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Homebuying: Defining Your Needs and Wants

Updated: May 2, 2022

When you are looking for your dream home, it can be helpful to identify specific needs and wants that you desire. This needs/wants checklist helps you dial in your priorities so you can figure out what you are willing to sacrifice as you are trying to find a house.

Not only will this approach help in identifying the features that are essential for your family, but this list communicates the right information so your real estate agent can help you find the ideal property.

Even though you want to list all of your wish list items as needs, some of these items fall into the nice-to-have category. They are things that you want, but they aren’t dealbreakers when choosing a home. There are variables to consider as you are comparing your budget with the market availability.

Here are a few tips to consider when you are working to define your needs and wants when buying a home:

  1. Separate Logic from Emotion It’s no surprise that the home buying process is an emotional experience. Have you ever heard someone say that they “fell in love” with a house? While it’s great to feel the emotional excitement when you find a property that matches your needs, you also need to remember that this love-at-first-sight experience can sometimes override the logic. Before you start looking at online listings or walking through homes, it’s smart to put together your list of needs and wants. Write everything down so you have a reference sheet as you are comparing your options. This step gives you time to do your homework without letting the emotions drive your decisions.

  2. Categorizing Features and Amenities In the same way that Marie Kondo encourages people to pull everything out of the closet before deciding what to keep, you should be proactive about writing everything down before you prioritize your needs and wants. Brainstorm a long list of things that you might want in a home. Write these things down in no particular order. Then, start to categorize each item based on the following criteria: Needs: When something is a need, it means that the item is a deal-breaker. For example, if you want a single-family home – not a condo – then you won’t be willing to buy a property that shares walls with other units. Wants: Your “want” list is more of a wish list. These are things that you would like, to varying degrees, but they could be optional depending on the circumstances. You can live without these items, although you would be happy to find a property that includes as many of your wants as possible. Don’t Care: Finally, some things might fall into your “don’t care” list. These are home features that might be selling points, but you feel neutral about them. For example, if you work from home, then you probably aren’t worried about commute times or downtown accessibility. Usually, most people should have small “needs” lists and big “want” lists. Buying a home is a big investment, so you must make it clear on the way you are categorizing your lists.

  3. Ask Yourself Quality Questions Sometimes, it can be hard to identify the things that you should be adding to your needs and wants list. As you are considering this checklist, you might ask yourself a few prompt questions to find the features that are most important to you and your family:

  • How long are you planning to live in this home?

  • What do you love about your current location?

  • What do you wish you could change about your current home?

  • Are you setting realistic expectations?

  • Does your budget support your goals?

  • Do you have options to remodel if a property doesn’t match all of your needs?

Even though it takes a bit of time to do the mental work in identifying your needs and wants, it will save you time and energy in the future. This checklist will help you streamline your process of choosing a home and optimize your overall satisfaction with the purchase.

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