When you have made the decision to buy a home it is easy to get so excited looking at properties that you never clearly define what is most important to you. When that happens you don't have a clear sense of what you are looking for in a home… which could result in seeing 72 homes instead of 7 or 17 before you find the right one… or worse, buying a home and moving in only to find it doesn't have what you really wanted in a home!
It isn't just a matter of number of bedrooms, bath and garage stalls, but how you plan to use and live in the space. For instance you may be thinking 3 bedrooms, but plan to use one for an office or guest room so other flexible space may work just as well as a 3rd bedroom.
It could be that although you prefer move-in condition you would be willing to do some updating to get a home that fills your other priorities… or are willing to give up a bathroom or closet for a walkable neighborhood… or are willing to give up your first choice in location for an open gourmet kitchen.
These are all examples of setting priorities. Compromise is almost always involved when buying a home. It is a good idea to define your priorities before you get emotionally wrapped up in a property because you fall in love with the decor and don't notice that it doesn't fulfill other requirements you considered more important. It doesn't mean you can't change your priorities… it just means that you should at least be aware of the tradeoffs you are making.
Here are some categories to help you get started… add your own if you don't see what is important to you on the list! First define the items that are non-negotiable for you… and don't even go see properties that don't fulfill that criteria. Then rank the rest in order of importance, noting what is most important to you in each category.
- SIZE – # bedrooms, # baths, garage stalls, total square feet, room sizes, lot size, etc
- STRUCTURE – style, floor plan, layout of the house and grounds, expansion potential, etc
- AMENITIES – master bath, closets, fireplace, hardwood floors, upgrades, kitchen requirements, family room, decor, etc
- LOCATION – neighborhood, view, proximity to services, work, transportation, recreation, etc
- CONDITION – move-in condition, unfinished areas, in need of structural and/or cosmetic updates, etc
- PRICE – specific price/monthly payment target, fair price vs good deal, appreciation/flip potential, etc
If more than one of you is involved in the decision-making, you should each make your own priority list first… then discuss your lists together and combine them into one prioritized list that you both can live with. It is much better to have those discussions early in the process, before you find a property that you don't agree on and don't really understand why.