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Home buying bridges the gender gap

By   |  Posted in First-Time Homebuyers

What do women want? The same things men do -- at least when it comes to buying a home.

Finding a house in the perfect location at the best price are characteristics that bridge the gender gap.

And forget the stereotype that a woman's place is in the kitchen. These days, it's the entire family that belongs there, says Christy Budnick, executive vice president at Prudential Network Realty, based in Jacksonville, Fla. "Look at the heart of any house. Most of the time it's the kitchen."

That fits right in with exclusive research done for HSH.com, which found that a house with a "great kitchen" was the top must-have for both women and men when it comes time to buy.

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A near equal number of men and women were surveyed and asked: whose opinion carried more weight when you purchased your home, what was the most important factor when choosing your house and what were your top must-haves in the home.

Must-haves

More than 35 percent of the 395 men and 365 women surveyed ranked a fabulous kitchen as the make-or-break feature for their new home.

An open floor plan ranked second, considered the key feature for 15 percent of homebuyers.

Again, that mirrors what Budnick is seeing. With an open floor plan the kitchen spills into the family room, making the location a family's primary gathering spot, where they cook, do homework and hang out together.

If a house doesn't have that great kitchen, new homeowners are willing to sink money into their purchase to create one, says Jessica Lautz, an economist with the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

In the NAR's "2013 Home Features Survey," more than half of homebuyers surveyed started a home renovation project within three months of their purchase, and 47 percent of those buyers remodeled their kitchen.

Maybe all that togetherness is why a man cave doesn't rank at the top of the list in HSH.com's survey. While 10 percent of men say a man cave is a must-have, only 1 percent of women feel the same way.

It also could reflect it isn't necessarily a man's world -- though men may think it is.

Who has final say?

Almost 75 percent of women surveyed said men's and women's opinions carried equal weight when it came time to choose a home. Just don't tell the men. Only 58 percent of men say both partners' preferences carried equal weight. Nearly 25 percent of men think their decision rules the roost.

Budnick says it's not unusual for wives to let their husbands think they're still calling the shots, giving a wink and a nod when men make their preferences known.

Budnick found women are most interested in the aesthetics of a home, while men focus their attention on systems, like air conditioning.

In the past, women's opinions were actually the deciding factor, as they spent more time at home, she says. Now there's more equality with more women in the workforce, and both spouses often spend similar amounts of time outside the home.

What matters most?

Due to all the time spent away from the house, combined with congested highways and high gasoline prices, many homebuyers want to be located near public transportation hubs, says Susan Yannessa, associate broker with Weichert Realtors in Blue Bell, Pa, just outside Philadelphia. "Transportation is an important issue."

Homebuyers also want to be near top-quality local schools, Yannessa says. This again ties in with HSH.com's survey results, which found 40 percent of homebuyers considered location the primary factor when choosing a home, while 30 percent focused most on the home's cost.

New attitudes

There have also been other changes which evolved after the housing bubble burst.

For example, buyers are willing to pay extra for a mother-in-law suite, though it may not be mom who's moving in, as college grads have returned home in droves. "There could be multiple generations in the home," Lautz says.

And these days, size does matter.

"Back in the heyday they wanted big, big, big. That's not the case now," Budnick says.

With these smaller homes, they're looking for energy efficiency, such as tankless water heaters and energy-efficient windows. As homeowners, "they don't want to throw money out the window -- literally," Budnick says.

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