What Buyers Want in a House in 2021 (And What It Means For You)

Updated April 26, 2021 12:00 AM

If you watch a lot of HGTV, you might think you know what homebuyers are looking for. But when it comes time to sell your own home or a client’s home for the most money, don’t make decisions based on your own opinion or on what you’ve seen or heard. Instead, use real data about what buyers want in their homes in 2021. With that in mind, here’s what you’re about to discover:

The Top 12 Most-Wanted Home Features in 2021

Through the most thorough and up-to-date data sources, we’ve put together this list of the most popular and sought-after home features for 2021 buyers. Thousands of people were surveyed to get these results to get an accurate understanding of the most desirable elements of a home. However, the most in-demand home features in your local housing market could be different. Before doing any remodels or renovations, consult with a local home professional.

That being said, there are simple, dependable ways to help your home appeal to more buyers so let’s dive in...

1. 87% of Buyers Want a Laundry Room

If your washer and dryer sit alone in the corner of your basement, it’s time for an upgrade. And since 63% of people also noted that the best place for the laundry room is on the first floor, it’s clear that today’s buyers want laundry to be easily accessible from the main living space.

Here are some simple ways to increase the value of a laundry room:

  • Paint the walls
  • Add storage solutions like shelving, cabinets or a rack to the back of your laundry room door
  • Install a built-in ironing board on a wall, which can be easily stored away when its not in use
  • Buy a stackable washer and dryer to create space for a folding table or additional storage
Stuccco virtually staged laundry room
Virtually staged laundry room by Stuccco

2. 87% of Buyers Want Exterior Lighting

Exterior lighting is not something that most homeowners and home sellers seem to focus their attention on - but they should! Potential buyers aren’t looking for just one dim light by the front door. Start by considering what exterior lighting you already have - upgrading your light bulbs or repairing lights are small tasks that can make a big difference.

Another way to add outdoor lighting to improve your curb appeal is by using lights to accentuate landscaping. If you decide to add any new underground electrical lines, make sure you consult an electrician.

Top home features for buyers: exterior lighting with virtual staging
Highlight exterior home features with Stuccco Virtual Staging

3. 83% of Buyers Want Ceiling Fans

If you asked all your friends what they wanted in a home, you probably wouldn’t hear a large number of them gushing over ceiling fans. However, 83% of people chose this home feature over hundreds of other choices so it’s something you shouldn’t ignore!

Ceiling fans are relatively cheap and easy to install, so this is a home improvement that could significantly improve the perceived value of your home and help you sell your home for the most money. If you don’t want to manually install ceiling fans throughout your home in order to help buyers see just how good they’ll look, this is something that can easily be done when you have your home’s photos virtually staged.

4. 83% of Buyers Want ENERGY STAR-rated Windows

A home with ENERGY STAR windows will regulate the home’s temperature and save money for the homeowners so it’s pretty obvious why this is something buyers crave. Home features with energy efficiency are increasingly important to today’s buyers.

Unfortunately, windows are not a simple or cheap home improvement. However, it’s helpful to know the importance of ENERGY STAR windows and appliances if you’re planning a remodel. If you already have certified windows, be sure to include this as one of the features when marketing your home.

5. 82% of Buyers Want a Patio

Homebuyers are looking for a place where they can sit outside, drink coffee, entertain guests, or watch their kids (or dogs) play. If you want to increase the value of a single family home, building a patio should be high on your priority list.

Patios were rated much higher than rear porches, decks, and even front porches. Fortunately, patios can also be simpler to build because they are on the ground, not raised above the ground like decks. If you’re looking to make significant improvements to your home, creating a patio could add massive value. If your home has a scenic view or a cozy cranny that a patio can be in harmony with, your patio will be especially desirable and therefore valuable to you and your home’s eventual buyers.

Patios are one of the top home features 2021 buyers look for

6. 81% of Buyers Want a Side-by-Side Kitchen Sink

Although large farmhouse sinks can be seen all over DIY channels and design magazines, it doesn’t mean that it’s what buyers actually want. In fact, side-by-side sinks are one of the top kitchen features that homebuyers look for! This is exactly why you should always look at the facts when you’re evaluating what improvements will sell your home. You can still get a farmhouse sink if it’s the best choice for your kitchen design, but choosing a double basin sink will automatically make your home more appealing.

