How to Make a Wants Vs. Needs List for Your Home Search
If you’re on the hunt for a new home, chances are you’ve already thought about the features you’d like to have.
However, one important part of searching for homes is making a distinction between your needs and your wants. Needs are amenities or features you can’t live without, while wants are things that you’d like to have (but they ultimately wouldn’t affect your home buying decision too much).
Ideally, you’ll want to come up with this list of needs (e.g. 3 bedrooms, under $200k, close to schools) and wants (e.g. fiber internet connection, stainless steel appliances, walk-in closets) before you start looking for homes. This will save you time along the way as you browse dozens, maybe hundreds, of homes online or in person.
Here’s a guide for distinguishing between your wants and needs:
To begin, come up with a list of priorities. What are some features or amenities that are non-negotiable? Do you need a home with a certain number of bedrooms? Maybe it has to be in a specific location — close to public transit, near a popular attraction, or within a local school district.
Write your priorities down on paper or in a smartphone app to better visualize what you need in a home. Here are some things to consider:
How much outdoor space do you need? This is one feature than tends to be at the top of home buyers’ minds.
If you have a dog or two, you may want a large fenced-in yard so they have plenty of space to run around. You might also be interested in starting a garden, or perhaps you just like the extra space for peace and quiet.
Your specific needs determine how much space you need in a home.
Do you anticipate any future changes in your household size? If so, you should think about how much space you may require to accommodate those changes. The larger your household, the more bedrooms and bathrooms you’ll need (unless you want to spend mornings waiting for your turn to shower).
You may also consider if you’d like to have a large basement or bonus room to turn into a game room or home theater. If you’re an avid hobbyist, you may need an additional room for your workshop.
Think about where you currently live. Are you close enough to conveniences like grocery stores, local employers, or schools? Do you dread driving home in the afternoons because of bumper-to-bumper traffic?
Make a pros and cons list about your current location and base your new list off of the features you like or wish you had.
When you’re coming up with your list of needs, one of the most important factors to consider in your home search is your budget.
A great way to set your budget is by meeting with a lender to get pre-approved. During this process, the bank will go over all your financial information and let you know exactly how much they’re willing to lend you.
Once you narrow down your list of needs (the biggest of which is your budget), you should tackle your list of wants.
Try focusing on amenities or special features that will increase your property’s resale potential (for when you decide to sell down the road).
Value-boosting home features can include dual-pane windows, additional “flex” rooms (such as a finished basement or in-law suite), and LED lights or other energy-efficient features.
Not only can these amenities increase your quality of life, they’ll likely get you more money in the long run when you decide to sell.
Prioritizing Your Wants and Needs
It can be challenging to find a home that has everything you need, everything you want, and is still within your budget.
Ultimately, you should prepare to make compromises along the way. (Which is more important, having a spa-like master bathroom or living less than 10 minutes away from the grocery store?)
Here are a few tips you can follow:
- Consider any additional costs of certain home features and amenities. For example, if you want a bigger yard, make sure you have enough time to take care of it or the means to hire someone to maintain it for you.
- Don’t always choose the latest upgrades. A number of different factors determine the cost of a home. Amenities like granite countertops and whirlpool tubs are likely to increase the price tag.
- Adjust your list if necessary. You may realize during your home search that what you thought was a need is actually just a want.
Last on Your Checklist: The Right Realtor
Using your wants and needs list, a good Realtor can create a personalized list of potential homes that meet all your criteria.