What Buyers Want in a Home: Top Must-Haves in 2024

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In this age of social media, smartphones, and AI algorithms, there is no shortage of information on how you should remodel or upgrade your home to increase its value. But you only have so much time and money, and if you’re looking to sell your home in the future, you need to know what buyers want in a home.

The fact remains that there’s only one opinion that matters: The buyer’s.

What do buyers want in a home?

HomeLight partners with the top-performing real estate agents in the country. We regularly survey our network of 28,000 agents, asking them for expert insights that can help buyers and sellers make informed decisions.

The list below will help you gain a better idea of what buyers want in a home.


The 2024 housing market is being shaped by high interest rates and low inventory. These factors keep home prices high and increase the cost of mortgages for would-be buyers.

A recent HomeLight survey of more than 1,000 top real estate agents revealed the increasing emphasis that homebuyers are placing on affordability. For example:

  • 98% of the agents we surveyed reported that bidding wars have slowed or stopped in their markets
  • 92% say that buyers have been pressuring sellers to lower their listing price
  • 53% say that buyers are pushing back on inspection items

In particular, first-time homebuyers and retirees are especially concerned about affordability, echoing findings in a report from the National Association of Realtors.

Game-changing kitchen updates

In HomeLight’s most recent End of Year 2023 Top Agent Insights survey, 92% of agents say modernizing your kitchen is the best way to appeal to today’s buyers.

As you can see by this overwhelming agreement among the nation’s most experienced agents, if your kitchen or appliances don’t appeal to a buyer, your chances of selling your home quickly or for top dollar can dramatically decrease.

Top Houston real estate agent Clarence Smith, who sells properties 50% faster than the average agent in his market, says one way to upgrade your kitchen is by installing granite or quartz countertops — if you don’t already have them. “It changes the whole complexion of the kitchen when we go with the granite countertops, and we have the under-mount sink.”

Granite countertops vary between about $40 per square for lower-grade granite and $100 per square foot for higher-grade granite, plus installation costs. The national average to purchase and install granite countertops is $3,250, according to HomeAdvisor — a small price to pay compared to a full kitchen remodel, which stacks up to an average of $26,845.

Smith says another easy and inexpensive upgrade to the kitchen is painting the cabinets a different color or adding some hardware if they are worn. “It changes everything in the kitchen.”

52% of buyers say installing a kitchen island is another update that could change the look of your kitchen without having to take on a full kitchen remodel, and the average price for installation is $4,000, according to home services website Angi.

Improved patio, porch, or deck

To attract more buyers and higher offers, 58% of agents recommend sellers make outdoor improvements, such as adding or fixing up your home’s back patio, porch, or deck.

Smith says covered back patios are particularly popular among buyers these days, “because a lot of people like to sit out there, drink coffee, get a little of the sunset, then if there’s a great backyard they like to watch the kids out there play, and they still have an area that’s covered to keep them out of the sun.”

Backyard decks and highly usable front porch areas have gained popularity in recent years, especially since the pandemic. Our agents tell us an inviting deck can add more than $7,000 in resale value on average, and you can build a deck for around $3,600 to $7,200.

Outdoor entertainment amenities

Smith says outdoor entertainment is also something buyers want in a home in 2024. Depending on the price range of your house, buyers may be expecting some outdoor entertainment features. These features include:

To add to your home’s outdoor entertainment vibe, make sure you tidy up the yard, trim the bushes, and create a tropical oasis with eye-catching patio plants such as New Guinea Impatiens, exotic hibiscuses, and wax begonias.

More livable space

In our End of Year 2023 survey of more than 1,000 top agents, 38% say finished basements or attics are most appealing to buyers in their markets.

When a buyer goes shopping for a home, they are obviously looking at the total square footage of a house. If your home has an unfinished basement or attic, these spaces are typically not included in the promoted square footage of a house. However, if you make these areas “livable” or “finished,” they can be included in the home’s advertised square footage and give your property a significant boost of buyer appeal, as long as the rooms meet ceiling height requirements.

A related trend agents have reported in recent years is homeowners converting basement and bonus spaces into recreation areas, playrooms, and game rooms. Smith corroborates this analysis, noting that the game room or recreation area makes the list of what buyers want in a home.

Smith says entertainment rooms are also one of the areas that tend to see the most wear, depending on how active the children are, so they are likely to need updating. Be sure to patch any holes in the walls, change any light bulbs, and deep clean the carpet. If the carpet is in especially bad shape, you may consider replacing it.

On a related note, 35% of agents say an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), such as a mother-in-law house, is a top desired feature buyers are looking for in a home.


