Before the pandemic, the most popular phrases featured in home listings nationwide were the enduring hardwood floors, granite countertops, and stainless-steel appliances.
They still are desirable to home buyers, but they dropped out of the top three spots this year, according to real estate search portal Point2′s analysis of 43 million words in more than 640,000 residential listings on its website. This year, the three most popular features in home listings nationwide are garages, walk-in closets, and full baths.
In the Northeast region, full bathrooms top the list, followed by hardwood floors and walk-in closets. Parking and an open floor plan round out the top five most popular keywords in home listings in the region.
Across the country and in the Philadelphia area, most of what buyers are looking for — and sellers are highlighting — boils down to the same amenity the pandemic has pushed to the forefront: space. Large, great, full, and spacious were among the most popular adjectives nationwide.
The desire for space
Home buyers “are creating some private room for these Zoom rooms to have meetings or conferences, just privacy,” said Stephanie Biello, president of the Greater Philadelphia Association of Realtors and an associate broker at Kurfiss Sotheby’s International Realty. So in listings now, buyers may see these rooms listed along with dens or studies.
Especially since the start of the pandemic, the prospect of more space has drawn buyers, so terms such as expansive space and wide open floor plan are popular, said Dominic Fuscia, team lead for the Dominic Fuscia Team in Coldwell Banker Realty’s Old City office.
Although some home buyers have shied away from open floor plans in favor of walls to contain sound and activity, this home layout remains desirable. These preferences hold steady as buyers contemplate the possibility of further public space restrictions because of rising cases of COVID-19.
“It’s really difficult to rent or sell condos or houses that have very little outdoor space,” said Fuscia, whose team operates throughout Philadelphia and in the surrounding counties in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
So highlighting expansive yards, decks, and patios is popular. The phrase garden oasis pops up from time to time, Fuscia said. He said he’s seen buyers bypass renovated homes in favor of fixer-uppers with more outdoor space.
Because of the pandemic-driven desire to spread out, Biello wasn’t surprised that walk-in closets broke into the top three phrases in listings both nationally and in the Northeast. They’ve always been popular, and storage space has become even more important to people looking for a new home.
Making listings stand out
Since Fuscia has found that “what sells the quickest is homes that have a custom feel,” he uses such words as unique and custom in listings and highlights features made of reclaimed wood.
“The juxtaposition between old and new is really appealing,” he said.
He emphasizes popular design trends of the moment, such as painted white brick.
Parking can be a rare commodity in dense areas of Philadelphia, so it stands out in home descriptions. The amenity ranks as the fourth most popular keyword in listings in the Northeast. Many people, such as those with easy access to public transportation, can do without it. But for those who can’t, “many people won’t at all buy a property without parking,” Fuscia said.
They don’t want the frustration of driving around for half an hour or more looking for a space on the street, he said.
“Some people will leave the city even because of that,” he said.
Real estate agents are sure to include the city’s property tax abatement in home listings if it applies. The 10-year abatement on new residential construction is especially coveted now that the tax break will end this year to be replaced with the equivalent of a five-year abatement.
Because Philadelphia is a city of distinct neighborhoods and buyers and renters usually have specific places in mind, Fuscia makes sure to highlight the neighborhood and its amenities in the listing. He uses phrases such as in the heart of or close to everything [neighborhood] has to offer.
He emphasizes features such as restaurants, coffee shops, museums, business corridors, and parks. That could mean noting Frankford Avenue for a listing in Fishtown, restaurants in Center City and South Philadelphia, and proximity to the Art Museum and Kelly Drive in Fairmount.
“You’re buying the location,” he said. “Yes, you’re buying a house; you’re inside your home. But especially now that we’re out and about, you want to have things to do close by.”
Proximity to the subway attracts buyers and renters. If a property is close to the Broad Street Line or the Market-Frankford Line, “that’s ideal and we always put that in our listings,” he said.