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The Importance of a Needs vs. Wants Checklist

Finding your dream home starts long before you start looking for open house signs and scheduling walk-throughs. There is a lot of thinking, planning, and deciding to do before you start looking at houses. When you walk into home-buying with a predetermined list of wants and needs, you walk in with a clear vision. This allows you to filter out homes that do not meet your needs and prevent you from getting distracted by all the things you’d like to have but don’t necessarily need. 

Seasoned home buyers start every home search with a list of wants vs. needs. Here’s how it works:

Needs: Needs are deal-breakers. These are things that you are not willing to compromise on. This could be something like wanting a single-family home vs. a condo, needing a one-story house, or needing to be close to a specific school. These are things that can’t change and are necessary for your family to function normally. Some other examples of items on your “needs” list could include:

  • Type of home
  • Location
  • Parking Options
  • Price 
  • Square footage
  • # of bedrooms

Wants: Wants are things that would make the home more comfortable or enjoyable but aren’t necessarily deal-breakers. These could be things like wanting a fenced-in backyard, modern appliances in the kitchen, or a master bathroom with a pedestal tub. Your list of “wants” are usually things that can be changed or added at a later time. Some other examples of items on your “wants” list could include:

  • Specific type of flooring
  • Paint colors and aesthetics
  • Pool and/or outdoor space
  • Modern appliances
  • Media room/ secondary living room

Doesn’t Matter: There’s a third category that sometimes gets left out in this part of the research process, and those are the features of the home that don’t matter to you at all. If you don’t have kids, the proximity to the local school doesn’t matter much to you. If you’re an entrepreneur, the commute time to downtown is also not something you factor into your dream home requirements. 

Why The List? 

The main reason having this list of wants vs. needs is so important is because it saves you time, and in real estate, time is money. If you go into your home buying search with a clear idea of what you want and what you need, you’ll spend a lot less time touring homes that just aren’t right for you. You’ll also decrease the chance of falling in love with a property that has everything you want but is lacking the important things that you need. 

Coming to the table with the list will also help your real estate agent help you. When they know what you need and what features are important to you, they can filter their results so you’re only touring homes that make sense for you. This list will also help you stay focused. It’s easy to walk into a home and fall in love, and without this list as a guide, you could start making decisions based on emotions instead of facts and figures. Being able to go back to this list will help you stay on track. 

Making The List

When you sit down to make your list, ask yourself some of these questions to help you brainstorm what exactly you’re looking for (and wanting to avoid) in a new home:

  • What do you love about the home you’re in now? What features here do you want to see in your next home?
  • What don’t you like about your current home? What are you constantly wishing was different? 
  • How will your life change in the next 5 years and what does your new home need to have to accommodate these changes? 
  • Are there features that you’d be willing to compromise on if the price is right?
  • If a home does not have something you want, can you add it later?

Remember to set realistic expectations. If you wait to buy a home until it has everything you want AND need, you’ll be waiting a while and missing out on great properties full of potential. Keep an open mind and remember that finding the right home often means compromising. If a home has everything you need and a few of the things you want, don’t let that one go! 

Once you start thinking about these things, you can start to visualize your new home and how it will work for your family. Spending time in this research phase will save a lot of stress and headache when you’re ready to start touring homes. Starting your search with this intentional list of wants vs. needs will help you make confident and informed home-buying decisions. 

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