What do you want in a home? It seems like a simple question, but it is really the wrong questions to ask when you are starting your house hunt. The real question is what do you need in a home and what can you live without? Thinking about both your wants and your needs is imperative before you start looking at houses. If you don’t go into the house hunt knowing the difference between your wants and needs, you could be in for a long, frustrating house hunt.
Before you start shopping for houses, it’s a great idea to make a list and sort it into categories. It’s something that you can show your real estate agent and also reference yourself to make sure you are staying on track. There are four broad categories to consider when getting started in your home search:
- Features that you NEED. These are the non-negotiables.
- Those that you WANT. These are the items on your list that would be great to have but won’t make you choose or not choose a house because of it.
- Things that you DON’T WANT. These are items that you aren’t looking for but don’t automatically rule out a property.
- And finally, there are features that are DEAL BREAKERS. These are the big ones. This will include your list of items that you consider unacceptable for a property. Any home with a deal breaker is a non-starter.
The trick, especially for first time buyers, is knowing what is really a want versus what is a need. To help make the distinction between wants and needs, it helps to consider a few keys areas when making your list. Here are five big things to consider:
#1 – Location: This cannot be changed. Do you need to be in a certain school district or closer to work? Then that is a need. Do you have flexibility about being in a more suburban neighborhood versus an urban setting? If so, then you can consider this more of a want. It’s important to remember that your property taxes will vary depending on your location and that can have a large impact on your home buying budget.
#2 – Size and Type: Do you have a family or are you likely to start one while you own this home? Your current or future family size has a direct impact on your needs for bedrooms, bathrooms, and storage. Are you ready to take on the work of a fixer upper? Do you need yard space of a single family detached or are you open to a condo or townhome? These are all important things to consider and add to your list before viewing properties.
#3 Lot Size: Some buyers need a big lot size for gardening, pets, or privacy. Others hate the idea of spending their free time on the upkeep of a large outdoor space. The average new home is on 1/3-acre lot. Think about your personal needs and if you need more or less.
#4 Amenities: This is where the wants can start to pile up. Many buyers want an en suite in the master bedroom or an updated kitchen with granite countertops. While having hardwood floors, a walk-out basement, a two-car garage, a fenced in backyard, and private deck are completely fine to want all of these things in your new home, but it is best to prioritize what you cannot live without. If you have a hobby that takes outdoor space, a utility shed and garage might be a need for you. Needs and wants can change as you look at more homes.
#5 Budget: It’s critical to understand that the more wants and needs you have, the higher the cost will be. Newer features and sought after amenities can drive the price up on a property. Keep your loan pre-approval and your housing budget at the forefront.
If you go in prepared that you likely will not get everything on your want list, it will be easier an easier process. Comparing two homes is never easy, especially when they have different things to offer in terms of your wants and needs. Keep in mind that what you truly need should be weighted higher than what you want. If you follow that logic and don’t get swayed by the fancy homes that are out of your budget, you should be just fine!