take a proactive approach to identifying possible sellers. When one of Reecer’s buyers was looking for a home on a specific street along a large lake with at least 100 feet of frontage, she and her team were able to find and contact potential candidates. “They agreed to show, and sold at an agreed-upon price mostly due to the buyer paying their side of the commissions. The $1.8M deal was closed in about 30 days.”
The events of 2020 mark a new frontier for luxury buyers, sellers, and the real estate agents who represent them. And there’s always more to learn. But as you move forward in marketing outdoor features and amenities, delivering exceptional service remains paramount: a successful deal is one in which both sides are equally delighted.
About Sotheby’s International Realty
Sotheby’s International Realty was founded in 1976 as a real estate service for discerning clients of Sotheby’s auction house. Today, the company’s global footprint spans 990 offices located in 72 countries and territories worldwide, including 43 company-owned brokerage offices in key metropolitan and resort markets. In February 2004, Realogy entered into a long-term strategic alliance with Sotheby’s, the operator of the auction house. The agreement provided for the licensing of the Sotheby’s International Realty name and the development of a franchise system. The franchise system is comprised of an affiliate network, where each office is independently owned and operated. Sotheby’s International Realty supports its affiliates and agents with a host of operational, marketing, recruiting, educational and business development resources. Affiliates and agents also benefit from an association with the venerable Sotheby’s auction house, established in 1744. For more information, visit www.sothebysrealty.com.
The affiliate network is operated by Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC, and the company owned brokerages are operated by Sotheby’s International Realty, Inc. Both entities are subsidiaries of Realogy Holdings Corp. (NYSE: RLGY) a global leader in real estate franchising and provider of real estate brokerage, relocation and settlement services. Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC and Sotheby’s International Realty Inc., both fully support the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act.