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As wealthy buyers leave their small apartments behind in the big cities, more luxury agents are helping them out into the suburbs – areas outside urban centers, and even out of the suburbs. These thriving cities offer peace and quiet, space to spread out, and space to wander; They are on the cusp of a population boom.
Kathleen Boyd and Maribeth Eckhart, real estate professionals at Kienlen Lattmann Sotheby’s International Realty, describe overseas buyers with a diverse client base, although they tend to be younger. “They still have an economic and cultural connection to cities, but they are looking for a simpler living situation at lower price points,” Boyd says. “They want an easy route into town for the days that require commuting.”
As this group includes young singles, young couples and young families, growth may be on the horizon for these communities – a fact not lost on Chris Meadows, real estate advisor at Sotheby’s International Realty – Wine Country Brokerage. “They enjoyed some years in the Bay Area,” he says, referring to downtown near his Napa Valley Market, “but now they want more space — indoor and outdoor — along with a slower pace and fewer people.”
Today’s outside buyers are not just involved in demographics and income levels. There are also specific trends and traits that they look for in the design, layout, and location of their homes. Here are five overarching features that agents should keep in mind when marketing to these potential customers.
1. Character and magic are deal makers
“A huge buyer places more importance on curb appeal with an emphasis on charm and personality,” says Eckhart. “The recurring theme of these buyers is that they don’t want a ‘cookie-cutting’ house. They don’t want to walk into their friend’s house, or go past a neighbor’s property, and see the same features and layouts.”
This is not limited to their potential properties. When outside buyers move to new communities, they are looking for an aesthetically pleasing city center with shops, cafes and restaurants that support a comfortable and modern lifestyle. “These buyers are looking for a simple life in a more rural setting, but they don’t necessarily want to feel isolated,” notes Boyd.
Meadors explains that the promise of good schools, quiet streets, a sense of community and plenty of privacy is what attracts suburban buyers – although agents must be prepared to manage their expectations.
“Keep in mind that they’re accustomed to walking to coffee shops and taking BART to restaurants—so while easy access to amenities is important,” he says, “cities like Napa aren’t dense enough to create walkability the way a familiar San Francisco person walks, But every driving route here is surrounded by vineyards and easy to navigate.”
2. Unique – but not ostentatious – interiors
What are outside buyers looking for in terms of design and décor? Boyd and Eckhardt highlight four themes that recur in their clients’ requests:
- The architecture style incorporates a nod to the mid-century modern era combined with a more relaxed and eclectic vibe.
- The main aesthetic is streamlined and calm. These buyers are often looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a quieter environment.
- They look for a neutral color palette, but are open to highlighting pops of playful color in wallpaper, furniture, and accessories.
- The majority of outside buyers aren’t interested in dramatic and formal lighting fixtures or ornate moldings; They want clean lines and less mess.
Midors adds to that list that ready-made properties are very popular as opposed to stabilizers. “Doing a massive renovation project, which to many seems like a fun creative outlet, can come with unexpected layers of stress and cost. This is why most buyers look for homes they can move into right away.”
3. Open, but still with nooks and crannies
Real estate agents are well aware of the growing demand for secluded spaces, home offices, and “zoom rooms” — even if it’s a closet for other purposes. “Because at least one person in the home is either working remotely or a hybrid, these things are essential for outside buyers,” says Eckhart.
But open schemes to expand the entertainment space to the fullest have made a big comeback. “These buyers are still looking for plenty of living and dining space for friends and family to get together,” Boyd says.
Meadows agrees. “They usually want open designs with the kitchen, dining, and living rooms, along with the flow of cool indoors and outdoors.”
4. Swimming pools peaked on the outdoor wish list
Speaking of outdoor spaces, large yards and spacious garages are common targets for overseas buyers – but swimming pools have taken an especially high priority. “There can be a two-year wait for a pool to be installed,” notes Eckhart.
She and Boyd regularly take orders for patios, outdoor kitchens, and fire pits, too, while Meadors says Napa Valley buyers are keen to grow food in their own gardens and even raise chickens.
5. Buyers want energy efficiency
While space is generally in demand, Boyd and Eckhardt note that many outside buyers are willing to make an exception if it means increased energy efficiency.
“We found that they were willing to give up the square foot interior if both the floor plan and energy use were sufficiently efficient,” Boyd says. “They are looking for more sustainable homes with renewable energy features like electric car charging stations, high-performance windows, and even photovoltaic panels.”
Eckhart adds that going green is good for both their conscience and their bank account. “They don’t seem to care much about whether or not the house has the latest bells and whistles, they are more concerned with a clean and simple life while reducing energy consumption and costs.”
Are these trends here to stay? “I think cities like San Francisco will always have an appeal for young people and urban-oriented people, but I’ve always said there’s a life span in the city,” Meadows says. “When you step out of a fast-paced lifestyle, it’s good to have space to relax and breathe. A renewed focus on mental health has also made people check their living conditions. Big cities can contribute to a stressful environment, and clients are beginning to see that they can remedy that from By moving to a different area and restructuring their lifestyle.”