Buyers prefer a side-by-sink or double basin sink

7. 81% of Buyers Want a Walk-in Pantry

It’s no surprise that having a designated, spacious area to store food and kitchen supplies is extremely valuable to homebuyers. If you talk to your friends and family about what they want in a house, this is something that’s almost guaranteed to come up over and over again.

If your home wasn’t originally built with a walk-in pantry, it may be a challenge to add one to your kitchen layout. Even if you’re able to comfortably fit all of your kitchen supplies, buyers viewing your home might need more storage. Since this is a priority, designate a space for pantry items so buyers can see how the kitchen’s space is best used.

A walk-in pantry is one of the top features buyers look for in 2021

8. 81% of Buyers Want a Front Porch

Having a front porch not only adds functionality to a home, it also changes the appearance of the home, and usually vastly increases the home’s curb appeal.

Since this is an exterior home feature, the actual value of it may vary on the climate in your location. The best way to learn ‘whether’ (terrible pun) or not a front porch is a home feature desired by local homebuyers is to look at your local real estate market. Search for homes that have been recently built and recently sold around the price that you want to list. Do these houses have front porches? Do the marketing notes emphasize this feature as a valuable asset?

9. 81% of Buyers Want ENERGY STAR-Rated Appliances

ENERGY STAR appliances are particularly appealing to buyers because they’ll save money in bills and maintenance over time. You probably don’t want to buy all new appliances right before selling your home because you’d be unlikely to get a return on that investment. However, knowing the importance of ENERGY STAR certified appliances is important to keep in mind if you plan on selling your home eventually. As you invest in your home, the energy rating should be a vital part of your decisions.

front porch appeals to potential buyers

10. 81% of Buyers Want Hardwood Floors in the Living Areas

The days when carpet was the most-desired floor type are long gone. The majority of homebuyers want hardwood flooring in living areas, and having the same flooring in multiple rooms is another benefit. If you already have wood flooring, be sure to feature that in your listing photos and description.

However, it’s hard to know why buyers prefer hardwood over all other types of flooring. There are many buyers who truly want the real thing, but there are also plenty of buyers who want the look without the maintenance. If you don’t already have hardwood, you might still benefit from using laminate, vinyl, or tile with the look of wood flooring. 

Hardwood flooring in the main living space
Virtually staged living room via Stuccco

11. 80% of Buyers Want a Full Bath In Main Living Area

It’s very common for older homes to have a half bathroom or powder room near the main living areas of a home, but today’s buyers are looking for a full bathroom. There are many possible reasons for this real estate trend, but it makes it easier for guests to be comfortable without having to go into every room of the home.

If you have a full bathroom in your main living area, it’s a good space to make some home improvements to maximize its appeal. Since bathrooms can be pricey to renovate, focusing on the one closest to the living area will bring you the highest return on your investment.

If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, get your bathroom virtually staged to show buyers its true potential quickly and affordably. For example, the photo below cost less than $70 and took just 24 hours to complete.

virtual renovation in bathroom via Stuccco
Example of a virtual renovation with Stuccco

12. 80% of Buyers Want Energy Efficient Lighting

As designers, we can tell you that the lighting of a home is an extremely important factor in the overall feel and design of any space. Homes with lots of bright, natural lighting feel bigger and more open and are more appealing to buyers. However, 90% of the energy produced by traditional incandescent bulbs generates heat, which is a huge waste.

Luckily, you can easily upgrade the lights in your home by buying energy-efficient LED bulbs and installing them in place of the energy-burning lights you currently have. Although LED bulbs will be slightly more expensive up front, they’ll save you money (and help the planet) over the long haul.

According to Fixr, a shocking 90% of people surveyed want an open floor plan.

Although it’s not difficult to find people who dislike open concept homes, it’s pretty undeniable that this is the most highly sought-after home style in 2021. With this in mind, the most wanted specialty rooms and kitchen features reflect this type of home buyer.

These are the top five most wanted specialty rooms:

  1. Laundry room
  2. Dining room
  3. Great room
  4. Home office
  5. Separate living room

Instead of having walls separate each room in a house, buyers prefer one large and open living area (most often the great room, dining room, and kitchen) and then smaller rooms like bedrooms, laundry rooms, home offices, and second living rooms, which each serve a more specific purpose.

