Welcome to the second in our series of interviews with Boston area realtors about the home features that are hot in specific areas. If you missed our first post on top features in Cambridge and Somerville homes, you can read it here. In this post, we speak with Debbie Lewis, a Certified Buyer’s Representative with True Home Partners, a partnership of five, full-time Coldwell Banker real estate professionals. Debbie filled us in about what homebuyers want in Arlington and Belmont properties.
Q: What are the “must haves” among Arlington and Belmont homebuyers right now?
A: It is going to depend upon the price point and whether you’re looking for a single family or a condo, but 99% of my clients want an open concept floorplan where the living area, dining area and kitchen flow together. They want kitchen islands where people can hang out. They want a nice, clean bathroom, ideally with some storage. If the buyer has young kids, they want more than one bedroom on the same floor. Good storage is also really important. You can never have too many closets.
Q: If a homeowner is renovating, what would you recommend they invest in to enhance the value of their Arlington or Belmont home?
A: You can’t go wrong with kitchens and baths. Unless the homebuyer lives on takeout, he or she is looking for lots of kitchen counter space, a stove that is vented to the outside, and great storage. If it’s a condo with a smaller or gallery kitchen, be creative with storage options and have nice updated countertops and appliances. An extended countertop that you can also eat at is great for smaller spaces. Stainless steel appliances continue to be really popular. In bathrooms, I would definitely do double sinks in the master bath and a lot of buyers really like a separate walk-in shower stall and bath. If space is at a premium, buyers can maximize the utility of a bathroom by giving it two entries. This is especially useful for single floor condos. For example, a bath could be entered from a bedroom or from the hallway. Sometimes there is a pocket door separating the toilet and sink from the tub or shower so the bath can be partitioned into a powder room when entertaining guests.
Homeowners should also think about first impressions. Spiff up the exterior, hallways and entryways. If you have extra space in the entryway, for god’s sake build a coat closet! Here in New England, we have all the winter stuff and need a good place to store it out of sight. Buyers in the $500,000 price range can be flexible on that and make do with coat hooks, but single families in Belmont and Arlington should have ample coat closets and a mudroom.
Q: Have you seen renovations that detracted from the value of the home or were deal-breakers?
A: This market is so hot that buyers often end up compromising on their “must haves” or overlooking things that they don’t like so much. I do see renovations where space could have been allocated better or where the scale of the rooms seems poorly thought out. One property had a bedroom with an oversized master bath, but the bedroom had a tiny closet. I thought it would have been much better to allocate a bit more closet space and scale back a bit on the extra space in the bathroom. Or I see long runs of bathroom counter space in the master bath, but just one sink. Why share a sink in the master bathroom if you don’t have to!
People should be mindful of smart use of space. Think about how you really use space. Do you need a huge bedroom with a sitting/reading area if you only use it for sleep? So many of my clients who are downsizing say that extra space simply became the place for laundry, or clothes that needed to be hung up. Most first-time homebuyers moving into condos want space in the living area versus the bedroom. At the same time, unless you are providing a large closet, make sure there is at least room for a dresser in the bedroom! Even condo owners come with clothes that need to stored somewhere! Lastly, think about whether some square footage might be better used for additional storage or a small home office.
Want to know more about the smart use of space? You may be interested in reading our article on the beauty of built-ins. To see a renovation that opened up space in a traditional home, check out our open floor plan remodeling project in our portfolio. To find out more, please give us a call at 617-666-4460 or use our online contact form.