Skip to content

Table of Contents

  1. What Influences Home Buyers: 5 Most Important Factors
  2. Other Important Factors for Home Buyers
  3. Highlight What Buyers Want in Your Real Estate Listings

It’s the million dollar question for real estate agents and brokers — what do home buyers want? Understanding the things that people are looking for when they are in the market for a new home and the factors that ultimately influence a home buying decision can help you choose the homes you take on as listings and can help you make the most of your listings.

While some factors are beyond the control of a real estate agent or seller, there are a few things you can change or that you can advise the seller to change before they list their home. Knowing what buyers are looking for in a house can help you understand how to market your properties and can help you get the best price for the homes you list.

What Influences Home Buyers: 5 Most Important Factors

Some factors matter more to home buyers than others. Many buyers are willing to compromise or give up one or more “less important” features in exchange for getting the factors that are the most valuable to them. When buyers are looking at homes, these are the five factors that matter the most.

1. Schools

About 75 percent of home buyers stated that school boundaries were either “very important” or “important” in their search for a home. Another survey found that just 4 percent of buyers were willing to compromise on the quality of area schools when choosing a home. School quality was particularly important for buyers who have children, with more than 90 percent stating that it was an “important” or “very important” consideration.

Although school quality mattered less to people without kids and to older buyers who might already have adult children, it was still a consideration. About one-third of buyers who didn’t have children considered school boundaries important, as did nearly 40 percent of buyers over the age of 55.

One reason why school quality matters to buyers of all backgrounds could be that the quality of nearby schools often has an impact on the value of a home. Houses located in in-demand or high-quality school districts typically sell more quickly and also retain their value better than homes located elsewhere.

As a real estate agent, you have little control over the district a house you are listing is located in. What you can do is play up the quality of the local schools when marketing your listings. If you are trying to sell a house in a district that’s recognized as being one of the best in the area, then go ahead and make sure to mention the name of the local school district in your listings and your marketing materials.

While you can’t specifically tell potential buyers that the school district is a good one because of the Fair Housing Act, you can supply information about nearby schools. You can also direct potential buyers to neutral third-party sources of information so they can do their own research.

2. Updated Kitchen

The kitchen is often called the most important room in the house. Even if buyers aren’t avid cooks, it’s very likely that they are going to look at the quality and condition of a home’s kitchen. One survey from the National Association of REALTORS® (NARS) found that about one-quarter of buyers ranked an updated kitchen as one of the most important factors when buying a home.

One kitchen feature that is in particular demand is an eat-in kitchen, with more than 80 percent of buyers stating that they want one. Part of the appeal of eat-in kitchens is their convenience. They create a space for members of a household to gather together while eating a meal.

Although an updated kitchen can make a house more attractive to buyers and can help to increase the sale price while reducing the time it spends on the market, it’s worth noting that a seller doesn’t have to spend a fortune to spruce up the kitchen. Minor kitchen updates tend to produce a better return on investment, recouping about 80 percent of their costs nationwide compared to major remodels, which typically recoup less than 60 percent of the costs.

If a seller is on a limited budget, small updates such as painting the walls of the kitchen and updating the fixtures might be sufficient to make the room more up-to-date and attractive to buyers.

3. Garage

In 2018, a garage was one of the most in-demand features of a home, with 27 percent of buyers in the NARS survey saying they wanted one. Garages not only provide homeowners with a place to securely park their vehicles, protecting their cars from rain, snow and other weather, but they also offer extra storage space.

Sellers who have a garage can showcase it to the best of its abilities by cutting down on the clutter in the room before they put the house up for sale. It might be worthwhile for sellers to invest in storage systems that give potential buyers a view of a garage that’s neat and orderly.

If a house doesn’t currently have a garage, is it worth it for the seller to add one? The addition of a garage can add about $30,000 to the value of the home, which works out to be about 65 percent of the cost of the project. It’s not the best return on investment, but it might be worthwhile for some homeowners if adding a garage makes their home stand out in a crowded market.

Homeowners who already have a garage might consider updating theirs to boost the value of their home and to make their house more attractive to home buyers. Replacing a garage door had the highest return on investment in 2018, with many homeowners recouping about 98 percent of the cost of the project when it was time to sell.

4. Bedrooms and Bathrooms

When it comes to bedrooms and bathrooms in a home, quantity matters. The median number of bedrooms in a home purchased in 2018 was three, and 85 percent of buyers bought homes with three or more bedrooms. When it comes to bathrooms, the median number of bathrooms in a house was two. Around 61 percent of buyers bought a home with two bathrooms, compared to 16 percent who bought a house with just one bathroom and 23 percent who bought a home with three or more bathrooms.

The appearance of the bedrooms and bathrooms matters, too. One of the biggest turns off for buyers is a bathroom with carpeting. Bathrooms that look worn out or dingy are also turn-offs.