In an attempt to offset high prices, another trend agents have observed in recent years is an increase in non-romantic co-buyers, such as parents, adult children, siblings, and friends. This means storage is bound to be a major concern, and it’s another key feature many buyers want in a home — whether co-buying or not.

Smith says kitchen cabinetry is one of the first things buyers notice. “Buyers love being able to store cookware, being able to store the snacks for the kids, being able to just store anything…they go crazy about storage space in the kitchen area,” he explains, adding that 42-inch cabinets in the kitchen are a must-have and one of the top items buyers want in a home.

Here are a few more popular storage features that would be worth adding based on your budget and how much space you already have available in your home:

  • A walk-in pantry, with open shelving and cabinets, LED lighting, and an insulated door. This is a feature that 80% of first-time buyers desire, according to a recent survey from the National Association of Home Builders, and the project will run an average cost of between $750 and $3,500 to install.
  • Thanks to HGTV and the rise of organizational streaming shows such as Hot Mess House and Hoarders, buyers also have high standards for closet space. You can DIY custom closets yourself by following these tips from Oppein. Don’t forget to use strategic lighting and maximize all storage space. You may also consider multipurpose features such as a makeup and laundry-folding station.
  • Many buyers also desire additional storage in the garage. Clearing out clutter and installing plenty of wall shelving, cabinets, and hooks is a great place to start.

Neutral colors

“You can never go wrong with the natural tone colors,” says Smith, who notes that grays are what he has seen his local buyers want in a home these days. But gray isn’t the only neutral color that can help you sell a home. Our 2023 agent survey found that kitchens with light color palettes, including whites, grays, and greiges, along with light-colored wood, remain a top choice for buyers.

While you may enjoy bold colors like yellow and purple, when it comes time to sell, the risk is too high that it won’t match buyers’ tastes, says Smith. Switching to a neutral tone, such as gray or cream, will give buyers one less thing to do upon moving in. That way, the color will match no matter what types of furniture pieces and other decorations the buyer brings into the home.

Energy efficiency features

In the past twelve months, the percentage of people in the United States unable to pay their energy bill ranged from 15.3% (at lowest) to 31.4% (at highest), according to Census.gov. This supports why many top agents say homebuyers are increasingly prioritizing energy efficiency in their home search. Solar panels are among the energy-efficient items agents report as helpful to promote these energy-efficient features in their listings.

According to the National Association of Home Builders here are some other features buyers want in a home when it comes to energy efficiency:

When is the best time to remodel?

Conventional wisdom leads many to believe that the spring is the best season to sell a house. But that is not always the case. To make sure you are striking when the market is most active, take advantage of HomeLight’s Best Time to Sell Calculator. Our tool closely inspects local real estate transaction data, analyzes trends from years past, and crunches the data to show you the ideal time to put your house on the market in your area.

If you’re selling during the winter — when sales are typically slower — make sure to present the house as well-lit, safe, and as inviting as possible. There are a few upgrades you can make to ensure this: well-placed lighting (don’t forget to replace your lightbulbs!) at the front of the house, new home numbers and mailboxes, and a fresh coat of paint on your front door.

And if your plan is to sell in spring, focus on exterior projects, especially on curb appeal — landscaping that highlights all the flora in bloom will make a big impact.

Work With a Top Agent To Devise the Best Selling Strategy

To make sure you’re undertaking upgrades that will make you money when you sell your home, work with a top local agent in your area and let their expertise be your guide.

A few final helpful tips to sell your home

In our 2023 End of Year Top Agent Insights Survey, agents recommend sellers sweeten the deal for buyers in these ways:

  • 51% of agents are advising sellers to provide home warranties to ease buyer concerns
  • 40% of agents recommend sellers include home improvement allowances in their listing
  • 37%  of agents suggest offering pre-inspection reports to potential buyers

Find a top-selling agent in your area

When it comes to what buyers want in a home, Smith says he works hard to create realistic expectations based on buyers’ wants, needs, and budget, “so that when we’re out there, it’s not a fairy tale.” This is a quality of a top real estate agent, and it will not only benefit the buyer but also the seller of the home they choose. Before deciding which upgrades and renovations are worth your time and money, be sure to consult with a top real estate agent in your area.

You need a real estate agent who has years of experience working in your area, has the best local services on speed dial, and knows what new buyers want in your neighborhood. HomeLight’s data shows that the top 5% of real estate agents across the U.S. sell homes for as much as 10% more than the average real estate agent. To find you the best agent based on your unique needs, we analyze over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews.

Writer Jessica Cody contributed to this story.

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