After all these years of paying down your mortgage, spending thousands on maintenance, and pouring buckets of blood, sweat, and cash into your home, you’re finally ready to move on and sell. But hold on: Those home features you thought were so cool back in 1995 might just be a tad outdated.
Sorry, we know you've had some fabulous times in that sunken living room. You once beamed with pride over your white-on-white, brushed metal-accented kitchen. If that backyard Jacuzzi could talk! And maybe you still harbor a secret affection for those popcorn ceilings in the bedrooms. But the truth is, those things are repelling otherwise eager shoppers. If your home has the right mix of what buyers today are clamoring for—trendy amenities like open floor plans, stylish backsplashes, and heated hardwood floors—it can help you sell your home faster and at a better price.
So the realtor.com® data team looked at a variety of common amenities, to come up with which ones are featured in the homes that close the quickest—and for the most moolah.
"Renovating a home with the right features can not only recoup the cost, it can help you sell your place much faster," says Jessica Lautz, managing director of Survey Research at the National Association of Realtors®. “That means a quick transition into your dream home.”
Tastes simply change over time. The same way we look back with regret on scrunchies, Crystal Pepsi, and the Spice Girls, there are parts of our own homes that now fill us with remorse. It's not surprising that dedicated home-theater rooms, which take up lots of space for an activity that can now be done on an iPad, just aren’t as popular anymore, says Kermit Baker, chief economist at the American Institute of Architects. On the other hand, an extra bedroom has mostly universal appeal, since it can be used for a guest room, a gym, or a home office.
For millennials, the largest group of first-time home buyers, extra rooms are not necessarily going to sell them on a house. “It's more features than space they are looking for," Baker says. Especially techie ones, like smart home connectivity.
To come up with our hot list, we looked at 40 of the most common home features. Then we sifted through realtor.com's listings to figure out which were in the homes that sold in the fewest number of days. The fewer days on the market, the more in demand the feature. (We narrowed our selection to features that can be found in most parts of the country).
We discovered that the top features are:
1. Smart home features (such as smart thermostats, refrigerators, and locking systems) 2. Finished basements 3. Patios 4. Walk-in closets 5. Granite countertops 6. Eat-in kitchens 7. Hardwood floors 8. Laundry rooms 9. Open kitchens 10. Front porches 11. Dining rooms 12. Energy Star appliances 13. Two-car garages 14. Fireplaces 15. Security systems
Some of the most lusted-after home features, like infinity pools or swanky wine rooms, actually ranked near the bottom of our list. The reason? They tend to be in multimillion-dollar homes that can take much longer to sell. There simply aren't enough deep-pocketed buyers in the market to scoop 'em all up.
So don't call the excavators to start digging a new pool in your backyard just yet—at least not until you've finished reading.
Electronics: smart home features (No. 1), Energy Star appliances (No. 12), and security systems (No. 15)
After a busy day of work, you're heading home to cook a romantic dinner for a special date. Sweet! But you’re not sure if you have the right ingredients at home. Is there a tin of beluga and bottle of Sauvignon Blanc chilling in the fridge? If you're a smart home owner, finding out is as simple as opening an app on your Galaxy Note8 and peeking inside the appliance.
So you can begin to see why smart home features place first on our list: They're all about convenience and control for already overworked homeowners. In fact, the median listing for a home with smart home features is $575,000—up a staggering 82.6% over the past two years. That's partially due to heavy demand, but also because many newer, higher-end homes come with these new-fangled gadgets already installed.
Smart home tech is actually an umbrella term covering a range of products and levels of connectivity. The common denominator: The technology operates with minimal human input, is interconnected, and can be manipulated or tracked remotely from a device, or in home from a central control. Smart home devices include household items like ovens, lights, and thermostats, many of which learn your preferences and adjust to you. Hence the smart part.
There's everything from the Kevo Smart Lock, which allows you to unlock your front door via your cell phone, to the Nest Learning Thermostat, which sets your temperature automatically after figuring out what you like. It can't help you decide what you want for takeout—yet.
Smart home features are catnip for younger buyers. “Technology is just a very big draw for them," says Baker at the American Institute of Architects. "They're so used to managing their lives through their iPhones, they want the same from their home.”
Security systems, often an integrated part of the connected home, are going strong too, posting a 11.5% price appreciation over the past two years.
No brainer: Coming home to find your holiday package stolen is the rotten cherry on top of an already stressful “festive” season. But imagine opening an app at work, seeing the delivery person at your door, and then unlocking it with a push of a button, so your package can be placed inside, away from those hell-bound thieves.
Energy Star appliances, a government designation for efficiency, are a popular home-selling feature as well. Who doesn’t want to lower their electric bill? The median list prices for homes with appliances like refrigerators, ovens, and air conditioners that carry the label have risen nearly 27% since 2015.
“There is a huge demand today [for Energy Star appliances]," says Ron Samuelson, owner of New York-based Home Energy Consultants. "That logo is insurance that you're getting a real energy-saving product."
