When it comes to buying a home, I have always been the type of person who knows exactly what I want. I looked at three homes in person before buying my first (The 1940’s fixer-upper in Southwest Atlanta) and we looked at eight total when my husband and I bought our first home together.
The house we ended up with was the first one we looked at.
But, I’m an exception. In a recent Owners.com survey, nearly half of recent home buyers nationwide (49 percent) said that finding the right home was the most challenging part of the home buying process.
In the first post in this series, I mentioned how important it is to make a wish list when figuring out how much home you can actually afford. But for those who are overwhelmed by the process or are just beginning to consider buying a home, you may be wondering…how do I even build out a wish list?
This post is for you.
How to make your wish list: Questions to Ask
You probably already have some idea of what you need in a home: an ideal number of bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate you and/or your family.
And that’s great, but saying I want a 3 BR/2 BA really doesn’t narrow the market that much. There can be hundreds of homes in a zip code. The more specific you can be, the more you’ll be able to narrow down the field to homes you’d actually consider living in.
But what if this is my first time and my only experience home shopping is watching re-runs of House Hunters?
Here’s a quick list of questions to ask when building your wish list:
- What neighborhood do I want to live in? (Near work? Near family? Near friends? A part of town you just adore and always find yourself out in at night and on weekends?)
- What type of home do I want? (Single family, townhome, condo)
- What style of home do I like? (Farmhouse, modern, traditional, something else?)
- Do I need/want an outdoor space? (For pets it may be a “must” but consider the maintenance when making this decision too!)
- Do I want more or less space than what I currently have? (Take a look at the square footage of your current space – is it enough? Is it too much?)
- What kind of parking do you desire? (Garage? Covered parking? Separate driveway?)
- What kind of laundry situation do you desire? (Trust me, this is a big one even if you don’t actively think about laundry all the time)
- Do I want a brand new home, move-in ready, or a complete fixer-upper?
How to make your wish list: Compromising with a partner
For my husband and I, we knew the non-negotiable items for our family: the location and a backyard for our pups. Hubby also wanted a separate space for his “man cave” and I desired a separate space for my home office. (I was back working for myself again by this point.) It’s nice to have wishes and dreams, but also to think through possible contingencies in the event you’re not able to get everything you want in the home.
After lots of communication, we compromised by saying that we didn’t have to have the man cave and office, but enough bedrooms where something like this could work for us.
Even if you don’t get everything on your wish list, it’s important to know what your wants are so you can try and envision ways of making the space work for your family.
When to bring in an Agent
You don’t have to have a perfect wish list before you engage an agent to help you with your home search.
In reality, the agent is there to help you refine this list even further, and let you know what is and isn’t possible within your budget.
For us, our agent let us know that the budget we had would get us close, but it wouldn’t get us everything we were looking for. In the end, the home we bought (and currently live in and love) only had a tiny scrap of a yard, but we fenced it and it works just fine for our pups. Ultimately, getting into our first choice neighborhood was worth the compromise on outdoor space for us.
- Using the questions above, you’ll be able to discern what really matters to you, and what to look for to narrow your home search.
- Then, take your wish list and plug it into a home search tool to see homes in your area with the features you are looking for.
- An agent can help you narrow your wish list and help set realistic expectations on what to expect in a home-based on your area and price range and credit score.
House hunting doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you have the right approach, follow the processes, and lean on your team for help.