What do home buyers want?

(MoneyWatch) What features do home buyers want in a house more than any other?

Air conditioning, walk-in closets and master suites, according to a new survey by the National Association of Realtors. For homeowners who have been waiting out the recession before they sell, making sure their properties have some of these popular amenities could help boost the sale price and how quickly the home sells.

Leslie Piper, consumer housing specialist at Realtor.com, said that buyers are looking for long-term investments, meaning homes they can stay in for 20 or 30 years. That's a marked difference from the pre-recession mindset of staying in a home only a few years before upgrading.

Thanks to low interest rates and scant inventory, buyers are snapping up properties relatively quickly. Homes that took months to sell last year are getting multiple offers this year, Piper said.

The best thing sellers can do to justify raising their asking price (and get it to appraise out) is to give their home a surface-level facelift. Strengthen your curb appeal with new landscaping, a fresh coat of paint and decluttering of the inside of your home, all of which can all be done relatively inexpensively.

"The goal is to touch the buyer emotionally before they even walk through the door," Piper said.

The NAR survey covered 33 home features, such as flooring, appliances and amenities, and central air conditioning came out on top as the most important feature for buyers.

The top 5 features buyers consider very important

1. Air conditioning, cited by 65 percent of buyers
2. Walk-in closet in the master bedroom (39 percent)
3. Cable-, satellite TV-, and/or Internet-ready home (37 percent)
4. Master bathroom in suite (34 percent)
5. New kitchen appliances (29 percent)

Some features were important enough that buyers were willing to spend more to get them in a home. Unfortunately, many of these upgrades would cost more than what buyers are willing to pay, but if homeowners are able to add some of these additional features, they could rake in at least a little extra cash at closing.

The top 5 features buyers will pay more to have

1. Air conditioning -- buyers would pay an extra $2,520
2. New kitchen appliances ($1,840)
3. Walk-in closet in the master bedroom ($1,350)
4. Granite countertops ($1,620)
5. Hardwood floors ($2,080)

Buyers were also willing to pay more money for a home on the waterfront, one that has an eat-in kitchen and one that is less than five years old. 

What would recent buyers change about their homes?

"Most satisfied homeowners still said they would like more or larger closets and storage space," said NAR vice president of research Paul Bishop. "In addition, nearly half of recent buyers would prefer a larger kitchen, and two out of five would prefer a larger home overall."

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    Ilyce R. Glink is an award-winning, nationally-syndicated columnist, best-selling book author and founder of Best Money Moves, an employee benefit program that helps reduce financial stress. She also owns ThinkGlink.com, where readers can find real estate and personal finance resources.