What Buyers Want: Cars and Cable

October 1, 2007

Buyers have energy efficiency on their minds, but they still like their big houses and multiple cars, too.

If you want to know the direction of your customers’ homebuying preferences, think big cars and big screens.

Almost 60 percent of home buyers are prepared to spend more for a house with an oversized garage, and almost 40 percent would do the same to get a house that’s ready for cable or satellite TV, NAR research shows.

Both of these figures are up substantially from 2004, when NAR conducted similar research. In that year, buyers were willing to spend a premium in only 6 percent of cases for a big garage and in less than 30 percent of cases for enhanced TV readiness.

With their rise, oversized garages now rank second among the most desired features buyers want, up from fifth place three years ago. TV readiness has also edged up.

“Everybody has become so dependent on their cars and on technology, for both work and personal use, that they’re expecting homes to have these amenities now,” says Fran Davis, chair of the NAR Economic Issues and Residential Real Estate Business Trends Forum and a sales manager at Coldwell Banker Burnet in Minneapolis.

Of all the preferred features, central air conditioning is far and away the most important. That was the case in 2004, and it continues to be No. 1 this year.

Other important features: walk-in closets in the master bedroom and separate showers in the master bath. Also big: patios, porches, and fencing.

New on the list: backyards with a play area and wiring for high-speed Internet.

The findings are from NAR’s 2007 Profile of Buyers’ Home Feature Preferences, released in early August.

Big Still in

The NAR survey for the first time asks about preferences for energy efficient features. In their responses, buyers say they want such features, with more than 90 percent saying the features are either very or somewhat important.

The importance of energy efficiency, while generally solid across age ranges, largely increases with age, topping out as a preference for 94 percent of buyers aged 75 and older. But even 80 percent of the youngest buyers, staring at age 18, say they want green features.

New-home buyers in particular expect to see energy efficient features in their choices. More than 95 percent of buyers of homes constructed less than a year before purchase say energy efficiency is important.

Despite these green leanings, big houses remain the norm. The typical home was 1,840 square feet in the 2007 survey, up almost 7 percent from the median home size of 1,727 square feet in 2004. What’s more, 12 percent of homes in the 2007 survey were more than 3,000 square feet, compared to 9 percent of homes in 2004.

When it comes to seeking out homes whose integration with the community makes it easier for people to walk and use public transit, the results are mixed. Although buyers show slightly increased appreciation for homes near public transit and shopping areas, other preferences that would reduce the need for driving show no change or are even headed in the opposite direction. These preferences include the presence of sidewalks and the proximity of schools and playgrounds.

Luxury becoming standard

The good life increasingly is the only life, buyers’ preferences indicate.

More buyers than in the previous survey say it’s very important for homes to have granite counters in the kitchen (23 percent compared to 17 percent in 2004), a whirlpool tub in the bathroom (13 percent vs. 9 percent), and hardwood floors throughout (28 percent vs. 21 percent).

Buyers also increasingly want a walk-in closet in the master bedroom (53 percent vs. 51 percent).

The only interior feature of decreasing importance: a sitting area in the master bedroom.

The trend toward enhanced living shows up in buyers’ room preferences. Of declining interest are traditional rooms like the living room, den, and dining room, while interest is rising in exercise rooms and in-law suites. The preference for media rooms is unchanged.

In almost all cases, the importance of the various features ranks much higher with buyers of new homes than those of existing homes. Among the exceptions: fencing (which existing-home buyers tend to want more) and proximity to cultural amenities like museums.

Most desired home features

Ranked “very important” by buyers:

Feature 2007 2004
Central air conditioning 1 1
Oversize garage 2


Walk-in closet in master bedroom 3 2
Backyard/play area 4 NA
Cable/satellite TV-ready 5 6
High-speed Internet access 6 NA
Separate showers in main bath 7 8
Patio 8 4
Fencing 9 7

Ready to spend

Percentage of buyers prepared to pay a premium for key features:

2007 2004
Walk-in closet in master bedroom 60


Hardwood floors 57 52
Granite countertops 56 55
Separate showers in main bath 47 54
Whirlpool bath 40 45
Cable/satellite TV-ready 36 29
Sitting area in master bedroom 29 39
Oversize garage 56 6
Patio 54 54
Fencing 51 54
Porch 48 53

Very important home features

Percentage of buyers desiring key features:

2007 2004
Walk-in closet in master bedroom 53


Cable/satellite TV-ready 46 40
Separate showers in main bath 36 36
Hardwood floors 28 21
Granite countertops 23 17
Whirlpool bath 13 9
Sitting area in master bedroom 12 13
Oversize garage 57 41
Fencing 36 37
Patio 36 41
Porch 32 34
Sidewalks 26 27
Near shopping 25 22
Near schools 20 21
Near park 14 15
Near public transit 10 8

Source: NAR Research, 2004 Profile of Buyers’ Home Feature Preferences and 2007 Profile of Buyers’ Home Feature Preferences

Robert Freedman

Robert Freedman is the former director of multimedia communications at NAR.