Today the home search process usually starts with an online search for specific neighborhoods, school districts, and prices. You probably want a home that is “move-in ready,” requires minimal upkeep, and has all the features you love. Inevitably, your price ceiling starts to edge up closer to your max when you find you need to pay more to find the specific amenities and home finishes you’ve dreamed of having. You become overwhelmed by the number of things you want in your home and the lack of homes that have every item that is important to you.
As a buyer, you’ll discover a more satisfying search and result when you make separate lists of your needs and wants. Wants are simply everything you’ve ever dreamed of having in your home, such as granite countertops in kitchens and baths, travertine tile, custom cabinetry, and a wood-burning fireplace. Needs are must-haves that cannot be compromised, such as a specific school district or distance from work. These are things that cannot be changed the same way that certain features can (like granite countertops or travertine tile).
By separating needs from wants, you have to examine your lifestyle and what you’re willing to compromise. Compromise still brings satisfaction and happiness. Once you have a list of priorities to guide you, you’ll feel less overwhelmed when viewing homes. Here are four specific areas, with pertinent questions, that help you prioritize and consider what you can and can’t live without.
Location. If you are bound to a certain school district, this will obviously be a must-have. Think also about the distance you drive to work and how much access to highways matter. Where do you like to shop and hang out? Are you willing to drive twenty minutes more to work to have the house with all the move-in amenities you love? Or would it be better to save that time for recreation or family and buy a home that is closer to work, even if it doesn’t have all the finishing touches you want?
Size. How many bedrooms must you have for the long-term? Will the volume of what you own work in this house? What kind of recreational space and storage space do you need? Oftentimes, it’s not only the number of rooms, but the size of the rooms that need to fit a family’s needs. What if you find a house with desirable spacious rooms but the yard is very small? Will you be able to live with a smaller yard to get the large rooms? Think about what features you’re willing to let go when you can’t find a house that has everything.
Amenities. Usually buyers focus on kitchens and bathrooms. Do they have nice appliances? Can you live with countertops, cabinetry, or tiling that aren’t your favorite or are you willing to spend money and effort to change them? Can you compromise on hardwood flooring if the whole house is wall-to-wall carpet? Do you have the garage space you need or are you all right leaving one car in the driveway? Also, consider the condition and age of the heating and cooling system as well as electrical wiring. These are expensive items to replace if needed.
Condition. Most people want a home that is in move-in condition. But some people are willing to buy a house with great potential and put in their own sweat equity to improve its condition. Where are the lines that you’ll draw in terms of condition? Replacing flooring? Replacing a roof? Knocking out a wall to create an open concept?
It’s important to stay honest with yourself and consistent about what you might have to compromise to get what you really need. Reality doesn’t always allow us to have all our wants and needs met simultaneously. But a well-considered map of priorities will lead you to a house you’ll love.