10 Must-Have Features in New Homes

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

kitchenislandSo what home features are buyers asking for the most in their search for a new home?

AVID Ratings Co., a firm that provides surveys and employee training to home builders across the United States and Canada, conducts an annual survey of home buyer preferences.

The company found the following hot home features reign supreme in today’s market:

1. Large kitchens with an island.

2. Energy-efficient appliances and high-efficiency insulation and windows. (These were the most sought-after “green” features from buyers.)

3. Home office or study

4. Main-floor master suite

5. Outdoor living room

6. Ceiling fans

7. Master suite soaker tubs and oversize showers with seating areas

8. Stone and brick exteriors

9. Community landscaping with walking paths and playgrounds.

10. Two-car garages

Are there any surprises from the list?

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

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  1. One surprise to me is ceiliing fans. I believe that with today’s higher efficiency HVAC systems, the ceiling fan is not a requirement AND it lowers the effective ceiling height in bedrooms and other rooms…Two-car garage definitely a must. Lost looking for a 3-car in our area (even though they only have 2 cars, they want a place for kids’ toys, lawnmower, trash can, etcm)

  2. No surprises other than what’s conspicuously missing: hardwoods, granite and ceramic tile. Perhaps those are just considered standard now?

  3. Lots of luxury home builders were adding granite and hardwoods standards which was increasing the base price of the homes, but Fischer and Frichtel in St. Louis is now offering a deal where they let the buyer choose which luxury ammenities are in the home to lower the cost.

  4. Grace

    Good points and tips on a new home’s must-have. I agree that Energy-efficient appliances, high-efficiency insulation and windows are really important since these are the most sought-after “green” features from buyers. I would like to add also window films. You will find that people can reduce consumption without any visual effect on their windows. Like most window films are for reducing solar heat gain in the summer, low-e films both block summer heat and improve winter heat retention. Window films are economical and eco-friendly. Learn more about window film at http://www.TinBuyer.com. They provided free relevant information for tint buyers such as its benefits, prices, laws involved in every state and most importantly they will help locate the best professional window tinters near your area.

  5. I also find it interesting that there are no comments about living spaces in general. Is there a preference for great room versus family room/living room setup? Have buyers completely lost their desire for a separate dining room? An outdoor living room is lovely in a moderate climate, but in the north it’s a luxury that can be enjoyed for a few short months. If this survey was conducted in Canada and the U.S., it surpises me to see the outdoor living room make the list. Thanks for sharing the post.

  6. I find it interesting there is no mention of media rooms. All the hype for media rooms that was created in the early years of 2000 and until most recently has now seemed to pass. I always thought it would be a passing phase. Also, was surprised about the 2 car garages. Must be certain areas of the country directing that response, as for here in Texas bigger is always better and 3 car garages are a must in a typical family home.

  7. Dave

    Outdoor living room.

    Interesting thought. Those really don’t work well in Texas, especially with the high humidity and 100+ temperatures, but elsewhere I’m sure it would be really nice.

  8. I find it interesting that community landscaping with walking paths and playgrounds is included, but no mention is made of the community swimming pool. They certainly are a must here in warm south Texas!

  9. I find it intersting that 2.1 baths are not mention that and a garage. In the northeast both parents work outside the home and these homes move faster. To the extent that weak or bad septic’s would be overlooked.


  10. Scott Larson

    We use a screened in Lanai in Florida for our outdoor living area. It would be difficult to sell a home in SWFL without one

  11. Scott Larson

    We use a screened in lanai in Southwest Florida for our outdoor living area. It would be difficult to sell a home or condo without one.

  12. I am surprised that number 2 is as high as it is. I would have guessed it would have barely showed up in the top ten. Good information to know even though I personally would bank more on the Garden Tub and Large Shower.

  13. I agree with Victor that Energy Efficiency is not a subject that most clients ask about. They should, but they do not know what to ask. Go to http://www.EnergyFraud.com and explore the importance of this subject.

