Step 5: Needs Versus Wants

Decide what you need from your house, and separate them from what you want. Do you need a stainless-steel range? Are four bedrooms necessary, or can you and your family get by with three?

"The best way to determine what is a need and what is a want is to ask yourself whether you have to put a lot of money in it to change it," Pat says. "A house with good bones, rooms where you want and a crummy kitchen is fine. You can redo the kitchen. If you find a house with a kitchen you love but you have to knock down walls? Those major renovations cost more money and can be considered a want."

Pat points out that you can always install a fence or add central air, but you can't add a yard or a neighborhood you love.

What to do:

  • Sit down and write up a wish list of everything you want in a house. Do the same for everything you consider a need. Prioritize those things you can't live without and those things that you can.
  • Talk with your agent or Realtor about what's available in the market, and discuss with her your wish lists. She will be able to access databases and perform searches using the parameters you give her, which will whittle down some houses from others.
As it turns out, each step is well worth the time and effort. Scott and I were about to make an offer on an entirely different home, one that's been remodeled but sits on a busy street with a small backyard. We took Pat's advice and decided to revisit our needs versus wants, and the next day found our now-dream home.

Though we have a massive kitchen remodel ahead of us and rooms of wood paneling to tear down, we gained a sprawling backyard and a peaceful street instead, something we'd have missed had we rushed in. 

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