When you buy a home in the Seattle area, the goal is to find a house or condo that you’ll love to live in, and that will also appeal to other buyers when it’s your turn to sell. Think “functionality and resale value.” Many of the home features that you like for yourself will also be ones that create good resale value, but not always. It’s important to have a very clear idea of what other buyers are looking for so that you can make the most informed decision possible before writing an offer on a home.
Valuable Home Features:
The Top 10:
- Good location. How close is it to popular amenities, schools, shopping, or freeways? What is its Walkscore rating?
- Open floor plan (or ability to create it).
- Large kitchen with good cupboard or counter space (or room to create them).
- Large master bedroom (or room to create it).
- Master bath, or room to create one (this depends on price range and is more flexible in Seattle, where there are more older homes).
- Good interior light (or ability to create it via skylights, adding windows, etc.)
- Low noise. Even if you’re not sensitive to it, much of your resale target market will be.
- Not on an extreme slope (or at least with the parking spots in the driveway and part/all of the yard not on a slope).
- Good privacy (or ability to create it).
- Off-street parking (this is more important on the Eastside, and in Seattle depends on price range).
When evaluating homes ask yourself: “Is this feature changeable?” For example, location is obviously not, whereas street appeal, floor plan, and interior light might all be changeable. Remodeling and updating issues are nearly always changeable.
Other Valuable Home Features to Look For:
- High and/or vaulted ceilings. If after being in a home for a little while you get a general feeling of oppression, look up – you might find that the ceilings are unusually low.
- Good kitchen countertop and cupboard space. Even newly built homes sometimes have inadequate cupboard/counter space.
- Kitchen that is open to the family room.
- Quality construction.
- Reasonably sized secondary bedrooms.
- A space for a wide-screen TV or viewing screen.
- Good street appeal. Remember, this is sometimes changeable.
- At least a half-bath on main level of multi-level home.
- Low traffic street.
- Well-kept surrounding homes.
- Not near different zoning types, ie., a house with an apartment building overlooking the back yard, or with an auto repair shop several homes away.
- A view, and/or a feeling of not being enclosed.
- A reasonably sized yard for the price range and property type.
- History of good maintenance.
- A fireplace, especially gas.
- A formal dining room. This is definitely more important above a certain price range.
- Smart use of space, with few or no “What would you do here?” areas.
- Bathrooms – the more the merrier.
- Room to create equity, for example, an unfinished basement with high ceilings.
- Good square footage. (‘Good’ varies widely by price range and location).
- Desirable school district. Even if you don’t intend on sending children to school here, it’s important for resale value.
- Room for off-street parking, especially covered. In Seattle this depends on price range, on the Eastside it is more common and therefore more expected.
- Updating, especially kitchen, bathrooms, plumbing, electrical, and windows.
- Wide hallways and stairways.
- Entryway with room to set down bags and remove shoes.
- Mud room between garage entry and kitchen.
- Media room, or possibility to create one. This is becoming more and more important.
- Not too many stairs leading to the front door, and/or from garage to entryway. Think from the perspective of someone who is mobility-impaired. Will that potential buyer be ruled out when you sell? Also, if you need to go up one or two flights of steps each time you arrive at your home, how fun is that going to be every time you arrive with several bags of groceries?
Home Buying Red Flags to Avoid:
Proximity to significant power lines.
- On a busy street, or near significant noise.
- Low ceilings.
- Dark interior.
- Choppy or closed-in floor plan.
- Yard not visible or accessible from primary living area. This detail is easy to overlook, but is quite important. Homes that have the kitchen in the front and bedrooms in the back are most likely to have this set-up, which means that access to the back yard is via a door on the side of the home, and the bedrooms block a direct view of the back yard. It is much more convenient to be able to easily access the back yard and keep an eye on children and/or pets there from a frequently-used room. This is important even if children are not part of your home-buying criteria because it is likely that much of your target market when you sell will be thinking along those lines.
- Inability to create a sizeable kitchen or master bedroom.
- Low privacy.
- Too near different zoning areas that could expand. For example, in five years you don’t want an auto-body shop to be riveting 50 feet from your back yard patio.
- Any area adjoining unconfirmed “greenbelt.” Natural space is wonderful and a real asset to a home’s market value, but it’s important to determine whether or not it’s really dedicated greenbelt or just green space that might someday be developed. Never assume anything.
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