  14. It would be interesting to know if paricipants were given a list from which to choose or were asked what was important without prompts. The number one thing I find buyers of all ages looking for is an open plan where family and friends congregate: kitchen-informal dining-family room. A large master is second, home office or extra bedroom for computer etc. is third. After that it depends on the size of family for the number of bedrooms and whether or not they want a yard for pets and recreation.

  15. angi

    1 – Large kitchen with island – I want that, yet think it’s odd for other people. Everyone seems to go out to eat so often, I don’t understand why they need a large kitchen.

    3 – Home office – I wonder if that will start going away now that wireless networks & laptops are becoming so prevalent. I used to need that, but now I prefer sitting on the couch or somewhere to browse the internet. I telework sitting at a desk, but I don’t need a whole room dedicated to that – I decided I prefer a desk in the living room where I’m still part of what’s going on. I didn’t like sitting by myself in the study.

    4 – I don’t understand the main level master with all other bedrooms upstairs. I want to be near my children at night. I hate walking upstairs in the middle of the night if they need something, and also hate the thought of them walking down the stairs in the dark to find me!

    10 – I’m surprised it’s not a 3 or 4 car garage! Everyone has 2 cars, and then what do you do with your other stuff? Lawnmower (or two) weed eater, leaf blower, tools, sports gear, childrens toys, gardening stuff, etc. Seems like everyone has that stuff in their garage, with the cars sitting in the driveway.

    My other needs/wants: open floor plan, lots of closet space, fenced yard, large lot, and an inlaw suite or guest house (I wonder if that will start being more popular with the Baby Boom generation aging, needing to moving in with their Gen X or Gen Y children).

    I agree with 2, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9! I think “outdoor living room” sounds weird, but I think it just means “a place to sit outside.” Deck, covered porch, screened porch, patio, balcony, yard – whatever works in your area. In NC I have a great deck/patio that’s partially covered. I’m moving to FL where I’ll want a screened lanai with a nice area for seating & a bar. In WI where I’m from, people like to have a deck where they can put a hot tub.

  16. Here in Costa Mesa, CA, even though it’s a warm climate, we get wonderful ocean breezes. This is great because buyers aren’t intent on finding homes with the added feature of central air (which can really keep your expenses low in the summertime!). However that means that ceiling fans are really important. And it’s not just for function – people really care about the style. Nothing dated, nothing cheap… Ceiling fans are a must in most rooms of Costa Mesa homes.

  17. I’m glad ceiling fans are included in the list. These seemingly unnoticed fixtures are one of the most important comfort features in any home. Regardless of how efficient HVAC systems have gotten there are still pockets of warm or cold air that seem to exist in the best of home designs. Fans, as simple as they seem can effectively mix and move the air throughout to even out the emperature everywhere in the house.

  18. What surprised me was the ceiling fans, but after living in Phoenix for the past 6 months, I completely understand the appeal! Yes, they do lower the visual height of the room, but they often make the room much more comfortable to experience. Also, it is a more cost effective way to supplement the air flow from an older HVAC system, instead of upgrading the whole house. I’d rather have a room with a ceiling fan than a room that no one spends time in because it’s stifling.

    Some have mentioned they are surprised at the lack of granite counter tops and hardwoods on the list. Neither of those products are inherently ‘green’ and with the trends moving in the ‘green’ direction, many people are opting out of the urethane-leaching granite and imported, exotic hardwoods and choosing more ecologically friendly and locally sourced products. Silestone, Corian, and honed concrete are great options for counter tops and a sustainable wood, such as bamboo, or an engineered flooring is very popular with ‘green-conscience’ individuals.

  19. The 10 MUST HAVE features noted by the Avid Ratings Co., are right on from my experience as a REALTOR and remodeling Project Designer! But what is interesting to me and I really saw this happening 10 years ago, and ranking for our area would be, first floor master, community/HOA landscaping greenbelts, home/study office, high energy star windows AND ceiling fans even though we’re in Texas. The moving of air is always more refreshing. Garages are becoming more prominent in town home and condo selection.