The Washington Post
Open floor plans and parking among buyers’ biggest desires
The Washington-area real estate market can be fickle, with design trends and desirable features constantly changing according to evolving lifestyles and homeowner preferences. The spring buying season is well underway, and agents I talk to are seeing robust activity across the region.
With all this activity, a few home design features are beginning to emerge as this year’s must-haves among buyers. So, what exactly do home buyers in Washington want? According to a recent survey by Bright MLS, buyers are seeking open kitchens and open floor plans. Forty-five percent of agents surveyed say the demand for open-concept homes is greater this year than last.
An open floor plan is by far the most requested feature in kitchens, with 89 percent of agents saying that their buyers ask for it. Agents also say that granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances remain popular amenities in the kitchen. Other popular features include double-island kitchens (12 percent) and niche appliances such as steam ovens and warming drawers (11 percent). Eat-in kitchens, wine refrigerators and quartz countertops are gaining momentum.
Features throughout the rest of the home finding favor this spring include first-floor master bedrooms. According to our survey, 38 percent of agents say the demand for first-floor master bedrooms is higher than for second-floor masters. Other amenities gaining momentum include high-end kitchens (74 percent) and bathrooms (56 percent), followed by parking (39 percent), outdoor dining and entertaining spaces (46 percent), fireplace(s) (21 percent) and smart-home technology (18 percent).
A few features have significantly lost popularity and may lower a seller’s home value in the competitive market this spring. Seventy-four percent of agents say an outdated floor plan tops the list. A traditional floor plan that divides a home’s space into many rooms can be a big disappointment. Other buyer turnoffs include laminate countertops (71 percent), popcorn ceilings (69 percent) and carpeting (53 percent). Once popular, these features now seem dated and serve as obstacles to buyers looking for turnkey, move-in-ready properties.
Motivated sellers should try to remove these features, which can make an otherwise desirable property seem like a fixer-upper. Replace laminate countertops with a granite, natural or engineered stone. Replace popcorn ceilings with a simple, nontextured surface in a neutral color. Remove as much carpeting as possible, especially in high-traffic areas, and put down hardwood flooring if you can.
On the flip side, buyers should be prepared to pay for these updates and the convenience of a move-in-ready home. Or they can save money on the purchase price and take on the upgrades themselves, with the benefit of selecting the flooring and granite of their dreams.
Either way, it is important for buyers and sellers to keep up with home design trends so that they can better navigate Washington’s changing real estate market. An experienced real estate agent who knows the area can help advise you on what’s hot — and what’s not.