Rolling Stones fans and savvy homebuyers both know you can’t always get what you want. At least not everything you want. You should, however, have some sense of what you want and what you need when you start your search for a new home. Distinguishing between the wants and needs can be tricky because so much emotion can swirl around visions of your “dream home.”
But making two separate lists of wants and needs will save you hours and energy in the long run. Here are three things to do to help you decide how to assign home features to your lists:
1. Ask yourself if you can truly live without it.
“Wants” are features that would be nice to have. “Needs” are things that you really must have to function. Be honest, can you truly live without shiny new stainless steel appliances? If yes, put them in the “Wants” column. On the other hand, an additional bedroom may belong in the “Needs” column if you’re expecting twins. Creaky knees? A ranch layout is a “need.” Occasional desire for a nap by the hearth? That fireplace is a “want.”
2. Determine if a feature could be changed or added later.
No matter how ambitious you are, some things may remain beyond your control to change, like proximity to public transportation, or quality of the local school district. If these features are critical to you, they go on the “Needs” list. On the other hand, things like patios and hardwood floors can be added later. List them as “Wants.” Your agent can probably help you talk through potential future costs of renovations and additions to accommodate your wants. Changing the bus routes, on the other hand, is probably beyond the capabilities of even the most experienced Realtor.
3. Talk it through with your agent.
A trusted Realtor can bring a much-needed dose of objectivity to your decision-making. He or she can help you visualize the day-to-day reality of living with (or without) a certain feature, as well as guide you through the math that may help you separate wants from needs.