Top 5 Most Wanted Kitchen Features

2021 Homebuyers want open floor plans in the kitchen and main living spaces

After double basin sinks and walk-in pantries, the most desirable kitchen features are:

  • Table space for eating
  • Central island
  • Drinking water filtration

Kitchen layouts in 2021 look extremely different than they did about 30 years ago. The most popular kitchens have an open floor plan with islands and dining tables distinguishing each room and space instead of walls.

Without doing any kind of remodeling, you can still include a few of the most sought-after home features by installing a side-by-side sink, adding water filtration, and having a dining table near your kitchen. 

The Top 5 Most Wanted Outdoor Features

Functional outdoor features buyers look for

The three most desired outdoor features are exterior lighting (87%), patio (82%) and a front porch (81%). The next highly rated features are:

  • Rear porch - 75%
  • Deck - 75%

It would probably surprise most homeowners to know that buyers rated exterior lighting more highly than any other exterior home feature! Given this data, if you haven’t updated your home’s exterior lighting or outdoor living areas lately, it would be a bright idea to do so.

The Top 5 Most Wanted Green Features

ENERGY STAR windows (83%), appliances (81%), and efficient lighting (80%) are three of the top 12 most desired features. After that, the most wanted green features are:

  • ENERGY STAR rating for the entire home - 79%
  • Triple-pane insulating glass windows - 73%

In a large survey of home builders and construction experts, 62% of respondents believed that energy efficiency is going to be the most desirable green technology for homeowners in the future. Not only are they better for the environment, low-energy homes also benefit the owners by minimizing their energy bills. If you’re planning to sell your home in the next five to ten years, this factor should impact what you choose to invest in.

The 10 Home Features Buyers Hate

  1. Elevator
  2. Glass walls
  3. Daycare center
  4. Wine cellar
  5. Pet washing station
  6. Roof covered by plants
  7. Golf course
  8. In-law suite
  9. Cork flooring
  10. Dual toilets

Okay, you’re probably not surprised that the average American buyer doesn’t want an elevator, dual toilets, or a daycare center in their home (!!). But there are probably a few items on the list that do surprise you. For instance, pet washing stations are trendy on Instagram and Pinterest and an in-law suite is a must-have for certain buyers.

These most-hated features in homes prove that you should know your local real estate market before investing your time or money into a big home improvement project. Talk to a real estate agent or appraiser to get the most accurate information about what features buyers in your area want most.

Interesting Statistics about What Buyers Look For in 2021

  • 67% of buyers want a single-family home
  • 60% of buyers prefer a new home
  • 85% want an open concept kitchen and dining room
  • Buyers look for an average of 2,000 square feet of finished space
  • 40% of buyers think about accessibility when shopping for homes
  • 42% of recent and prospective home buyers want a two-car garage
  • 75% of real estate agents say that stainless steel is the most popular appliance finish
  • The average cost of a home in America was $264,634 in 2020
  • Exterior design style preferences varied; 32% of buyers prefer a traditional design style, 24% want contemporary, 16% want transitional, and 14% want a modern style.

Curious what your design style is? Use this fun and free tool to quickly discover your design style.

How to Sell Your Home for the Most Money

You can significantly increase your home’s value by making strategic improvements to your home over time. When it’s time to list your home for sale, the best way to help sell your house quickly, easily and for the most money is by putting a strategic real estate marketing plan in place. In 2021, buyers are searching for homes online more than ever and the photos of your house is what will make the first impression on today’s buyers.

In recognition of this reality, you should have high quality photos taken of your home. If your home is vacant or if your home has personal or dated items, you will want to have your home’s photos virtually staged. Doing so will help your home make a positive first impression on buyers, which will help drive more buyer traffic to your property and increase the perceived value of your home.

Virtual staging is one of the best investments that a seller (or their real estate agent) can make when marketing a home. Try it today and get your virtually staged photos back in hours.

Sources

The 2021 homebuyer data in this article is compiled from two of the most reputable sources:
Fixr’s 2020 Single Family Home Construction and Remodeling Trends
March 2021 Special Study for Housing Economics from The National Association of Home Builders

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