The HGTV effect: From television trend to real estate spend

by Kerrie Kennedy

There’s no question that home renovation TV shows have raised our collective design aesthetic, turning us all into armchair experts. But agents know that not every design trend can be monetized.

Now a new report by Zillow outlines which features buyers will actually pay a premium price for.  Looking at more than 170 features or design elements that were mentioned in the listing descriptions of homes sold in 2018 and 2019, the analysis identified the top 10 features that contributed to homes selling for more than expected. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the time period studied, modern farmhouse style was associated with a 10.3% sale premium when mentioned in a for-sale listing. For the typical American home, that adds up to a whopping $25,000, the largest price premium of any home feature or style Zillow examined.

“Some design trends look great in a photograph, but don’t reflect the way most Americans live,” said Zillow Lifestyle Expert Amanda Pendleton in a press release. “The modern farmhouse trend … has a more casual, rustic aesthetic that is meant to be lived in; nothing is precious and the more wear and patina, the better, which makes it so appealing to buyers with children or pets.”

A number of high-end custom features earned sellers top dollar as well, including waterfall countertops (9.4% premium), Moroccan tile (7.3% premium), Craftsman-style features (6% premium), exposed brick (6% premium), freestanding bathtubs (5.5% premium), quartz countertops (5.5 % premium), dual range cooktops (5.3% premium), metal roofs (5.1% premium) and pet showers (5.1% premium).

This data may be more helpful for listing agents than consumers, however. “This analysis didn’t look at return on investment, so don’t rush out to install a waterfall countertop in your kitchen and assume you’ll earn your money back in a sale,” said Zillow Economist Jeff Tucker. “However, if you have these features in your home, make sure to flaunt them in your listing description during the competitive spring home shopping season.”

The report also found certain features were associated with shorter market times. Homes with “smart sprinkler systems” sold 15.1 days faster than expected, while homes with rattan elements sold nearly 13 days faster than expected. Other features common among rapidly selling homes included drought-resistant landscaping (12 days), Carrara marble (8.1 days), double-pane windows (8 days) and butcher block (7.4 days). In addition to being associated with a quicker sale, mid-century style homes commanded a 4% premium.

But not all high-end features are necessarily desirable — a number of them were actually associated with slower sales. Listings of homes that mentioned “wellness” (usually in the form of “wellness rooms”) sold 24.5 days slower than expected; homes with wine cellars sold 19.1 days slower; homes with steam ovens sold 18.9 days slower, homes with steam showers lingered an extra 15.7 days and homes with “professional appliances” went 15 days slower.

A few features can end up costing sellers. Bike racks, perhaps because they translate to a lack of storage space, are associated with a 2.9% discount. And definitely don’t mention the water slide: Listings that do net about 1.6% below their expected sale prices.

But the true death knell is anything that implies a home is less than turn-key. Homes described as needing some “TLC” end up selling at a 17.4% discount; listings that mention “investment” potential go for about 10% less than expected and self-admitted “fixer-uppers” sell for almost 28% less than expected, according to the report.

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