Find Out What Home Buyers Want Before You Start a Renovation

Real Estate Agent Tells All

Ready to do a renovation but want to make sure you’re putting your investments in the right places? Whether or not you’re going to sell right now, it’s always a good idea to make sure the changes you’re making will ensure you get the best price down the road. Start by asking yourself what do home buyers really want?

We talked with seasoned real estate agent, Michelle McQuade, in northeast Cleveland, Ohio. She has over 8 years of experience seeing first hand what buyers like best. She gave us the inside scoop on how you can best prepare your home to generate lots of interest and get the best selling price.


“Buyers do not want to go through a renovation,” said McQuade. One of the top things they are looking for is a home in good condition that doesn’t need a lot of work, especially in the kitchen and bathrooms.

Modern kitchen and bathrooms are a must-have for potential buyers. New kitchens and baths get premium sales prices, especially in the low inventory market in which we find ourselves. “Updated kitchen and baths are gold,” said McQuade.


Millennials settling down with younger families are a huge part of the market right now. One of their biggest must-haves is an open-format layout. “Younger families raising children want to have close contact with the kids; they want all-inclusive togetherness,” McQuade said.

Interestingly, these buyers have little interest in formal family rooms like the dining room or formal living room. They want practical spaces that work with their everyday lives. Things like dining rooms that are only used a couple times a year are simply wasted space in the minds of these buyers. “They favor a big table right in the kitchen instead of a separate dining room,” said McQuade. “They want a clear line of sight from the kitchen right through to the living room.”

Real estate professionals are often heard to say, “location, location, location.” But Michelle McQuade adds, “right up there with location are condition and layout; these are the homes that get the premium prices.”

Outdoor Spaces

Near the end of 2018 and into 2019, retiring baby boomers shifted the trend from moving elsewhere to staying in place. For many of them, the plan is to stay until the end of their lives. That had a huge impact on the market. At the same time, millennials made a shift as well. They started looking to come back home to settle down and raise their children.

Combine all that with a pandemic in 2020, which also shifted the focus to staying home, and you have a low-inventory, high-demand market. This has made several things more important for you, the seller. Remodeling the kitchen and bathrooms are certainly one. But another, less expected one is the emphasis on outdoor spaces.

“Backyards are important because people are home now more than ever,” said McQuade. They spend vacations at home, they entertain at home, they value family time at home. Giving some attention to making the backyard an at-home destination will attract buyers and boost your sales price.

Updated Kitchen

We’ve already established that an updated kitchen is probably the best thing you can do before you put your home on the market. Michelle McQuade went into detail as to the elements that make a big splash with her clients when they look at homes. Here’s what she said.

“White cabinets will never go out of style and they make it easier for buyers to imagine themselves in the space. White subway tiles have been a favorite for a while but still look fresh. High-contrast schemes are another timeless favorite. I see a lot of buyers gravitate towards cabinet variations on the high-contrast theme. So instead of black and white, they love gray and white, dark brown and white, or even dark blue and white.”

“Buyers get excited by kitchens that shake things up, like an island countertop in a different color or material than the perimeter countertops. Or different cabinets on the island than the perimeter.”

“Black walnut is the wood of the moment for cabinets and other wood in the kitchen. It’s richness promises to have long-lasting style. Stone countertops with either a smooth look or a veined look, like quartzite, are hot with buyers too.”

“I’ve noticed that buyers love a mix of doors and drawers in the kitchen cabinets. Drawers in the island especially add character and functionality to the kitchen. Buyers aren’t afraid to open up cabinets to check out functionality. What’s inside is just as important as what they look like from the outside.”

Homeowner and contractor discuss a project.

Remodeling Don’ts

McQuade says there are a few things you should steer clear of when you renovate your home.

“Get rid of or repurpose formal spaces. Open up the layout as much as possible for a more livable space,” she says. You could turn the formal dining room into a home office. So many people are working from home now, a designated office may be viewed as a perk.

“Oak is out. Don’t use it. Paint over it,” said McQuade. Paint over oak with a soft white. White never fails to be on-trend. It produces a fresh feel that buyers always love.

Countertops and backsplashes are a key visual feature in the kitchen. When you select new ones, be sure not to get granular granite style countertops. “That speckled granite look is not wanted in today’s modern kitchen. They want more neutral, smooth looks like leathered granite or quartz. Carrara marble is always a winner,” said McQuade.

Where is your money best spent during a remodel? Take the advice of experienced real estate agent, Michelle McQuade, and renovate your home for a future sale. A few well placed improvements aimed at what your buyers really want can make all the difference.

Get ready to renovate your home with more advice from an experienced contractor and designer.

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Michelle McQuade has over 25 years of experience in the finance and real estate industries. She conducts business in Ohio and is considered a real estate expert in the communities in and around northeast Cleveland. Ms. McQuade has been a “Top 1% Producer” at Howard Hanna since 2015 and “Top 1% Producer of Northeast Cleveland” since 2017. She is closely involved with the community, serving with and sponsoring various organizations in Cleveland.

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