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As affluent buyers leave behind their small apartments in big cities, more luxury agents are helping them move out to the exurbs—areas beyond metropolitan centers, and even beyond suburbs. These prosperous towns offer peace and quiet, space to spread out, and room to roam; and they’re on the cusp of a population boom.
Kathleen Boyd and Marybeth Eckhardt, Real Estate Professionals at Kienlen Lattmann Sotheby’s International Realty, describe exurb buyers as a diverse customer base, though they skew younger. “They still have an economic and cultural connection to the cities, but are looking for a simpler living situation with lower price points,” says Boyd. “They want an easy path into the city for the days that a commute is needed.”
Because this group includes young singles, young couples, and young families, growth could be on the horizon for these communities — a fact not lost on Chris Meadors, Real Estate Advisor with Sotheby’s International Realty – Wine Country Brokerage. “They’ve enjoyed some years in the Bay Area,” he says, referencing the city center near his own Napa Valley market, “but now want more space — interior and exterior—along with a slower pace and fewer people.”
Today’s exurb buyers don’t just share demographics and income levels. There are also specific trends and traits they’re looking for in the design, layout, and location of their homes. Here are five overarching features agents should keep in mind when marketing to these prospective clients.
1. Character and charm are deal-makers
“The exurb buyer is placing more importance on curb appeal with an emphasis on charm and character,” says Eckhardt. “A recurring theme for these buyers is that they don’t want a ‘cookie cutter’ home. They don’t want to walk into their friend’s house, or drive past their neighbor’s property, and see the same features and layouts.”
This isn’t limited to their potential properties. When exurb buyers relocate to new communities, they’re looking for aesthetically pleasing downtowns with shops, cafés, and restaurants that support a lifestyle that’s both laidback and fashion-forward. “These buyers are looking for simple living in a more rural setting, but don’t necessarily want to feel isolated,” notes Boyd.
Meadors explains that the promise of good schools, quiet streets, a sense of community, and lots of privacy is what brings buyers to exurbs—though agents need to be ready to manage their expectations.
“Keep in mind, they’re used to walking to coffee shops and taking the BART to restaurants—so while easy access to amenities is important,” he says “cities like Napa aren’t dense enough to create walkability the way someone from San Francisco is familiar with, but every driving route here is surrounded by vineyard and easy to navigate.”
2. Unique — but unostentatious— interiors
What are exurb buyers looking for in terms of design and decor? Boyd and Eckhardt highlight four themes that have recurred in their clients’ requests:
- The architecture style incorporates a nod to mid-century modern combined with a more relaxed and eclectic vibe.
- The main aesthetic is simplified and calm. These buyers are often looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a more tranquil environment.
- They’re looking for a neutral palette, but are open to featuring pops of fun colors in their wallpaper, furniture, and accessories.
- The majority of exurb buyers aren’t interested in dramatic and formal lighting fixtures or ornate moldings; they want clean lines and minimal clutter.
To that list, Meadors adds, turnkey properties are incredibly popular as opposed to fixers. “Taking on a huge renovation project, which to many, sounds like a fun creative outlet, can come with unexpected layers of stress and cost. This is why most buyers search for homes that they can move into immediately.”
3. Open, yet still with nooks and crannies
Real estate agents are well aware of the rising demand for secluded spaces, home offices, and “Zoom rooms”—even if it happens to be a repurposed closet. “Since at least one person in the household is working either remotely or hybrid, these are must-haves for exburb buyers,” says Eckhardt.
But open layouts to maximize entertainment space have made a significant comeback. “These buyers are still looking for a large living and dining space for friends and family to get together,” says Boyd.
Meadors agrees. “Typically, they want open layouts with kitchen, dining, and living rooms, along with great indoor-outdoor flow.”
4. Pools are peaking on the exurb wishlist
Speaking of outdoors, large yards and ample garages are common goals for exurb buyers—but pools have assumed an especially high priority. “There can be a two-year wait to have a pool installed,” notes Eckhardt.
She and Boyd regularly receive requests for patios, outdoor kitchens, and fire pits as well, while Meadors says that his Napa Valley buyers are keen to grow food in their own gardens and even raise chickens.
5. Buyers desire energy efficiency
While space is generally in-demand, Boyd and Eckhardt have noticed that many exurb buyers are willing to make an exception if it means greater energy efficiency.
“We find that they’re willing to give up interior square-footage if both the floorplan and energy use are efficient enough,” says Boyd. “They are looking for more sustainable homes with renewable energy features like electric car charging stations, high-performance windows, and even photovoltaic panels.”
Eckhardt adds that going green is good for both their conscience and their bank account. “They don’t seem to care as much about whether a home has all the latest bells and whistles—they’re more interested in clean, simple living while reducing energy consumption and costs.”
Are these trends here to stay? “I think cities like San Francisco will always hold an appeal for younger people and city-oriented folks, but I’ve always said there’s a shelf life for city living,” says Meadors. “When you grow out of the fast-paced lifestyle, it’s nice to have space to relax and breathe. The renewed focus on mental health has also contributed to people examining their living situations. Big cities can contribute to a stressful environment, and clients are starting to see that they can remedy that by moving to a different area and restructuring their lifestyle.”