Just about everywhere in the country, you’ll find homeowners installing hardwood. Buyers love the stuff. And there are seemingly endless variations showing up now: bamboo, walnut, oak, ash, Bolivian rosewood, even heated hardwood for colder climes.
“The first thing buyers look at are the floors ... and when they take in beautiful hardwood, their eyes light up,” says Zelda Sheldon, a real estate agent at Nashville Real Estate Rockstars.
The data backs it up. Home listings with hardwood floors have appreciated 14.8% since 2015.
“They're a feature every generation seems to want,” says Jason Dorsey, chief strategy officer for the Center for Generational Kinetics, a marketing firm in Austin, TX.
Another one: granite countertops. Americans have been in love with the surface for two decades now, and the ardor doesn't seem to be dimming. The two-year price appreciation of homes with these counters might not seem like much—just 1.2%—but that figure has been rising steadily for years. Newer counter surfaces like quartz might be all the rage on HGTV, but homes with granite go off the market faster, at 112 days. And granite is cheaper and easier to maintain than marble.
And while we’re talking about tried-and-true home features: Many home buyers are still attracted to fireplaces, real and artificial alike. Who can blame them? They evoke nostalgic memories of getting toasty by the crackling blaze, while sipping Swiss Miss. But not all generations view them the same way.
“[Millennials] tend to be more interested in aesthetics" than in blazing heat or dramatic flames, says Dorsey. Many are drawn more to low-maintenance gas models rather than the real thing. "You don't have to clean these, and they're not a fire hazard. After all, a lot of these buyers don't even own a tool box."
The typical home with fireplaces of any type goes off the market in 126 days. Smokin'.
Exteriors: patios (No. 3), front porches (No. 10), and two-car garages (No. 13)
Making the most of outdoor living spaces has become a national obsession among homeowners. People are spending more time and money building out luxe outdoor kitchens complete with sinks and pizza ovens, and picture-perfect gazebos.
Yet the hottest outdoor home features are still the basics: patios, front porches, and two-car garages.
“There is something very pleasurable about covered porches—they allow you to be outside while protected from the rain and heat,” says Stuart Narofsky, principal of New York-based Narofsky Architecture. “No one really wants to hang out in the sun anymore.”
And homeowners are finding new and fun ways to make use of their patios, which have a median 108 days on the market.
“More and more homeowners are putting in big firepits out by their patios, setting up outdoor furniture. People are basically building outdoor rooms around their patios,” says Elizabeth Lawson, owner of Elizabeth Lawson, an interior design firm based in Maryland.
Dual garages, meanwhile, have posted a 16.1% price appreciation over the past two years.
In most American housing markets, households typically own more than one car. So two-car garages are often seen as more of a necessity than a desire— no circling the block or having your ex scratch your ride if it's parked on the street. We’re looking at you, Carrie Underwood.
Homes with two-car garages have a median value of $313,350, or about a 16% appreciation since 2015.
Interior design: walk-in closets (No. 4), eat-in kitchens (No. 6), and open kitchens (No. 9)
For city dwellers who typically have to muscle aside a block of crammed clothes to find what they need and end up with a shoe box falling on their heads, a walk-in-closet is the stuff dreams are made of.
"Buyers will walk away from a home without enough closet space. They’ll say, ‘I can’t put an offer on this house, my clothes wouldn’t fit,'" says Nashville real estate agent Sheldon.
Among interior design elements, walk-in closets go off the market the quickest, at 110 days. But eat-in and open kitchens are still getting plenty of buzz, too. Eat-in kitchens last 113 days on market, while homes with open kitchens stick around for 118 days.
“Everyone is always in the kitchen, and they want to be able to keep an eye on their kids,” Lawson says. “In [an open kitchen with] a kitchen island, your kids can eat meals right there on the barstools.” You can binge "American Horror Story" while cooking, too (not recommended while eating, however).
Let’s be honest: Most of us struggle to find a home in our price range, let alone one that includes most of the items on our wish list. But that's why finished basements are again in such hot demand: They give owners space they can customize. Want a beer fridge? Done. Pool table? Looky there, you already scratched. An art studio for your kids? Yours for the asking.
“It's all about using all the space we have and not building a bigger home,” says Baker of the American Institute of Architects. Finished basements can be so much "more than just a place we store boxes."
And all of those sleep-deprived parents out there know just how big of a lifesaver a dedicated laundry room can be. The prices of homes with such rooms have jumped 15.6% since 2015.
Dedicated dining rooms are also staging a comeback. Sure, outside of the holidays, most people don't need them. But there's an uptick in homeowners hosting guests instead of going out, so listings including these entertainment spaces have increased 11.6% over the past two years.
“Millennials are viewing their home as a hub for activities, not just [a place to] live and raise their kids,” says Dorsey at the Center for Generational Kinetics.