Home Upgrades Buyers Crave

Luxury home sales are cooling off, and some sellers are finding they may have to invest in a few upgrades to nab top dollar for their home.

High-end sales posted a 7 percent gain in October annually, the second slowest increase in more than two years, according to an analysis from realtor.com®. And while sales are slowing, inventories of homes for sale are swelling. The total number of properties listed at or above $1 million is posting double-digit increases.

“Buyers are being more demanding,” says Javier Vivas, realtor.com®’s director of economic research.

The Wall Street Journal interviewed brokers, real estate agents, developers, and designers to pinpoint some of the most popular upgrades they believe are improving some sellers’ chances of a sale. Here are some of those upgrades:

High ceilings

Ten-foot ceilings, cathedral ceilings, and vaulted ceilings are in demand, Susie O. Johnson, a real estate pro with Coldwell Banker Gundaker in St. Louis told The Wall Street Journal. Even higher thirteen-foot ceilings have gained popularity in New York’s condo market. “The first thing buyers ask when they walk in—before they ask about square footage—is ‘How high are the ceilings?’” say John Gomes and Fredrik Eklund with Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

Retractable glass walls

Movable glass wall systems are gaining fans in the luxury housing market. Some homeowners are ripping out French doors to an outdoor living space and swapping them for accordion glass doors. “They give traditional floorpans that contemporary, updated look,” Collette McDonald, a RE/MAX real estate pro in Atlanta, told The Wall Street Journal.

Quartzite countertops

This natural stone is hardier than granite and less prone to stains than marble. “Light whites and grays are replacing darker granites,” says Susan Boss, a broker-associate with Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty in Houston. “Buyers like to see a light, neutral countertop, not something so personalized or so busy that it’s competing with the tile on the backsplash.”

Four-car garage

A garage that can accommodate three or four cars is very desirable in the luxury market. “Buyers love garages,” says Michael Costello, an associate with Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Palm Beach, Fla. “Most of our buyers, even if it’s just a couple, tend to have three, four, five, six cars.”

Smart home systems

Home automation systems that can control the lights, window treatments, regulate thermostats, and access security cameras are proving popular. “It is now expected that a home has an ample amount of technology,” Gary Gold, executive vice president at Hilton & Hyland, told The Wall Street Journal.

Neutral decor

“Light grays are really popular—whether it’s flooring or wall colors,” Costello says. Swap out heavy drapes and antique furnishings, he suggests. “Heavy brown furniture is out,” he adds. “It’s not easy telling a client that buyers are turned off by that look.”