|What home buyers really want
But more repeat
buyers want a shower that's separate from the tub, an oversized garage and lawn
sprinklers. They are less likely to value a finished basement, proximity to schools
or access to public transportation.
A bedroom on the main floor is very important. And
81 percent of buyers 65 and older ranked it as "very important."
The age of the house also makes a difference. New
homes make up 29 percent of last year's sales, according to estimates
from the NAR. Those buyers place a higher importance on features
like high ceilings, cable or satellite readiness, oversized garages
and security systems.
Location can influence choices, too. In the South,
nearly 90 percent of home buyers want central air conditioning.
In the Northeast, only 37 percent rank it as a very important feature.
Similarly, urban buyers want floors, finished basements and access
to public transportation. Suburban buyers tend to prefer sprinkler
systems, eat-in kitchens and homes less than 10 years old.
Bigger and better
not your imagination. Homes are getting bigger. According to the Realtors survey,
half the houses sold last year were bigger than 1,727 square feet and more than
one-third were larger than 2,000. Nearly 10 percent topped 3,000 square feet.
Houses get bigger with successive purchases, too, the study
found. For first-time buyers, the median size was 1,451 square feet, while it
was 1,920 square feet for repeat buyers.
If you were to average the square footage of all the
homes sold last year, the typical house would be between 2,300 and
2,400 square feet, estimates Paul C. Bishop, manager of real estate
research for NAR.
So what's the average buyer paying?
That depends on how you define "average." The median price indicated
in the survey was $212,000 -- meaning half the homes sold for more than $212,000
and half for less. But if you average the cost of the homes sold, the "average"
price would be about $260,000, says Bishop. Many realtors feel that a few bigger
homes on the high end skew the average, so the group prefers to use the halfway
marker or "median price."
In the third quarter of
2005 the national median price has climbed to $216,000, according to the association's
most recent figures.
But one of the biggest changes Realtors are seeing
is in the buyers themselves, says Bishop. Buyers are doing their
homework before they start to shop. "They are continuing to
make greater use of the Internet in their home search," he
says. "They are gathering information about property for sale
and doing legwork in advance of working with a Realtor."
Dratch is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.