New residential developments often feature special amenities that give them advantages over resale homes.
We’ve interviewed real estate professionals throughout the country to learn which amenities are most sought-after right now and how they use those amenities as sales tools to close new-home deals.
High Tech, Green Homes
Mid Rutledge, listing agent for Indigo Park on Kiawah Island, S.C., has seen a surge of interest in energy-efficient appliances and building materials, clean air technology and LEED-certified homes.
While homebuyers have grown to have a general sense that eco-friendly homes are better, real estate agents are in the unique position of being able to deeply educate their clients on these issues. “We must be able to effectively communicate to buyers the importance of using the most advanced, sustainable building practices and eco-friendly products (that) are good for their health and good for the environment,” he says.
Diana George, founder of Vault Realty Group, is seeing similar trends in Northern California. “With regard to selling new construction in the Bay Area, I’m noticing a big trend toward energy-efficient appliances, LED lights and tankless water heaters,” George says. “These products save homeowners money and contribute to a smaller carbon footprint.
“Another amenity that a lot of prospective homebuyers really love to see when house hunting are vegetable boxes,” says George. “This is big trend in the Bay Area, with the movement toward organic, farm-to-table cuisine and sustainable living. Both Baby Boomers and Millennials are always impressed when a vegetable box is already installed in the backyard.”
George notices that homebuyers expect certain items like stainless steel appliances, marble countertops and gas fireplaces, such that they have become standard, “so it’s about finding those unique amenities to really make a house stand out.”
Raised gardening beds are just one outdoor feature that impacts homebuyers. Janice B. Leis, associate broker with Berkshire Hathaway Fox Roach in Pennsylvania, Florida and New Jersey, says that when she’s selling homes during the pre-construction phase, she is careful to note which lots have the square footage to allow for pools and which don’t.
She says that at times there are “mitigating factors that preclude ‘the big puddle.’ So for the buyers, we try to find a premier lot that will accommodate the pool and accompanying fence. You have to do your due diligence and not assume you are selling a pool-friendly lot.”
Community pools are an important perk in family-friendly communities whose lot sizes are too small for private pools. Brad Pauly of Paul Presley Realty in Austin, Texas, has had the most success with neighborhood parks. “Homebuyers can appreciate when a developer spends the money to create a neighborhood with activities for everyone. I’ve had the most success with neighborhood parks. They beautify the community and, in turn, makes the homes more appealing to buyers.”
Pauly sells homes in the Rocky Creek, Circle C Ranch and Steiner Ranch communities, all three of which feature resort-style pools, playgrounds and other extensive outdoor features that are especially important in warm-weather states with a long warm season.
Miami-based Vadim Bulavchik has observed that buyers who lean toward new construction are looking for turnkey properties. He’s CEO of Diamond Centurion Group, which sells luxury properties in Miami, Los Angeles and New York.
“Our clients desire a home that’s in move-in condition with modern kitchens, appliances and bathrooms. They have very little tolerance for renovations, imperfections or obsolescence. Turnkey homes are highly desirable and command the best price,” says Bulavchik. “The key is really understanding where in the spectrum each buyer falls and then selling accordingly. It’s all about customizing your approach and really personalizing the way you work with clients, understanding their needs and selling from that perspective.”
The luxury condominiums that Bulavchik’s group sells offer a suite of amenities that is impressive as a collection. In this case, homebuyers are looking for a total package, rather than seeking out specific amenities. To close a deal, Bulavchik explains that he shows clients new construction first and older homes last. He says that 95 percent of the time, the contrast between the two is all homebuyers need to choose the new property.
One perk that attracts clients is when builders have their own mortgage companies or have special relationships with lenders who are prepared to offer a deal. With their own companies or in conjunction with an exclusive lender, the buyers may get a credit of 3 percent of the loan value to pay their closing costs. That means the buyer can keep thousands of dollars in their savings accounts instead of using it for closing.
Another scenario is when the builder’s mortgage company or exclusive lender offers special programs for highly qualified homebuyers. “For example, we have folks that are both young doctors with huge school debt, but are making excellent money now and into the future,” explains Bulavchik. “There are special programs that allow these homebuyers to put less monies down, say 10 percent down, as opposed to 20 to 30 percent down.”
- Make sure you’re well educated about the new construction you’re selling. Know the amenities inside and out and gain detailed knowledge about the most sought-after amenities.
- Listen to your clients’ preferences and observe their lifestyles so that you can properly educate them about the amenities that suit them most.
- Always visit the community or building in advance of taking clients to a showing so that you can authoritatively discuss its attributes.
- Be prepared to discuss mortgage opportunities being offered by the builder or a partner.