Turn-ons and turn-offs. Buzzkills and domestic thrills. Must-haves and nice-to-haves. If you’re house hunting or thinking about starting, you surely have all manner of preferences, but perhaps they’re all in your head.
If you’re ready to buy a home, it may be a good idea to create a homebuying wish list to provide direction and help narrow the search.
Here are a few items you may want to add to your house wish list, from choosing a neighborhood to home size, so you can examine trends by location and go into the house-hunting process well prepared.
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1. First, Daydream a Little
Before writing down all your wants on a homebuying wish list, sit back and fantasize a little about what an ideal home looks like. This dream house will look different to everyone, but after you’ve closed your eyes and thought about it for a while, you should write down everything you saw in the vision.
Is there a big yard and open space, or is it in the center of town where all the action is? Does the dream home come with a big open kitchen, or are big bedrooms more important? Is there space for a game room? An outdoor spa? A wraparound deck, or a balcony overlooking it all?
It’s your dream. Go ahead and dream big. That way you can better realize what you really want (and want to steer clear of) in a home.
2. Whittle Down the Dream List
After spending some time thinking about what a dream home would look like if money were no object, and jotting down notes, you might then start crossing things off your list. Sure, a moat filled with crocodiles surrounding a house sounds cool, but do you need it?
And realistically, maybe you don’t need five bedrooms but can live with three instead, and maybe the basement doesn’t need to be finished just yet. Or, perhaps the kitchen can come with lower-end appliances, and every bedroom doesn’t need an ensuite bathroom.
Bring down that daydream list to reality before beginning the search.
3. Consider Who You’re Buying With, Too
Before going out to buy a home, whether you’re a first-timer or old hand, it’s important to think about who’s going to live there. Is it just for one? A couple? A whole family?
It would be best to get everyone’s input on wants vs. needs to ensure that all will be satisfied with this monumental life and financial decision. You might want to sit down as a group and consider the following.
4. The Ideal Setting
Want to live in the country or the city? Like neighbors or solitude? Want a family vibe or an up-and-coming neighborhood filled with young people?
It may also be a good idea to get even more granular.
For instance, a potential homebuyer who has a dog may want to consider a neighborhood that has good walkability and sidewalks.
A potential buyer who works from home may want to think about how close a coffee shop is so they can pop over for a snack. Websites like Walk Score can help people discover how close cafes, shops, restaurants, grocery stores, and public transportation are to their new address.
Think about day-to-day life now and try to imagine it in a new home before buying.
5. The Right School District
If a person is buying a new home with family members in mind, it’s important to consider every home’s school district. Websites like GreatSchools provide information on school district rankings. All users need to do is pop in the ZIP code.
Even if a person isn’t thinking about having children, school districts still may play a role in their homebuying decision. That’s because a school district can play a major part in a home’s resale value.
6. Home Size
When creating a house hunting wish list, it might be a good idea to consider just how small you’re willing to go on a new home. What is the exact square footage that makes you feel cramped?
It may also be good to think about what you may consider to be too much home. After all, if it’s just a couple, a 3,000-square-foot home could feel unmanageably big. The bigger the house, the more there is to maintain, furnish and clean.
Every individual can try to pinpoint their own Goldilocks zone when it comes to home size, give or take a few hundred square feet on either side to work within a range.
7. New vs. Old Home
One more thing for buyers to add to the wish list: If they want to purchase an older home or if they want something newer or brand-new. Each comes with perks and issues.
An older home may have unique charms, while a newer home could provide something sleek and modern. An older home may need a few fixes, but a newer home could look too stock for some people’s liking. An older home might be in a coveted historic neighborhood and cost much more than a newer suburban house.
Again, it’s a personal preference, and can sometimes come down to how much work a person is willing to put into a property.
8. Home Style
From single-story to split-level, colonial to contemporary, modern to Greek Revival, art deco to Cape Cod, the list of home styles goes on and on. Figuring out what style a person likes can help them further zero in on their dream home.
To whittle down the options, try cruising websites like Pinterest and pop in search terms for a few different homes. Save the favorites. Then see if a pattern emerges. If you’re saving a ton of modern farmhouses, Craftsman bungalows, industrial lofts, Victorian homes or cottages, that’s the home design for you.
9. Any Specific Needs
Before buying a home, it’s best to give good thought to any specific needs. For example, if someone uses a wheelchair, they may want to ensure that the home is easily accessible and doesn’t contain any stairs.
A person who lives with a service animal may want to accommodate the working pet. If an elder parent will eventually be moving in, that’s a big consideration.
And at least in mid-2020, a majority of 18- to 29-year-olds lived with their parents, surpassing the previous peak during the Great Depression, the Pew Research Center found.
No need to go look at homes that don’t fit the bill; just make it clear from the get-go what you need and forget the rest.
10. Interior Systems and Added Perks
Some people really want all the bells and whistles when it comes to their home.
It’s a good idea to think about any interior systems you’d like to have. This could include updated appliances or newer showers, or even specific heating and cooling systems, security systems, or smarthome preferences.
Other people may really, really want a fireplace in the living room, or a spa tub in the bathroom. Pool or no pool? Big garden or little yard? Two- or three-car garage?
A person’s home is their sanctuary so it’s OK for them to seek out what they want. However, if a buyer sees a home that doesn’t come with all the right stuff just yet, they could always write it into the offer as an upgrade before purchasing. It’s always worth a shot.
11. Community Features
While making a homebuying wish list, it may be a good idea to also draw up a neighborhood wish list. Neighborhoods really can make or break the home experience.
Does the homebuyer want to live in a neighborhood with a homeowners association? This could mean everyone pays into a pot that takes care of common space landscaping, but it could also mean having to adhere to strict rules about a home’s outward appearance.
Some people also may want to live in a more developed community that has a pool, tennis court, golf course, playground, or 24-hour security. This will likely limit their search to specific places, but if it’s a must-have it’s a must-have.
Want more thoughts on creating a homebuying wish list? Check out the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s checklist.
Creating a homebuying wish list helps to identify wants and needs, what is in the budget, and what everyone involved — spouse, children, pets, guests, an elder parent — can live with happily (if not ever after, for a while). Home style, size, neighborhood, and amenities come into play.
It’s a good idea for potential buyers to have their finances in order, too. That means shopping for a home loan and getting prequalified, and, if ready for the next step, getting a pre-approval letter so they can see a few homes and prove to sellers that they are serious buyers.
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