The Fixer-Upper Effect

First-time Austin homebuyers are willing to pay big for these special features

First-time Austin homebuyers are paying big for these special features

Houzz farmhouse kitchen with farm sink
Farmhouse features are still a hot commodity.  Photo courtesy of deVOL Kitchens, Houzz

Zillow already has a good handle on what helps homes sell faster, but now the real estate website has dug even deeper. In a report from its subsidiary RealEstate.com, Zillow discovered that homebuyers — especially first-time homebuyers looking at entry-level properties — are willing to pay a premium for houses that tout popular farmhouse or Craftsman-inspired features.

What are those, exactly? Farmhouse sinks, wainscoting, coffered ceilings, claw-foot tubs, barn doors, and exposed brick and beams, to name a few.

RealEstate.com analyzed listing descriptions from millions of entry-level homes (defined as those priced within the bottom third of the market) and found that listings that included these hot-button words sold for up to 29 percent above expected values. Put the term "Craftsman" in the listing, and the starter homes sold for a 34 percent premium.

Energy efficient features in entry-level homes are also attractive to buyers, with homes mentioning "solar panels" bringing in as much as 40 percent more than expected and tankless water heaters fetching 24 percent more. 

Zillow posits that with millennials playing an increasingly larger role in the housing market — they make up 42 percent of all homebuyers today and 71 percent of first-time buyers — their preferences are having an increasingly notable impact.

In top-tier homes, for example, the payoff on these features just isn't as large. Barn doors bring in just 6 percent more, while exposed brick is only worth 5 percent more. And those popular solar panels? Sellers can only count on a 13 percent increase with higher-end homes.

One of the only features that is extra appealing to both price brackets is that perennial Texas favorite: the outdoor kitchen. It's been known to rake in a 23 percent premium for starter homes and 28 percent more for top-tier listings.