Depending on the state of the bathroom, it might be worth it for a homeowner to do a full remodel before listing their house. A mid-range bathroom remodeling project typically has a resale value of over $13,000, allowing many homeowners to recoup about 70 percent of the cost of the renovation project.

One way to make a house more attractive to buyers is to play up the number of bedrooms. If a seller is currently using an extra room in their home as an office or workout room, it might be helpful to stage the room as a bedroom.

5. Yard and Outdoor Living Area

Looks matter, especially when selling a home, and the first impression a home makes on a buyer does last the longest. How attractive the outside of a house looks can make or break a sale. On a practical level, buyers are also more likely to be interested in a home that has an outdoor space they can use. Around 18 percent of buyers said that they wanted a large backyard and 16 percent said that an outdoor living space was important.

There are many things you can recommend a homeowner do to make the outdoor area of their home more appealing and to highlight its functionality and usability, as well as its attractiveness. Nearly three-quarters of real estate agents advise sellers to schedule landscape maintenance before listing their homes. Often, the cost of landscaping is fully recouped when the home sells. Landscaping maintenance also helps a house sell more quickly.

Projects that make an outdoor space more usable are also attractive to buyers and can help to increase the value of a home and speed up the sale. Adding a wooden deck to a property had a joy score of 9.8 out of 10 while adding a patio had a joy score of 9.7. Both projects also offered a decent return on investment for the average seller.

Along with sprucing up the exterior of a home to make it more appealing, a real estate agent can market a house in a way that highlights the outside area. Aerial photography showcases the landscaping and beauty of the exterior of a home, helping buyers see it from a new angle.

Other Important Factors for Home Buyers

While area schools, kitchens, garages, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the curb appeal of a home are among the most important factors for home buyers, a few other features also matter to buyers. It’s worth noting that a seller can make changes to improve some of the factors that are most important to buyers, but that there’s little to be done to change some of the following features.

1. Neighborhood

Location is critical when it comes to buying a home. But what makes an area desirable for one buyer might not matter to another person.

Nearly 60 percent of home buyers looked at the quality of the neighborhood when deciding on a home and just 6 percent were willing to compromise on neighborhood quality. Depending on the buyer, a quality neighborhood could be one in a high-quality school district, one that is within a short commute to their job or one that offers features such as nearby parks and playgrounds or that has shops and restaurants within walking distance.

As a real estate agent, it can be tricky to field questions or comments buyers might have about a home’s neighborhood, because of Fair Housing laws. Real estate agents can’t comment on the safety of an area or the quality of the schools in the area, nor can they talk about the composition of the households in a particular area, as they run the risk of violating equal housing rules.

If a buyer does have questions about a neighborhood, what you can do is direct them to third-party sources, such as the U.S. Census Bureau’s website, which has concrete data on populations and other statistics. You can also direct people who are interested in crime rates or schools to independent review sites or the local police department.

2. House Age

Age is just a number, or is it? For some home buyers, the age of a house can be a deal breaker. Some buyers want a move-in ready house with no flaws. For that reason, they might be looking for new construction and won’t even consider a property that’s more than five-years-old.

Other buyers might be interested in the charms and quirks an older property has to offer or might be turned off by the perceived lower quality of newly built houses.

The age of a house isn’t something you can control as a real estate agent. It is something you can choose to highlight in your listings, though. For example, if you are trying to sell a 200-year-old home, you can note its historic charm. If the property is brand new, you can focus on the new construction aspect in your listing.

3. House Size

Size also matters to home buyers, but it might matter less to some buyers than to others. In 2018, the median size of a recently purchased home was 1,900-square-feet. The median home size for buyers under age 28 was 1,600-square-feet while those in the age bracket of 39 to 53-years-old tended to buy the biggest homes, with a median size of 2,100-square-feet.

There is some flexibility when it comes to the size of a home. If a seller has a home that’s considerably smaller than others in the same neighborhood, it might be worthwhile to add on to the house to make it more appealing to a broader range of buyers.

It’s also worth pointing out that there’s no one right size for a home. A person who’s just starting out and who’s on a limited budget might be content to purchase a smaller-than-average home. The same might be true for people who are looking to downsize after living in a large house for years. When selling a smaller home, focus on the positive aspects of the house, such as its storage options, to make it as attractive as possible to the most people.

Highlight What Buyers Want in Your Real Estate Listings

While you can’t move a house or make it younger or older, you can recommend that sellers make updates to their home to help it align with the wants and desires of many home buyers. You can also use real estate photography, aerial photography and video walk-throughs to highlight the attractive features of a home and to help the property resonate with the greatest number of buyers possible.

Real Estate Exposures helps agents in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., market their listings and highlight what makes the homes they’re selling unique. Call us now at 717-687-2289 to book a photo session, or contact us online to get answers to all your questions about professional real estate photography.