10 Non-Negotiables When Looking for Your Dream Home
You’ve put in your time in a starter house, and now you’re ready to upgrade to your dream home. The first time around, you negotiated plenty of items, but this time your must-have list is more extensive — and more set in stone.
Realistically, you know you probably won’t get absolutely everything you want, but there are plenty of items you shouldn’t negotiate. You’re planning to spend many years residing at this property, so it should be your sanctuary.
“The pandemic has certainly made it clear that the space we call home is more important than ever,” said Ben Creamer, principal and managing broker of Downtown Realty Company in Chicago. “Likewise, it has changed our perspective of what we need to feel safe and comfortable in our homes.”
Not sure what items should never be crossed off your must-have list? Here’s a look at 10 features you shouldn’t negotiate, as doing so can be costly — both to your happiness and your wallet.
Last updated: June 1, 2021
No matter what type of property you’re looking to buy, Creamer said access to personal outdoor space is hands-down the most important non-negotiable item for a dream home.
“Outdoor space is still the GOAT of must-have amenities,” Creamer said. “No one wants to face another lockdown cooped up indoors with no outlet for fresh air and safe socialization, so buyers are demanding personal outdoor space — and they prefer it to be decked out with landscaping, furniture, outdoor kitchens and electronics for entertainment.”
He said the cost can vary broadly, based on the size of the outdoor space and the features included. However, he estimated it would cost about $10,000 to equip a rooftop patio, rising to more than $100,000 for a lavish backyard.
Dreamy Primary Bedroom
More than just your average bedroom with an en suite bathroom, Creamer said a dream home needs a primary bedroom with large walk-in closets and a spa-inspired en suite bathroom.
“With everyone spending more time at home, the bedroom is often the only space in the home to offer a respite — and a separation — from the activity of the workday,” he said.
If you purchase a home with a less-than-impressive primary suite, he said it will cost you thousands to either expand the space or upgrade the bath.
A high-end bathroom remodel costs $15,000-$25,000 or more, according to HomeAdvisor, so buying a home where the work is already done offers major savings.
Always a classic, Creamer said the pandemic further highlighted the importance of having a wine cellar in a dream home, as in-home tastings, monthly wine clubs and virtual mixology classes served as quarantine entertainment. Of course, wine will never go out of style, so having a dedicated temperature-controlled spot to store your collection is a must.
“The cost can range from a few thousand dollars to add a built-in cooler in the kitchen to tens of thousands to outfit a dedicated wine room,” he said.
The ultimate luxury, Creamer said a dream home needs a dedicated space for fitness.
“When gyms and group fitness activities shut down, in-home fitness moved from a nice-to-have to a must-have on buyer wish lists,” he said. “There are lots of creative ways to carve out space for in-home fitness, from a screened-in nook with a favorite piece of equipment, such as a treadmill, Peloton or Mirror Home Gym, to a fully outfitted room with specialty equipment and features like a ballet barre or Pilates station.”
The average monthly cost of a gym membership is $37.71, according to a study conducted by RunRepeat. Conversely, treadmills start at around $200 at Dick’s Sporting Goods, meaning a home gym can save you serious money.
When buying a new home, Jason Gelios, a realtor in Southeast Michigan, said one of the most important non-negotiables is the location.
“As they say in real estate — location, location, location,” he said. “Home buyers should not budge on this, because this affects the home buyer more than anything else.”
If you find your dream home, but dread the location, Gelios would advise against moving forward with a purchase.
The national average cost of gas is $3.02 per gallon, as of May 24, 2021, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Moving far away from your ideal location means you’ll be spending more time — and money — at the pump, so keep that in mind.
When touring a home, Gelios said it’s important to consider the amount of ongoing care it requires.
“From landscaping to wood floors in the home instead of carpet, home buyers are looking to spend less time on upkeep,” he said.
For example, if you have a yard that requires a gardener, expect to pay around $45 per hour for their services, according to Thumbtack. Additionally, installing hardwood flooring costs an average of $8 per square foot, according to HomeAdvisor, so buying a house where it is already installed offers notable savings.
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Garage Space and Storage
Huge on the non-negotiable list for home buyers is garage space and storage, Gelios said.
“Many times I have shown my home buyers a home and they look at the garage or the potential storage and try to figure out if it will work,” he said. “Ample space is key to a home buyer’s next dream home.”
The last thing you want is to buy a dream home and realize a lack of storage means you can’t park in your garage. While you could rent a storage space, units cost an average of $100-$300 per month, according to Move.org, which will add up fast.
Smart Home Technology
It’s definitely a luxury feature, but a dream house needs smart home technology, because extravagance is what elevates the property to forever home status.
“Smart home tech is a huge appeal to home buyers and to a home’s functionality, mainly because of the awesome factor it plays and the convenience it offers,” Gelios said. “Being able to control the lighting, TV and home security from a central device or multiple control panels in a home is a really attractive home feature.”
He said these systems cost an average of $1,000 and up, so purchasing a home with pre-installed technology can amount to big savings — in addition to helping you cut costs on utility bills.
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Updated Kitchen and Bath
Two of the most important rooms in the house, Gelios said a dream house isn’t complete without a modernized kitchen and bath.
“A dream home kitchen and bath should have the latest updates, including heated bathroom floors, updated high-end fixtures, open floor plans in the kitchen and updated appliances,” Gelios said.
As previously noted, a high-end bathroom remodel costs $15,000-$25,000 or more, according to HomeAdvisor. Even pricier, a major remodel to create a high-end kitchen can cost more than $50,000, so these a projects you probably want to avoid having to take on.
COVID-19 made having a home office a must, according to Gelios.
“Towards the end of 2019, the home office was a fading trend,” he said. “With the pandemic and more people working remotely, the home office has become an absolute must.”
Remote work — at least some of the time — is a trend that’s likely here to stay, so you need a dedicated space to focus. For example, WeWork offers a pay-as-you-go membership that costs $29 per day, which can get pricey if you decide to venture out to a coworking space often.
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