Your Home-Shopping Needs vs. Wants List: Part 1

Needs vs. Wants. It’s an important consideration when purchasing a home. This article will help you decide what you need in a home, and which aspects can be negotiable.

Buying a home can be tough. There are decisions for mortgage type, choices for neighborhoods, house size, layout, bathroom count, and more.

With so many decisions to make, it’s hard to know what homes you should look at. This can lead to frustration and confusion, and may cause you to avoid the home-buying process entirely.

But with a little thought, you can simplify the process and make it much easier. By thinking about your need vs. wants (and understanding the difference), you can focus on the right homes. Having a needs vs. wants list is an essential part of your home-shopping process; here are a few simple ways to make it happen.

Why Create a Needs vs. Wants List?

Why is a “needs vs. wants list” so important? Can’t you just go home shopping and worry about the details as you go? You could. But by thinking about needs vs wants before you look at homes, your buying process can be faster, more convenient, and less stressful. It will also increase your confidence as a buyer.

Creating a proper list saves time because you only focus on homes that have the specific features you need. It also puts your desires down, on paper, and helps you put emotions aside when shopping.

If you are purchasing with a spouse or partner, it also helps set expectations and ensures you are both aligned in your goals.

A list helps you act swiftly when the right home comes up. Consider this example: After creating a needs vs. wants list, you tell your real estate agent that you need a home with at least two bathrooms and a two-car garage that is at least 40 minutes from downtown. When a house that fits these requirements comes available, you and your agent can act quickly.

What is a Need?

A “need” is a feature or characteristic of a home that you won’t buy without. If the home has it, you’ll consider the purchase. If the home does not, you will not even bother looking at the property.

What is a Want?

A “want” is a feature that you would like to have, but it’s not crucial. If a home does not have a feature that is on your wants list, you may still take a look at the house, but you’ll place a higher emphasis (and greater attention) on homes that have the feature you want.

Needs vs. Wants When Buying a Home

Start By Thinking of Your Absolute Dream Home

The first step in creating your needs vs wants list is to think about your dream home. Don’t be afraid to let your imagination run wild. If money were not an issue, what features, and characteristics would you want from a house.

What size would it be? (Remember, bigger is not always better!) How many rooms would you have? Would there be a pool, a fireplace, a billiards room?

The number of bathrooms is often a “need” for many families.

What would be on the property? Would you have a dog house, a large patio, or even a separate living space for guests?

You’ll probably think about the type of home as well. Is your dream house a single-family property in the country, or a high-rise condo in the city?

While you’ll eventually need to reign in your thinking and focus on features that you can actually afford, this is your chance to let your imagination run wild. By thinking about your dream home, you create the foundations of a needs vs. wants list.

Take That Dream Home, and Start Stripping Away Features

Now you have a mental image of your dream home. Whatever it is, start thinking about the features that you can live without. Start stripping away the items that you would be willing to go sacrifice and see what you have left.

Maybe your dream home had a fireplace; that’s something you could live without. Maybe your dream home had a bathroom for all four family members, but you realize you don’t need that many.

Mentally strip away features from your dream home and see what you have left. This mental exercise will create the foundations for your needs vs. wants list. 

Don’t be too aggressive when stripping away features. If you feel a bit of letdown from not having an open-concept kitchen and living room, for example, may it needs to be on the “needs” list.

Use Your Current and Past Homes for Inspiration

If you need more inspiration for your needs vs wants list, think about your current and past homes. There are likely features of your current home that you love, features that you can’t imagine living without.

Perhaps you have the perfect amount of bathrooms in your current home, enough bathrooms that the entire family can get ready in the mornings. Would having fewer bathrooms mean family quarrels? Then maybe a bathroom count is part of the needs list.

Think about the interior layout of your current home. Does it have a nice “flow?” Do you like the transitions from one room to another? Do you like the placement of rooms? (Mostly on one side or one floor, or are they distributed throughout the house.)

While you are thinking about your current home, what don’t you like? What features about this property would you avoid entirely? Maybe you love to cook but the kitchen is too small. If so, then add “large kitchen” to your needs list. (Or, at the very least, high on your “wants” list.)

Next week, we’ll take a look at creating the needs vs. wants list. Stay tuned to our real estate and mortgage blog for more!

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