What Homebuyers Want the Most in Their New Houses

Homebuyers and for sale sign

By Diana Olick

Now that Americans are buying houses again, the nation's home builders are eager to find out what may have changed on consumers' wish lists and how the recession may have impacted overall attitudes toward lifestyle at home. From new construction to renovation and remodeling, consumers are clearly more cautious and price-sensitive than they once were. "They are doing projects to enjoy themselves, not just to flip [the home]," said Gary Case of Rockville, Maryland's Signature Kitchens, Additions and Baths. "They are also keeping resale in mind."

At the top of the wish list is Energy-star ratings. In a large survey released this month by the National Association of Home Builders, researchers found that Energy-star rated appliances are most coveted, followed closely by energy efficiency in the laundry room. "Nine out of ten buyers would rather buy a home with energy-efficient features and permanently lower utility bills than one without those features that costs 2 percent to 3 percent less," the survey noted. But while buyers like the efficiency to be there already, they are not willing to pay a premium for them.

What home buyers seem to want most is high-end amenities, even if it means living in a smaller home to get them, according to the survey. Of those polled, 62 percent favored high-quality products over space. They want a double sink in the kitchen and both a tub and stall shower in the bath. They prefer french doors to standard and garage storage systems. They also want technology, from wireless home security systems to whole-house electronic features that control entertainment and utilities.

3 Things Homebuyers Hate

The amenities, however, only go so far for today's cost-conscious consumer. An elevator ranks number one on the list of things home buyers do not want. They also don't want a home in a golf course community. They don't particularly like wine cooler refrigerators and give a big thumbs down to laminate countertops. While they do like some outdoor space, they don't necessarily want an outdoor kitchen.

Perhaps the most surprising finding of the NAHB survey is not what we want in our homes, but where we want our homes to be. Just 8 percent of those surveyed want to live in a city center, 36 percent prefer the outer suburbs, 30 percent the close-in suburbs and 27 percent still want the old-fashioned, rural American living. This counters recent assertions by those in the apartment sector that Americans are increasingly seeking a more urban lifestyle.

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What Homebuyers Want the Most in Their New Houses

This Los Angeles manse is for those who aren't tied down -- but who like to be tied up. It's dark and unassuming on the outside, but inside is a hedonist's lair. If you're a freak, then click forward.

Yes, that's a stripper pole in the shower -- one of several throughout the home. We don't imagine nice couples with children would want to live here. This place is meant for the single guy living in the fast lane. Oh, but there's so much more fun to be had...

There's also a disco! When the Saturday night fever hits you, turn on the strobe lights and drop the disco balls to instantly transform the living room into a dance party.

Now put the stripper pole and the disco together to basically turn the home into a cabaret club. Who's taking our drink orders in here?

This unassuming hideaway in Hinsdale, Ill., looks like the weekend home where Bruce Wayne unwinds after taking down villains across Gotham City. You have no idea how true that is...

They call it the "Batpool." The backyard pool of this mansion has a giant Batman insignia that can be seen for miles. Batman himself would never miss it as he's flying overheard. From how far away can you see it?

Like, really far away.

From the outside, this Hamptons home looks like the stuffy, upper-crust estate of a hedge-fund manager. But on the inside is a whole lot of fun...

The indoor two-lane bowling alley might make you feel a little more loosened up. Or maybe the 10-seat movie theater with "interactive" seats -- whatever those are -- will make you feel more at home. Or there's this...

A spa facility awaits you inside this home, complete with a Jacuzzi embedded in the floor right near the massage tables. Now this is a place we could stay for awhile.

Who wants to live in Boulder City, Nev.? We do, after seeing this home. The front is nice, nothing special, but you have no idea what you'll find in the back.

The home has a totally customized backyard water park complete with a lazy river, a 20-foot diving pool and endless water slides. There's even a water mill, should you find reason to need a water mill...

On the water slides, you'll have fun in the sun every day!

There's no avoiding the elephant in the room in this New York City penthouse. But what a pretty awesome elephant it is: The owners installed a slide to lead from the second level of the home to the first. There's a little kid in all of us, and this place makes sure to bring it out!

Here's where all the fun begins!

Stretching 73 acres, this estate in Castle Rock, Colo., delivers a whole lot of real estate and clearly had an owner at some point who adores our national pastime.

The home really knocks it out of the park with its own private baseball diamond. 

There's also an indoor batting range, lest you need anything else to make this house a dream come true for a baseball fan.

It sort of looks like a retirement community on the outside, and even if it were, what's inside will have gentlemen in their twilight years wanting to live out the rest of their days here.

An indoor putting green will let you practice your put all day long!


Rising rents and increased demand for rental apartments has fueled the theory that from young Millenials to downsizing Baby Boomers, the recent housing crash has changed the way Americans want to live, shifted attitudes toward home ownership and created a strong new desire for big-city living. Rising gas prices have also pushed more home buyers closer to city centers.

While 23 percent of survey respondents categorically reject the idea of living in a city center, others could be swayed if, again, offered the right amenities. These include walking/jogging trails, nearby parks and an outdoor swimming pool. That bodes well for planned, gated communities. The age of the McMansion may be over, as money spent on space is reallocated to energy efficiency and home technology. Builders today will look to do more with less space, and buyers who can now afford to be picky about amenities, certainly will be.

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