High ceiling aqua living room with white leather couch, ottaman, armchairs and fireplace

It may take touring a property to realize how a wow factor like high ceilings or beautiful views can make you willing to pay a higher price for your home. (Getty Images)

Whenever you begin the process of looking at homes, there are five factors to consider upon visiting any property for sale:

  • Price
  • Location
  • Square footage and layout
  • Condition and renovation
  • The intangibles

If you imagine a Libra scale with balancing trays, like those held by the image of a Greek deity on a courthouse or a law firm logo, then you know that as one tray is weighed down, the other automatically goes up, like a seesaw. For house hunting purposes, imagine there are five of these trays – if one factor gets significantly better, like a home’s new renovation, the price will get worse (more expensive) for the buyer, if the three others remain set.

The first four of these factors are relatively obvious and most people can quickly judge a property based on price, location, size and condition. But that fifth one, a special quality like a sprawling view, high ceilings, historical pedigree or outstanding architectural charm, for example, can be the dark-horse feature to make a buyer pull the trigger and make an offer. This intangible wow factor can make a house a home, and every buyer values it differently.

[Read: The Guide to Buying a Home.]

Let the Intangible Factor Find You

Last year, a young woman who works as a management consultant was interested in buying a one-bedroom apartment on the Upper Eastside of Manhattan. She had a set budget, a basic location she wanted – closer to her sister and near the entrance to the subway she uses to commute – her size requirements were easy to meet and she didn’t have the bandwidth for any major renovation, apart from a fresh coat of paint and updating the closets.

With an explanation of the five factors, the buyer said she wasn't concerned about a wow factor. She explained at the time: "I don’t want to pay more for a big view or sacrifice something like location for a fancier building.” Working for a big-name firm, she is on the road four nights per week and felt that anything beyond checking her most basic wish list boxes was superfluous.

[Read: What Does 'Move-in Ready' Really Mean for Your Home?]

Looking at apartments, she stayed true to what she said. She was unfazed by one gorgeous, south-facing view from the 31st floor of a high-rise. She scoffed at the idea of paying even a penny more for a building with concierge services. She made it clear that she preferred to be closer to the subway versus having a tony Park Avenue address. But when she walked into the apartment she now calls home, in a building that had at once been a department store, she looked up at the double-height ceilings.

“I get it,” she said. “For me, these ceilings are the big intangible. This is a major 'wow.' This apartment is the one.”

Everyone searching for a new home prioritizes the five factors differently, and of course the first four are generally the most important. People will pay more for a home that’s beautifully renovated or expect a discount if the home is in an inconvenient location. But that fifth factor, the wow that makes a house a home, should not be overlooked.

[See: The Best Apps for House Hunting.]

When the Intangible Doesn't Wow You

Unfortunately, the intangibles are not always as exciting. Just as a small or strange layout – think about a bathroom right off the dining room, for example – or the need for a gut-job can negatively affect a home’s ability to find the right buyer, so too can an obvious handicap. Handicaps might include the living room’s dark view of a brick wall, a high-rise noisily ascending right outside the bedroom windows to eventually block light and views, strangely high monthly carrying costs due to community mismanagement or the widely spread news of a gruesome murder on the property. If that fifth factor, the intangible, is a handicap instead of a wow, most likely the price must reflect this. The buyer will want a deal to overcome these issues.

For the high-ceilings buyer, she didn't think that anything would make her say “wow,” but the height of the ceilings made the rooms seem bigger, the light seem brighter and her smile seem happier. For her, this intangible tipped the five-tray scale just a bit. In the end, she was willing to pay more for architectural details that elevated this property from house to home.

Corrected on March 12, 2019: A previous version of this story failed to include "price" in the list of factors homebuyers should consider.

Steven Gottlieb has been at Warburg Realty in New York City for seven years and is a well-respected industry expert. Born and raised in Manhattan, Gottlieb earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, his MBA from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and his Master of Science in Real Estate from New York University. Prior to joining Warburg, Gottlieb lived in Los Angeles and worked with some of the biggest Hollywood talent in the world at United Talent Agency and Paradigm Agency. His strong referral base is a testament to his success and reputation in the business, and in 2018, The Gottlieb Team was the No. 1 producing team at Warburg Realty, company-wide.

Recommended Articles

Should You Delay Homebuying Right Now?

Wendy Arriz | April 6, 2020

While homebuyer activity has dropped in recent weeks, those with secure financial options and the confidence to find a home site unseen can still find the right home for them.

Housing Market Expectations in 2020

Devon Thorsby | April 2, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has reduced homebuying and selling activity. Here’s how it could impact the housing market for the rest of 2020.

What Take Off Your Must-Have Home List

Steven Gottlieb | April 1, 2020

Don't let your vision of your dream house cloud your judgment on which details you really need in a home.

All About Tenant Rights in New Jersey

Devon Thorsby | March 31, 2020

Here are the basics you should know if you find yourself disagreeing with your landlord.

What to Do If You Can't Pay Rent

Devon Thorsby | March 27, 2020

Orders to close businesses have left many people without income. Here's what to know about making rent amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

DIY Projects That Add Value to Your Home

Mady Dahlstrom, Devon Thorsby | March 26, 2020

While you're spending extra time at home, add value to your house with these easy do-it-yourself projects.

How to Set Up a Home Gym

Devon Thorsby | March 25, 2020

Create a home gym setup that will encourage you to stay active as you shelter in place.

What's the Cost of Living in New York?

Lisa Larson | March 24, 2020

What does it take to afford one of the most expensive cities in the world? Here is a breakdown of the cost of living in the Big Apple.

'For Sale by Owner' the Right Way

Maryalene LaPonsie | March 23, 2020

Selling your house without an agent can save you thousands, but you could lose money if you don't do it correctly.

10 Secrets to Selling Your Home Faster

Teresa Mears, Devon Thorsby | March 20, 2020

Consider these low-cost ways to sell a home fast by attracting buyers with great photos, fresh curb appeal and social media buzz.

How to Disinfect Your Home

Devon Thorsby, Melissa Shin | March 20, 2020

Pay attention to high-touch areas of your home – especially those you don't normally disinfect.

Can Virtual Staging Help Sell Your Home?

Dima Williams | March 20, 2020

Any staging is better than none, a stager says, but virtual versus physical staging is a decision with sale and profit implications.

How Do I Find My Property Lines?

Devon Thorsby | March 19, 2020

Determining property lines can provide you with information for needed legal changes to your home and backyard.

Virtual Tools for Homebuyers

Devon Thorsby | March 18, 2020

Social distancing doesn't have to prohibit your ability to buy a home. These virtual tools can aid in the deal.

What to Know If Buying New Construction

Wendy Arriz | March 17, 2020

You have the chance to avoid the headache and hassle of construction and move into your brand-new dream home.

Coronavirus Leads to Low Mortgage Rates

Devon Thorsby | March 16, 2020

Economic uncertainty in the wake of COVID-19 sends mortgage rates historically low, and it might be the right time to buy or refinance.

States With the Lowest Property Taxes

Devon Thorsby | March 11, 2020

Median property taxes in these states are the lowest in the U.S.

What to Know About Moving to Hawaii

Devon Thorsby | March 6, 2020

Get ready for sun, sand and a high cost of living if you're considering a move to Hawaii.

5 Reasons You’re Still Renting

Steven Gottlieb | March 6, 2020

Financial, personal and professional factors may lead you to put off homeownership. Should you remain a renter indefinitely?

The Best Places in Florida for Families

Devon Thorsby | March 4, 2020

We rank 11 Florida metro areas for how they’ll appeal to families based on the details that matter most.