‘Perfect House’ Characteristics
Punky asked about what to look for in that “awesome I got everything going for me” house.
These thoughts are culled mostly from conversations with our buyers, personal observations, multiple bidding wars, with an emphasis on investment value and some anticipation of future trends:
1. Location – Because buyers are looking long-term, the flight to quality has never been so active. Buying the best location you can afford will never go out of style. Being in a great school district is smart, even if you don’t have kids.
2. Light and Bright – South-facing homes with ample windows that allow full sun are much preferred. You may have to provide shade in the summertime, but you’ll save on heating bills in winter and overall have a sunnier disposition than those who live in a cave. There will be more push towards solar panels at home, and they prefer a south-facing roof.
3. Walkability – Being able to walk to shops is convenient, but also walking for exercise is smart too. Does the location encourage you to walk more? If so, I think buyers will consider it a preferred location, and might pay a little more. If it’s close to the foothills, the mountain bikers will dig it.
4. Security – Does the location make you feel safe? People already have concerns about their safety, and those could get worse in the future. Is it a secluded spot? Can anyone sneak up on you from behind? Do the neighboring properties help or hurt? Tracts with smaller lots can provide a ‘safety in numbers’ feeling.
5. Privacy – No homes looking in, especially not looking down on you from above. Up-slopes are acceptable as long as there is ample distance of flat area in between, and the houses above are set back so you don’t see them much. The worst are the example shown at Viridian, where the house/stucco wall behind you is about 5-10 feet higher, and 20-30 feet away – it is an unsettling feeling.
6. One-Story – My personal preference, and they are selling for an approximate 10% premium. If you’d rather have a two-story, and then run into trouble later with stairs, know that you can always add an elevator – look for spots where you can devise a landing upstairs.
7. Floor Plan – The most desirable houses are those with big open rooms that flow. This can be fixed with an open checkbook, so use your imagination.
8. Indoor/Outdoor Entertaining – For those who entertain, this is a big feature. The outdoor kitchens are very popular, but just having a decent spot for a BBQ can satisfy many.
9. ‘Visual Openness’ – Having a view is nice, but you should be guarded about how much premium you are paying. The coast is so socked in with
fog ‘marine layer’ these days that you’re not going to see the ocean much, so the very max I would pay is $100,000 extra for the best ocean view – and it drops off in a hurry. Most people are satisfied with having something pleasant to look at, so if you can see beyond the backyard, then the resulting night-light view gives you a 24-hour view of something.
10. Guest Suite – A downstairs bedroom/bath can usually double as a den/office area, but the primary use is for guests – especially the in-laws. Having it separated from the rest of the house is ideal, and it doesn’t have to be detached.
11. Great Room – Having the kitchen/family room combo is imperative, and money can fix. Includes a big-screen TV that you can see from the kitchen sink.
12. Style, Character, ‘Pizazz’ – These are hot features for selling, and can be added easily.
13. Three-car Garage – Otherwise known as the California Basement, the third-car garage usually hold people’s junk. Why people insist on having so much junk is another topic.
14. Master with Walk-in Closet – This item is imperative for the ladies; guys could live with a gunnysack or cardboard box – or with leaving their clothes on the floor. It is probably an efficiency thing – being able to see the available selections probably makes it easier to choose, especially with shoes. A window, or ample lighting in the closet is a plus.
15. Game Room – If you have teenagers, a separate room is better for video games.
16. Cul-de-Sacs – I can do without the screaming kids, but cul-de-sacs are a big boost for re-sale.
17. Green – Good for energy efficiency/cost savings, but not many homebuyers will spend crazy money here – I wouldn’t pay more just because a house has solar panels. Being self-sufficient and off the grid is a big draw, but paying the right price for the house is #1.
Things to avoid:
1. Extra-large backyards – They cost too much to maintain and you don’t use them enough. My rule-of thumb still stands – if you can mow the lawn in less than a half-hour, you’re good.
2. Pools are also out, especially at the coast – The weather is not hot enough that you will use them much (unless you swim for exercise), plus they take up too much of the backyard.
3. Overgrown trees – If they are more than 20 feet tall, they’re probably too big and messy, and people are afraid that they’ll fall on the house. People close to the coast would rather have sunlight.
4. Condos – Unless they have exceptional other features, it’s better to rent, due to the difficulty in obtaining mortgage financing.
5. High monthly fees – How long will it be before we see Occupy Mello-Roos?
6. Three or more levels – Two-story is the max.
7. Linoleum, single-pane windows, formica, 8-ft ceilings, etc. – all the old, dated stuff.
8. Power lines nearby – Perceptions are particularly negative, whether accurate or not.
9. Double-yellow-striped streets – Perceived as too busy, whether they are or not.
10. Noise – Freeway, street, airport/jets, skateboards – not only are they a turnoff to potential buyers, they might drive you crazy.
11. Close to a high school – The kids drive too fast, and don’t have respect.
The key is to find the right blend of ingredients for your particular needs. If you can find most or all of the above, you will have an enjoyable house that will re-sell easily! Focus on buying a house that already has items that money won’t fix (items 1-6 at top). Your agent should be an expert at evaluating, and balancing the mix!
Early in the hunt, surrender to the fact that whatever house you end up buying, it will most likely need repairing/updating/remodeling – plan to spend $25,000 to $50,000 after closing.
Here are other links:
Trophy Properties: http://www.bubbleinfo.com/2011/08/15/trophy-properties/
Housing Trends of Future: http://www.bubbleinfo.com/2010/10/12/housing-trends-of-future/
WSJ.com – Blueprint for a New American Home (link here)