Price, Proximity to Work and Design Are Key Concerns for Home Buyers

Price and proximity to work are key concerns for first-time home buyers, while trade-up buyers tend to be most focused on the design of the home and the neighborhood, according to 鈥淐haracteristics of Home Buyers,鈥 an analysis of the recently released 2011 American Housing Survey (AHS) by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
The biennial survey, which is conducted in odd-numbered years by the Census Bureau, covers about 6.8 million home sales that occurred in 2009 and 2010. NAHB鈥檚 analysis additionally compares the homes that buyers purchased with what they say they want using results from 鈥淲hat Home Buyers Really Want,鈥 a new consumer preference survey published by the association.
鈥淎mong first-time home buyers, price was the most frequently cited reason for selecting a particular house, with a 38 percent share. At 30 percent, proximity to work was the most frequently cited reason for choosing a specific neighborhood,鈥 says David Crowe, NAHB鈥檚 chief economist.
鈥淭he majority of trade-up buyers (36 percent) cited the design of the home as the primary reason for selecting a particular house, with 28 percent citing the looks and design of the community as the reason for choosing a specific neighborhood.鈥
More than 90 percent of the sales reported in the 2011 AHS were existing homes, a significant increase from previous years. 鈥淪ales of new homes were very low in 2009 and 2010 due to the unique circumstances surrounding the Great Recession and the housing market crisis. We expect that situation to turn around as the housing market recovery takes hold,鈥 says Crowe. 鈥淢ore than half (55 percent) of the people surveyed for 鈥淲hat Home Buyers Really Want,鈥 NAHB鈥檚 consumer preferences study, said they would prefer to purchase a new home rather than an existing home.鈥
There鈥檚 good reason for that preference. New homes provide buyers the opportunity to choose finishes, fixtures, flooring and more. And they are apt to have the other elements that buyers want including open design, up-to-the-minute kitchens and baths, and features such as a laundry room and walk-in pantry that help with organization and storage.
There is also growing interest in single-story homes, and energy efficiency continues to be a concern. In fact, nine out of ten buyers surveyed would prefer to purchase a home with energy-efficient features and permanently lower utility bills rather than to buy a home without those features that costs two to three percent less.
New homes today definitely fit that description, and as a group are the most energy- and resource-efficient homes ever built.
Increasing numbers of homes nationwide are being constructed to the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard (NGBS), which is the only residential green building rating system approved by ANSI as an American National Standard. These homes have lower operating costs due to cost-effective energy and water efficiency practices and the use of lower maintenance materials.
Additional NAHB analysis of information from the 2011 AHS shows that energy costs are about 10 percent lower in new homes, even though new homes tend to be larger. The average annual cost of energy was $2,478 for all single-family homes and $2,240 for those built after 2008, which were new when the information was compiled. Average maintenance costs were 56 percent lower for new homes. Average annual maintenance costs for homes built after 2008 were $241 compared to $547 for all single-family homes.
鈥淣o matter what their preference for location or style, financially qualified buyers are likely to find a new home with the features they most want,鈥 says Crowe. 鈥淭he housing market is strengthening in most areas of the country, and home builders are eager to help buyers achieve or further their homeownership goals.鈥
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