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What Buyers Want in a Home: Top Must-Haves in 2023

At HomeLight, our vision is a world where every real estate transaction is simple, certain, and satisfying. Therefore, we promote strict editorial integrity in each of our posts.

In the age of social media, smartphones and AI algorithms, there is no shortage of information on how you should remodel 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, the fact remains that there’s only there’s only one opinion that matters:

The buyer’s.

What buyers want in a home, and which projects are worth taking on?

Affordability

The 2023 housing market is being shaped by high interest rates and low inventory, helping to keep home prices high (even though they have come down since their Summer 2022 peak) while raising the cost of mortgages for would-be buyers.

HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights report for New Year 2023 revealed an increasingly emphasis that homebuyers are placing on affordability. For example, 98% of the agents we surveyed report that bidding wars were unheard of in their market; 53% say that buyers are now pushing back on inspection items; and 92% say that buyers with more options have been forcing sellers to lower their listing pricing.

In particular, our survey found that first-time homebuyers and retirees are especially concerned about affordability, echoing findings in a report from the National Association of Realtors that the median distance buyers moved in 2022 rose to 50 miles, up from 15 miles from 2018-2021, in a sign of the lengths buyers are going to in order to afford a home.

A HomeLight infographic about buyer statistics and what they want in a home.

Storage

HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights report for Spring 2022 found that in an attempt to offset high prices, over 60% of agents have seen 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 one of the things that agents notice buyers want in a home.

Kitchen cabinetry is one of the first things buyers notice, says top real estate agent Clarence Smith of Houston, Texas, who sells properties over 53% quicker than the average Houston agent. “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,” says Smith, who notes 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 Coastal Closets and Showers. 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.
  • The America at Home Study conducted recently found that 78% of homeowners desire additional storage in their garage. Clearing out clutter and installing plenty of wall shelving, cabinets and hooks is a great place to start.
You can never go wrong with the natural tone colors.
  • Clarence Smith
    Clarence Smith Real Estate Agent
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    Clarence Smith
    Clarence Smith Real Estate Agent at HomeSmart
    • Years of Experience 9
    • Transactions 111
    • Average Price Point $224k
    • Single Family Homes 101

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 making waves in 2023. Our 2023 agent survey found that kitchens with light color palettes, including whites, grays, and greiges, along with light colored wood, remains 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.

Covered 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 have gained popularity as well – they are now worth 65% more than they used to be. A backyard deck adds over $7,000 in resale value on average, and you can build a deck for around $4,380 and $10,080. And according to HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights for New Year 2022, the value of a front porch has also increased dramatically — a whopping 61%.

Outdoor entertainment amenities

To go with your porch and patio, outdoor entertainment is also what buyers want in a home in 2023. Depending on the price range of your home, buyers may be expecting some outdoor entertainment features. These features include:

And 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.

Energy efficiency features

In the past twelve months, the amount of people in the United States unable to pay their energy bill ranged from 19.1% (at lowest) to 22% (at highest), according to Census.gov. This may explain why findings from HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights for New Year 2023 showed 41% of agents say homebuyers are increasingly prioritizing energy efficiency in their home search. Solar panels were among the energy efficient items highlighted in this HomeLight survey, with 41% of agents reporting that they find it helpful to promote these energy-efficient features in their listings. Homeowners with an average-sized house that choose to sell now can expect to recoup an estimated 46% of their solar panel spend.

The National Association of Home Builders also did a recent survey of 3,000 home buyers that found that these are some of the top features buyers want in a home when it comes to energy efficiency:

Game-changing kitchen updates

An update that Smith deems essential for sellers in the kitchen, which also won’t break the bank, is 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 undermount 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 $26,098.

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.” And according to HomeLight agents, 52% of buyers are seeking a kitchen island. 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 average price for installation is $4,000 according to Angi.com.

Open floor plans

According to recent data from the NAHB, this wall-free arrangement is still what many buyers want in their home’s main living areas: 85% want an open layout between their kitchen and dining room, 79% want an open floor plan between the kitchen and family room, and 70% of buyers are seeking an open flow between the dining room and family room.

This is because there are a number of benefits to having an open arrangement, including better use of square footage, better lighting and it makes for easier entertainment for parties and get-togethers. If you want to create some level of separation between spaces for privacy with an open floor plan, you can do this with strategic use of furniture and half-screens.

Entertainment/game room

According to HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights for Summer/Fall 2021, one of the trends that 31% of agents have seen homeowners have seen taking the market by storm is the conversion of basement and bonus spaces back into recreation areas, playrooms and game rooms. And Smith corroborates this analysis, noting that the game room or recreation area makes the list for 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, and so it’s likely to need updating. So be sure to patch any holes in the walls, change any lightbulbs, and deep clean the carpet. If the carpet is in especially bad shape, you may consider replacing it. The total cost to both remove, dispose of and install new carpet would range from $1,692 to $2,894, according to Homewyse. Installing carpet is much cheaper than other flooring such as hardwood, and it can also reap you an ROI of up to 80%.

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.

When’s 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 the market while it’s the hottest, 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.

Header Image Source: (Mike / Pexels)