LAS VEGAS (Real Estate Center) – What are buyers looking for in a home these days? In a word: more. More square footage, more bedrooms and bathrooms, and enough garage space for a third car.

Not, perhaps, what you’d expect to hear when housing markets from coast to coast are still trying to bounce back from the recent housing crisis. But there is an explanation.

Rose Quint, assistant VP of research with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), said mortgage credit is still hard to obtain, so this year’s preferences are reflective of more affluent homebuyers who can afford larger homes. Less financially stable buyers remain shut out of the new home market.

Quint, speaking yesterday at the International Builders’ Show, gave a by-the-numbers breakdown of home characteristics and consumer preferences, taken from Census Bureau data and NAHB’s “2012 What Homebuyers Really Want” survey. Some highlights:

Average home size has increased from 2,362 sf in 2009 to 2,524 sf in 2012.
During that same period, the percentage of homes with four or more bedrooms has jumped from 34 to 42 percent.
Between 2010 and 2012, the percentage of homes with three or more full bathrooms has risen from 23 to 29 percent, and the percentage with a three-car (or more) garage has gone from 16 to 19 percent.
74 percent of NAHB’s survey respondents want a kitchen that opens to the family room either completely or with a half wall, and 65 percent want nine-foot ceilings on the first floor.
Energy Star-rated appliances topped the list of “most wanted” home features, with 94 percent of respondents rating them “essential/must have” or “desirable.” Laundry room was right behind at 93 percent, followed by Energy Star rating for whole home (91 percent), and bathroom exhaust fan, bathroom linen closet and exterior lighting (90 percent each).
Leading the list of things buyers do not want were elevators (70 percent), golf course communities (66 percent), high density communities (56 percent) and only a shower stall in the master bath (51 percent).
Home technology features buyers would most like to have are wireless home security systems (50 percent), programmable thermostats (47 percent), security cameras (40 percent) and lighting control system (39 percent).
67 percent of respondents said they were concerned about or wanted an environmentally friendly home, but they would not be willing to pay more for it.