A national survey of home-buyer preferences confirms conventional wisdom -- that younger buyers care more about being close to schools, parks and playgrounds while older ones want first-floor living -- but it also offers some tidbits on how wish lists differ by region and how that's affecting what's being sold or remodeled.

For example, according to the survey of recent home buyers released this week by the National Association of Realtors, buyers in the South, which includes the Washington area, were:

* Much more interested in central air conditioning -- nearly 90 percent rated it as very important, compared with 75 percent nationwide.

* Less likely than buyers in the West to want a patio or fencing.

* Less likely than buyers in the Northeast and Midwest to want a finished basement.

Houses purchased in the South were:

* Larger than the national average -- 1,902 square feet vs. 1,816 square feet.

* Newer than the national average -- nine vs. 15 years.

* More often single-story -- 59 percent vs. 50 percent.

* More likely to have high ceilings -- 26 percent vs. 21 percent.

The South also has the highest percentage of walk-in closets in the master bedroom (63 percent vs. 51 percent); porches (40 percent vs. 34 percent); and monitored security (21 percent vs. 15 percent).

David Lereah, chief economist for the Realtors association, said in a statement that the survey is the "most comprehensive look at buyer preferences ever produced."

The survey also found:

* Although most buyers choose to live in suburbs or subdivisions, first-time buyers are more likely to be in older houses in a central city, while repeat buyers are more likely to pick new houses.

* Urban buyers are more likely to buy a house near public transportation that has hardwood floors and a finished basement.

* Rural buyers want an open lot and a single-story house, while suburban buyers favor sprinkler systems, eat-in kitchens and houses under 10 years old.

The association also asked recent buyers about their shopping lists. Central air was first for about 75 percent of buyers, while half wanted a walk-in closet in the master bedroom.

Ranked next were a bedroom on the main level; a patio or oversized garage; cable or satellite TV capacity; fencing; a separate shower in the master bath; a porch; and an eat-in kitchen.

Those who didn't get a feature said they would have been willing to pay more for it. For example, 66 percent of respondents said they would have paid about $825 extra for a walk-in closet in the master bedroom.

But the survey suggests that though you can't always get what you want, most buyers are satisfied with what they got. About 75 percent were satisfied with the age of the house and the number of bedrooms and baths. More than six in 10 were satisfied with the house size.

Those who bought recently, however, are making changes. Half repainted inside right away. More than a third upgraded the landscaping.

First-time buyers are contemplating the most changes. About 22 percent plan to remodel the kitchen within two years, compared with 11 percent of repeat buyers. About 20 percent plan to redo the bathrooms, compared with 14 percent of repeat buyers.