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3 Things Homebuyers Want Now More Than Ever

As the pandemic changes what homebuyers are looking for, Realtors need to shift how they market their properties.

When the pandemic struck, many people found their entire lives confined to the four walls of their homes.

From working and homeschooling to eating and entertaining, daily life started and ended at home, causing many people to recognize the importance of a comfortable, practical place to live.

As more companies realize that working from home is a viable option and many schools are on a virtual or hybrid learning schedule, these shifts seem to be more than a passing fancy.

How can real estate professionals tweak their marketing to highlight the most desirable elements and entice buyers?

Instead of focusing on walk-in closets and an open floor plan, you might need to readjust your marketing approach to address more practical concerns.

Florida Realtor magazine reached out to several industry experts for their take on what they’re hearing from buyers and what’s working in real estate marketing today. Here’s what they had to say.

TREND 1: More indoor space

What buyers want: Home office, home gym, well-appointed kitchen, walk-in pantry.

“Our homes are becoming our schools, our shelter, our office and our source of entertainment,” says John “Chuck” Fowke, a Tampa-based custom home builder and chairman of the board of the National Association of Home Builders. “Those having success provide plenty of virtual tools for buyers and tremendous content on their own website. This means virtual tours, photos and illustrations of people buying homes.”

In addition, open floor plans may not be what buyers are looking for, so the key is to promote areas of a home that are functional for work and school.

Loretta Maimone, a broker-associate with ERA Grizzard Real Estate in Mount Dora, agrees. “The trend for the past 10-15 years has been more open space, but that’s going by the wayside. Now, buyers want more closed-off, private space, whether it’s a functional home office or a flex room for homeschooling.”

“Even if the property doesn’t have a dedicated home office, any little nook that can be converted into office space would be a big selling point today,” says Owen Boller, sales associate with Compass Real Estate in New York City.

TREND 2: More outdoor & entertainment space

What buyers want: Private and spacious outdoor area, pool, backyard, patio.

“Outdoor space and amenities are a huge asset for today’s buyer,” says Boller. “Private homes are in the highest demand right now. Build your listing marketing around the property’s key outdoor and privacy features, such as the surrounding trees and shrubs that provide privacy.”

Yes, says Maimone, “Ask the seller to place a pop of color in the outdoor space to draw the eye in photos and videos. Use drone shots, too. Hire a professional to shoot everything, including Matterport 3-D videos. Think of it as an investment in your business, since pro images provide a good ROI. People love outdoor kitchens—great for when you can’t or don’t want to go to restaurants. Put lot sizes on every listing.”

Homeowners don’t want to be stuck inside, so marketing everything from private sitting areas to pools and outdoor kitchens is key.

“Outdoor kitchens, pools, even fireplaces in Florida, are all popular. These outdoor living spaces make houses feel bigger,” says Fowke. “You’ve got to have high-quality pictures of people enjoying those spaces to create the imagery of that lifestyle.”

TREND 3: Move from urban to suburban

What buyers want: Less densely populated location, single-family living.

“The desire to leave a densely populated area is the primary motivator followed by an existing desire to make their way to Palm Beach or to spend more time in Palm Beach,” says Suzanne Frisbie, a broker-associate with Premier Estate Properties in Palm Beach. “When the schools closed, people were no longer tethered by geography.” She recommends you market around “the safety and security of your specific properties and communities.”

With telework becoming the new employment standard, drive time to the office becomes unimportant.

“That could eliminate hours of drive time, which saves on gas, time, babysitters and stress. The cost savings can equate to being able to afford higher mortgage payments,” says Maimone.

Says Boller, “About 90% of our buyers are coming from metropolitan areas. Many have been renting and this is their first purchase. For those moving to a brand-new neighborhood, this might be an extreme change from what they’re used to. Provide lots of details about the neighborhood. Emphasize certain community elements, such as ample outdoor space, nearby lakes, walkable restaurants with outdoor seating and drive-in movie theaters. To reach urban buyers, consider sharing how close the house is in proximity to where they’re likely coming from.”

TREND 4: More tech-enabled homes

What buyers want: High-speed Wi-Fi connectivity, tech improvements/upgrades.

Even before COVID-19, smart homes—tech-enabled homes—were popular. After all, in today’s market, high-speed internet installed on the property is a given. However, with people working from home and children attending school virtually, it’s even more important.

“Make sure the house is equipped with strong Wi-Fi and include it in listing descriptions,” says Boller. “Internet and cell service seem to be the biggest “must-haves.” Security cameras are also a huge selling point.” Maimone agrees, “Buyers are looking for security systems (such as Nest). If an existing house has security or cameras, promote that in your listing.” Fowke recommends illustrating the technology that’s in place in virtual listing tours. “Private home tours have become important, so illustrate the technology that’s in place,” he says.

Finally, Frisbie notes that, as our market is a tropical environment, the added benefit of being outdoors is compelling, especially for people with kids and people who exercise. She advises mentioning the tropical aspects and the joys of being outside year-round as easy elements to weave into photos and marketing efforts.