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Buyer Preferences in Cambridge and Somerville

When a home owner lists a home for sale it is important to know what buyers want in a home. Giving buyers what they want is key to getting top dollar and selling the home quickly. It is especially important for developers to make the right choices. The wrong choices can lower profitability or even lead to a loss.

In this issue we discuss the buyer preferences in our market of Cambridge and Somerville. Buyer preferences are very local. What buyers want in one city or town (or even neighborhood)  can be very different. We learn buyer preferences by working with buyers, hosting open houses, going to broker open houses, showing homes, and listening to comments both positive and negative.

Design and Layout

Many buyers in Cambridge and Somerville appreciate and understand domestic architecture. Cambridge and Somerville buyers often plan to own their homes for many years and look for timeless design and durable materials. The buyer pool is attracted to both traditional and modern architecture. Popular architectural styles in this market include Federal, Colonial Revival, Greek Revival, Second Empire (Mansard), Queen Anne, Shingle Style, Italianate, and Modern.

Although many buyers love traditional architectural styles most prefer open layouts. The kitchen has become the heart of the home, so buyers prefer that the kitchen be open to the dining and living area. For single family homes and larger condos a half bath adjacent to the main living area is considered essential by most buyers. Buyers prefer that the sleeping area of the home include a master suite with bathroom en-suite (a bathroom accessible directly from the bedroom). Many buyers work from home and look for a home office. A home office can be a separate room, a nook, or a loft.


Cambridge and Somerville have a rich heritage of domestic architecture. Buyers in this market are attracted to exteriors with architectural integrity that fit into the context of the many historic neighborhoods.

Most buyers in this market prefer exteriors that are architecturally correct with high quality natural materials. Preferred exterior materials are cedar clapboards and shingles, mahogany decks, brick and stone, copper gutters and downspouts, and slate roofs. Aluminum, asbestos and vinyl siding, composite decking, aluminum storm doors, and vinyl fencing are not in favor in most neighborhoods of Cambridge and Somerville.

Outdoor Space and Parking

Outdoor Space

Cambridge and Somerville are both dense cities where outdoor space is limited. Private outdoor space is highly desired by buyers. Even a small deck adds a lot of value to a home. If a private outdoor space is not available access to shared outdoor space is the next best thing. Buyers prefer low maintenance plantings and less grass. Today's homeowners often have demanding professions and do not want to spend leisure time doing yard work.


Off street parking is a very valuable amenity in Cambridge and Somerville. Buyer demand for off street parking is neighborhood and price position specific. If a neighborhood is close to the T (subway) or adjacent to an employment hub buyers are more willing to go without parking. For example, single family homes without off street parking in Cambridge have sold for over $1,000,000. One home without off street parking sold for $2,500,000.


The kitchen has become the most important room in the home for buyers. Buyers want both function and luxury from kitchens. The most important factor in the kitchen is layout. Buyers want the appliances and sink to be laid out in an efficient work triangle. We have observed the following preferences in kitchen design:

Granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances are still in demand. Marble counter tops, although less practical, are popular in higher end homes. Black or white appliances are perceived as low end and can hinder the sale of a renovated home. Buyers are drawn to high end appliances such as Bosch, Sub-Zero, Viking, Fisher & Paykel, and Miele.

Gas cooking is preferred by the vast majority of buyers in Cambridge and Somerville. Many buyers will not make an offer on a home with an electric range. Ventilation hoods that exhaust outdoors are also a must for many buyers.

Buyers look for quality cabinets with solid wood doors (and solid wood construction throughout for higher end homes) and dovetail drawer joints. Soft close drawers and doors are another feature that is a must for higher end kitchens. Under cabinet task lighting is another feature that buyers prefer.
A backsplash adds function, visual appeal and value. There is an endless variety of patterns and materials to choose from when designing a backsplash. Subway tile, glass tiles, stainless steel, marble, and granite are popular choices.


Buyers are very demanding of the quantity, layout, and design of bathrooms.

Today's buyers prefer multiple bathrooms, even for relatively small condos. A half bath located close to living areas is highly desirable.

Whether the home is a small condo or a large single family home buyers want the bathroom(s) to be located near the bedroom(s). Although bathrooms adjacent to kitchens are very common in older homes this layout is not desirable for today's buyers. Master suites with en-suite bathrooms (direct access to the bathroom from the bedroom) are the preferred layout.

Luxurious bathrooms are in demand. Buyers love high end features such as large walk-in showers with rainfall shower heads, high end vanities with double basins, marble or granite finishes, and radiant heated floors. Buyers also look for high end European fixtures such as Hansgrohe and Porcher.

Green Features

Many buyers in Cambridge and Somerville are aware of the environmental impact of home construction and the importance of minimizing energy use. Many buyers are looking for green features in a home. Homes with green features are often more comfortable, healthier, and can cost less to heat and cool.

- Passive solar designs that are warm in winter, cool in summer.<

- Energy Star appliances

- Tankless water heaters

- High efficiency heating and cooling (gas is preferred over oil or electric)

- Natural, sustainable materials such as wood from responsibly managed forests

- Paints and carpets that are low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
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