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Figuring Out What You Need Versus Want in a Home
Six Minute Read
Written by Ed Andrews III on July 26th, 2020
Home shopping is tough. The first thing everyone should do is write down what their non-negotiable needs are, and what their wants are. In this article I’m going to walk you through what things to consider when making that list. Keep reading...

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people complain about how their realtor isn’t showing them the right types of homes, when the reality is they haven’t given the realtor much to work with. 

This is one of the most important steps in the home buying process. So how do you think about, and plan for almost everything? Well....what you’re going to do first is make a list with the following four categories.
• Must haves
• Wants
• Dislikes
• Deal-Breakers

This list is crucial for your real estate agent. If you want to ensure they aren’t wasting your time and energy with homes that don’t fit the bill, this is the way. Below are the items we’ll want to consider when making this list.

You may find that you have several additional categories you want to add. If that’s the case by all means do so. But I certainly wouldn’t leave any of these out of the equation.

1. Location

If you have kids or know you’ll be selling in the future you’ll want to consider school districts. Tax rates will vary by city/town. Property taxes have a big impact on a homes’ affordability. Consider your commute to work. Not just the distance, but also the routes you can take.

2. Square Footage and Bedrooms

This seems pretty basic but not all square footage is created the same. A 2,000 square foot three bedroom, two/three bath home is awesome for people that like to entertain. But perhaps you need that extra space in the form or a fourth bedroom for a child, or baby you intend to have in the future.

Make sure your agent knows not just the amount of square footage you’re looking for, but also has an idea of what rooms that square footage should comprise of.

3. Home & Community Features

Do you need a that third car garage? Or is it just a preference? This is when you ask yourself the hard questions. What features do you want in the home, and what features are essential for you to even consider buying the property.

It’s important for couples to do this together before touring homes. You want to have this conversation when there’s no pressure, not after one of you has fallen in love with a property and wants to make an offer.
Remember some features like swimming pools come with additional maintenance costs. Is that something you’re willing to take-on? Perhaps you don't want your own pool, but a community pool is a must. This list may evolve and you may sacrifice some “needs” or double down on some “wants”. But it’s important to at least have something to work form that you’ve both agreed to beforehand.

4. How Long Are you Staying

This is an honest question you should at least take a guess at. It can have a drastic impact on the needs and wants list. If you aren’t planning to stay to terribly long, you may want to put more focus on things that will help your resale value and interest.

Conversely, if you’re retiring and planning to stay forever you might not give a rat’s ass about school district ratings. Knowing what your plans are can help identify which of your preferences should be must-haves or sacrificial wants.

5. Amount of Land

Are you okay with being on a normal city lot, or do you need acreage? Do you have kids or pets and require some space in the back yard to stretch out? It’s important for you to figure this out, and communicate it to your Realtor.

6. Payment Budget

What isn’t good fully loaded? It’s doesn’t matter if we’re talking homes, cars, or baked potatoes....who doesn’t want all the options? But know that options typically come with a heavy price tag.

Do you really need travertine marble, hardwood floors, and ceramic tile roofing? Features can drive up the purchase price and your monthly payment in a hurry. Figure out what you budget is for a home.

What is a comfortable payment? What is your stretch payment, or in other words the most you could possibly afford for a payment? If you went up to your stretch payment, what expenses could you sacrifice to make the home more affordable. Start asking yourself these questions now.

Reality Check

Now that you’ve made your list and categorized your preferences and dislikes accordingly, it’s time to face reality. You are not going to get everything you want. Unless you are building a custom home based entirely off the list you’ve constructed, odds are you will be sacrificing some of these items. So set that expectation now.

If you think you’re going to give this list to your Realtor and they’re going to find a house that checks all the boxes, you’re not playing with a full deck. It’s very likely that the home you’re looking for doesn’t exist in the area you’re looking, for the price you want.

Your ultimate goal in making this list should be to get everything you need and some of the things you want, while avoiding the things you hate. If you go into your home search with that attitude you’ll have a much better experience.

Now that we identified some key items to consider when categorizing your home wants versus your home needs, you might be asking yourself if you should even hire a realtor in the first place.

So be sure to watch my video “should you hire a realtor” where I’ll be breaking down the pros and cons of having a professional real estate agent represent your interests. 
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About the Author:
Ed Andrews III

Ed Andrews III is a mortgage loan officer, and U.S. veteran of the Iraq & Afghanistan Wars. He is an expert on VA home loans, and dedicated to helping veterans achieve home-ownership.
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