Needs vs. Wants Part 2: Defining and Refining Your List
Last week, we talked about your needs vs. wants list.
We discussed why this list is so important, and how it can help you find the perfect home for your specific needs.
We helped you understand the differences between needs and wants, and how this list can guide your decision while making the home-search process more efficient.
We’d like to continue that discussion. In the second part of this series, we’re going to conclude our discussion by giving you real, actionable tips for actually making the list.
Last week, we mostly discussed why you need a list and how to set the groundwork for thinking about your list. Today, we’re giving specific tips on creating the perfect list. Let’s dive in and create the perfect needs vs wants list for your next home purchase!
Needs vs. Wants Pt 2: Tips for Creating Your List
Write (or Type!) It All Down
You might think that simply creating a list in your head and storing it in your memory would be enough. But we want to emphasize that you should, in some way, commit your list to paper or a digital file. Create a specific list and write both your needs and wants on paper or in a document. This allows you to see them, review them, think about them, and revise them if needed. When you meet with real estate agents, you’ll also be better prepared to start the process.
Needs List Should Include Inalterable Features
For the most part, your needs list should include items, features, and characteristics that you can’t change, at least not without a large investment of your time or money.
Items in the “needs” category often have to do with location. The school district, for example, can’t be remodeled and replaced. The proximity to work is also something that you won’t be able to adjust, so these usually belong on the needs list.
Layout features of the home can’t be quickly adjusted either. If the home doesn’t have enough bathrooms, bedrooms, or garage stalls, you can remodel, but this is a time-consuming, expensive change; there are likely homes available that fit your needs without a significant renovation. Room count, garage size, or floor layout (open kitchen or separate, for example) will likely belong on the “needs” list.
Don’t Place Easily-Fixed Features on the Needs List
When trying to decide whether a certain feature should go in the needs column or the wants column, start with this simple question: can this feature be added after I purchase the home. If you can make the addition or renovation easily, with little time or financial investment, then it probably belongs on the wants list.
For example, you may deeply desire granite countertops, but this feature likely does not belong on your needs list. If you find the right home with the right rooms in the perfect neighborhood, but it doesn’t have the granite countertops you so deeply desire, you can easily (relatively speaking) have new countertops installed.
The same goes for wall color, exterior landscaping, flooring, and other features that are affordable and easy to replace.
Add a Negatives List
When creating your needs vs. wants list, you may also want to add a third category, something off to the side that you keep for consideration. This list should include things you don’t want in your home. There are a variety of possibilities here, but it should basically include any feature or characteristic that you would be considered a negative.
What might people include on the negatives list? High-maintenance items are often a negative. Pools and hot tubs, for example, require lots of maintenance and are often used less than you expect. Although pools can be a fun home feature, enjoyed by millions of families, many buyers would prefer their home not have one.
Other items on a negatives list might include specific home layouts or unfinished areas. While some see an unfinished basement as a blank canvas, others see it as a burden, just another task that needs to be finished before the home is “complete.”
What Do Most People Place on Their “Needs” List?
While we won’t tell you what to put on your specific list, we will share a few features that most people place in their “needs” column. For most people, the needs list consists of location and room count. They (literally) need the home to be in a certain location, one with good schools and a fair proximity to work. They also need the home to be a certain size and have a specific amount of rooms.
Here’s an example of someone’s “needs” list:
- 40 minutes or less (on most days) to my office
- At least two bathrooms
- At least four bedrooms
- Two-car garage
For most shoppers, that’s about it. Everything else, from layout to kitchen features, can be on the “wants” list.
Here’s an example of a common “wants” list:
- Open kitchen concept
- Large backyard
- Near a playground
- Sizable kitchen
- Finished basement
- Outdoor patio or deck
The list could go on, but you’ll notice these are items are, for most people, not essential.
Here’s an example of a “negatives” list:
- Small kitchen
- Pool or hot tub
- Large backyard (some don’t like yard work!)
When you place all of these items together in a neatly-organized document, you can have a more efficient and effective home shopping experience!
Above all, focus on the needs and remember that wants are negotiable. With the right approach, you’ll find dozens of homes that will make you and your family happy for years.
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