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Buyers' Real Estate Wish List

Have you ever gone to the grocery store without a shopping list and come home with products that piqued your fancy — a bag of potato chips, perhaps, or a half-gallon of fudge ripple — but no coffee or bread or other item you know you needed? It’s okay; we have too.

But what’s acceptable in the aisles of the local Safeway or Winn-Dixie is not such a good idea when you’re spending a hundred thousand dollars or more on a house. That’s why savvy home buyers make lists before they begin looking at specific houses. It’s a great tool for determining what you want, what you need, and what compromises you’re willing to make.

Your list can take many forms. Some buyers jot down the amenities they need (e.g., type of construction, number of bedrooms, a garage or fenced yard) and the amenities they want (e.g., a large kitchen or master bathroom with jetted tub). Others use ones which let users rank specific amenities along a continuum of desirability. Either way, such lists can go a long way in helping you determine just how important various features really are.

By the same token, if you’re buying with a spouse or partner, have them make their own list — and be prepared to compromise on the differences. And if you’re working with a real estate agent, be sure to share your list(s) with them; they can search thousands of listings based on dozens of criteria. Either way, carry your criteria with you and compare how the houses you look at stack up.


List Risk: Be Firm and Flexible

"When everything else is so right, it’s funny how you can forget all about something that you thought you absolutely needed."
– Cynthia N.

If there’s one thing to remember about your list, it’s this: Don’t let your wants blind you to your needs. It’s all too easy to be dazzled by a big deck or master bathroom, for example, and completely miss the dimly lit bedrooms or lack of closet space.

Focus on what you want and you may overlook a home that fits your needs perfectly; focus on what you need and you may be able to add what you want down the road. (It’s a lot easier to add a deck than relocate a bedroom.)

Likewise, once you start looking at homes, don’t be surprised if you start looking at your list differently, too. Simply put, no home will meet all your criteria, and compromises are inevitable. Needs turn out to be wants, wants suddenly become needs, and no one but you can determine which is which. Update your list as you go along and you’ll eventually zero in on the amenities that really matter. Yes, it will be a compromise, but it will be one you can live with.

OPN: Other People’s Needs

Even when you’re buying a home, it’s a good idea to think like a seller. (You probably will be at some point.) To maximize your home’s appeal for future buyers, look for the amenities most other homebuyers say they want or need:

  • An open floor plan
  • Two or three bedrooms
  • Two or more bathrooms
  • Large kitchen
  • Walk-in closets
  • Energy efficiency
  • Air conditioning (where appropriate)
  • First floor laundry room
  • Fireplace
  • Covered front porch
  • Level yard


Next article: Falling in Love With a Home

Previous article: Buying Old Homes vs. New Construction


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