The home front

A majority of area home buyers are not well-heeled retirees from California, but rather families with children albeit well-heeled families with children from Washoe County, says a new survey.

More than 3,000 surveys were mailed on behalf of the Builders Association of Northern Nevada to buyers of new homes sold in the second half of 2006. With 15 percent of the surveys returned, the builders say the survey carries a margin error of 3 percent.

Despite the hoopla over the condo and townhouse offerings coming onto the market, winner and still the champion is the single-family home on a roomy lot of 6,000 to 9,000 square feet. That was choice of 42 percent of buyers.

Buyers preferred a manse in a master planned community (77 percent) because they wanted a variety of housing types (22 percent). But not too much variety as 25 percent said they also wanted the governing hand of codes, covenants and restrictions.

The most popular house measured 2,000 to 2,5000 square feet (33 percent) followed by 1,500 to 2,000 square feet (25 percent). Four bedrooms (43 percent) or at least three (37 percent) were the choices of buyers. But the key room arrangement was a separate family room (53 percent).

But all that space doesn't come cheap.

Nearly 40 percent of buyers paid more than $400,000 for a new home, while sales of houses in the $200,000 range were scarce (5 percent). And that's not counting upgrades. Thirty-eight percent of buyers spent an average of an additional $30,000 for upgrades.

To finance those homes, the most common down payment was 10 to 20 percent, a figure cited by 36 percent of respondents.

Some 30 percent said they invested more than $200,000 in equity from the sale of a previous home. Twenty percent had $100,000 in previous equity to put down.

However, if mortgage loan rates had been just a tad higher say, 7 percent nearly a third of those buyers said they might not have bought. And if interest rates hit 8 percent, an even bigger segment 41 percent said they would still be sitting on the sidelines.

Contrary to Reno popular opinion, those buyers didn't come across state lines. Most moved just across town.

Fifty-eight percent of the buyers were already Washoe County residents with other states and northern California contributing about 10 percent each.

Those who did come from other states cited retirement (35 percent) or new job (23 percent) as a reason for the move.

Not surprisingly, most of them were previous homeowners (81 percent). Less obvious: The majority 52 percent did not gain space, but rather surrendered size in making the move.

The typical buyer is a married couple with children (35 percent) or without (30 percent). How many children? Two or three (57 percent) or maybe just one (40 percent). Thirty-eight percent of the new homes were sold to childless couples.

Buyers had two incomes (60 percent) grossing about $100,000 (41 percent under and 38 percent over that figure). But the largest cohort may expect earning to rise, considering their tender age: 25 to 34 (20 percent).

To find that house, the new buyers used Internet Web sites and personal recommendations (27 percent each). Fewer relied on newspaper ads and real estate agents (16 percent and 14 percent). And shoppers appeared to be satisfied with the veracity of their online research, because most visited only one to three communities (47 percent) before making a buy. Others visited only four to six (32 percent) before making that major purchase.

The top five most important factors in the buying decision were floor plan, construction quality, location, price and value.

People ranked the kitchen as the most important room in the house (35 percent), followed by a separate family room (30 percent), a great room (21 percent) and a master bedroom (20 percent). Formal dinners were relegated to a bygone era, with the dining room ranked a meager 1 percent.

In Nevada's wide-open spaces the car is king, and lives in a three-car garage (59 percent) or at least a two-car garage (33 percent). And when asked how today's new home design could be improved, topping the list was yet more garage space.

Despite the need to garage three cars, most buyers said they would have paid more for a house with greater energy efficiency (49 percent). How much more? Less than $5,000 (54 percent).


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment