We recently bought our first house here in Charlottesville, and while every home buyer is unique I noticed that lots of the features on our wish list mirrored larger industry trends.


Give Me Space

Flip open a design magazine or click through a site like Houzz.com and you’ll notice lots of praise for open, flowing floorplans. We looked at several more traditional houses that were gorgeous but felt boxy. For some people they want the open layout for entertaining. For us and many families, it was the more practical consideration of being able to see our toddler boys while we’re busy in the kitchen.

Given that my husband and I both currently work from home, we are among the growing number of buyers who telework. Indeed, the amount of time the non-self-employed spend working from home has surged 103% over the last decade. That means a ton of us are looking for a room -- or even a nook -- that could serve as a home office.


Walk this Way

There’s also what Realtor Magazine describes as “a desire for greater healthfulness and a yearning for a sense of community.” That’s why you see high walk scores marketed in listings, with people looking for a spot that has access to nature, trails, play areas and some shopping or restaurants. We had recently moved from the urban jungle of Oakland, California, where at least half of our excursions were -- happily -- on foot or bike. So we focused our search on the Belmont and North Downtown neighborhoods where we could easily access Charlottesville’s vibrant Downtown Mall. Similar vibes exist in other locations and communities that were planned with those amenities in mind.


Go Green and Go Home

Even though many of us give a room or two a fresh coat of paint before moving in, neutral colors (off white on white) are popular and versatile enough to woo any buyer. You can pair it  with a splash of color like an accent wall. Pantone’s color of the year, “Greenery,” could provide a spark of color inspiration -- or represent an overall “green” lifestyle.

My husband and I both work in the clean energy and energy efficiency field, so like many folks in the Charlottesville area, green is more than a color trend. Surveys by the National Association of Home Builders show that Energy Star appliances and windows are among the top five most-wanted features.

Energy upgrades and other sustainable home improvements are growing in popularity, accounting for 30% of revenue at remodeling firms according to a study by BPI and the Rocky Mountain Institute. Part of that reflects an interest in reducing our carbon footprint, but part of it is just pure common financial sense. Buyers -- particularly the cost-conscious millennial set -- are forecasting out what it costs to operate the home and factoring that into their home search.

Along those lines, home automation is another major head-turner. Buyers might not make the go-no-go decision based on a smart thermostat, leak detector (CO, water, radon, moisture), smart locks or security cameras (like video doorbells), but they certainly fall in the “pro” category.

We knew our house didn’t offer robust energy efficient or “smart home” features, but we plan to add them in over time. And we’ll want see a return on those investments, so we’re working with Pearl Certification to document the work and showcase that if we put the house on the market.

If a home has a host of today’s most coveted features, prospective buyers searching the listings need to know that right off the bat. A quality online listing -- which is the place many people, particularly millennials, start their home search -- is key. Talk with your agent about local trends, catalog the things you love about your home, and put those elements front and center. And if you’re in the buyer’s seat, give your agent a prioritized and personalized wish list so they know your hot features - whether or not they are trending. 

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