Finding the right home can mean separating what you want from what you need. Here's how to think about the difference — plus a checklist to help your house hunting.
Everyone is unique — and so everyone’s wish list for their “dream home” is going to be unique as well. For some, the “dream” is going to be a single family home with acreage in a great school district, and close to restaurant and shops. For others, a condo with full access to amenities without the maintenance.
If you’re planning on buying a home anytime soon, we want to give you some helpful advice: Be prepared to distinguish needs from wants so that you can be confident about which homes you want to make offers on when the time comes. Here’s how:
Your home buying needs are the most important features on your checklist. These are the attributes that a home must have in order for you to even consider it as an option. Your “must-haves” list might include important limiting factors like pricing, location, size, and so on.
Your “wants” list will be made up of the “should-haves” — the elements and features that you’d like your ideal home to have, even though they’re not necessarily deal breakers. With these factors, there might be a lot more wiggle room when it comes time to compromise and adjust. You may even be able to break up your list of wants into smaller subcategories. For instance, you can rank them by order of priority, and help determine which “wants” you’re really planning to look for, and which would simply be a nice bonus.
In most cases, the best home for you will likely meet most or all of your needs, while also checking off at least some of your wants.
The Importance of Prioritizing Your Home Wants and Needs
There are many different ways to determine your real estate “must-haves” and “should-haves.” One common idea is to visualize and brainstorm about your future home, and then work backward. In other words, start by listing all the specific features that you’d love to see in your dream property, and then separate these aspects by greatest importance and least importance. As you set your priorities, it will be easier to start distinguishing your wants from your needs.
However you make these lists, it’s a remarkably important part of the home buying process. Creating lists of your wants and needs can:
- Help you get organized for your home search
- Give you a set of criteria to evaluate each home you visit
- Make it easier for your broker to locate listings and streamline your search
- Put you in a better position to make a decision on a home, by deciding ahead of time which items you’re prioritizing, and which you’re more willing to compromise on
- Allow you to focus on other parts of the real estate process — like securing your mortgage preapproval, getting your old house ready to sell, and so on.
So, what features should you consider as you start to dream about your next home? Here are a few common factors that might help you to shape your “should have” and “must-have” lists:
Arguably, the price is going to be one of the most important factors to consider as you begin to search for a new home. Having a realistic understanding about how much you can spend can help clarify and guide other parts of your home search, including narrowing in on what types of homes you might be able to buy, and what neighborhoods will best suit your needs. One important step you can take to prepare for this consideration is to secure a mortgage preapproval. Having a pre-approval letter in hand can help buyers get a practical sense of their purchasing power, and can help make it easier to put in an offer and negotiate on a property down the line.
It’s a cliche for a reason: “Location, location, location.” Location can easily be a want or a need, depending on your circumstances. It’s important to think ahead, and it’s often going to be crucial to get a feel for new neighborhoods as you begin your home search. Is this area somewhere you can see yourself living full time? Does the location put you close to schools, shopping, nightlife, your workplace, or any other features you’d like to have access to? Does the area have the types of properties that are high on your wishlist? Is there ample parking, or easy access to public transportation? All of these are questions to consider as you start to separate your location “must-haves” and “should-haves.”
Does your home absolutely need four bedrooms, to accommodate your family right now? Do you absolutely have to have a separate home office for your freelance career? Or are you more flexible when it comes to the number of rooms? As you begin to think about your next home, it’s important to keep the size and space in mind. On the “needs” side, you might want to consider the minimum amount of space or rooms your home should have for your lifestyle. On the “wants” side, you might want to think about how you’d take advantage of any extra space or additional rooms if you can get them.
Features and Finishes
Like snowflakes, no two homes are ever going to be exactly alike. Determining what features, finishes, and stylistic flourishes you’d like in a property can be a great way to build out your wishlist. This is a broad category and might include the style of home (e.g., Victorian, two-flat, bungalow, etc.) and the amount of outdoor space available, as well as aesthetic features, like bathroom design elements, kitchen finishes, fireplaces, flooring choices, and so on. When it comes to this category, one important thing to consider is how much time, energy, and money you might be willing to put into updating or replacing features that you don’t love. Are you willing to invest in changing out design choices over time, or do you want to move into a home that checks off more of your boxes right away?
It’s important to keep safety top of mind as you begin to look at different homes. Everyone’s wants and needs in this regard will be completely unique. For instance, some families might need a first-floor bedroom to accommodate someone with mobility issues. In other cases, families with children might want to avoid homes that are near busy streets, for example, or which feature a pool in the yard. At the same time, it’s important to consider the condition of the home. Are there any systems or features that need to be updated or replaced immediately?
Use a home-buying checklist
We tell our clients to create a home buying checklist of the features they want and need so I can help them determine what’s feasible within their budget. You can use a similar checklist before you go out looking at houses. In fact, print it, fill it out and bring it to your real estate agent on the first appointment. See if that doesn’t knock their socks off!
Buying With Beth & CJ: It’s Easier Here
Looking for a property with enough space to hang a hammock? Dreaming of a home that puts you in the heart of it all? We get you. Whatever your real estate wants and needs may be, one of The Beth & CJ Stein Team's hyperlocal experts can help you find exactly what you’re looking for.
At The Beth & CJ Stein Team, our mantra is “expect more” — from the day you start envisioning your next home to the day you’re handed the keys. For more than 15 years, Beth & CJ have been helping to turn an intricate, complex process into one that is stress-free and more seamless at every step of the way. Ready to get started? Find your local agent today!