House Hunting? Start By Listing Your Wants and Needs

Everyone is unique — and so everyone’s wish list for their “dream home” is going to be unique as well. For some, the “dream” is going to be a high rise condo close to the river, and near the hustle and bustle of downtown. For others, a large house with lots of lawn space on a quiet street is the goal.

As you begin your journey as a home buyer, one of the most important steps you can take early on is to brainstorm what you want your future home to be, and then break up the features you come up with into “needs” and “wants:”


Your home buying needs are the most important features on your checklist. These are the attributes that a home must have in order for you to even consider it as an option. Your “must-haves” list might include important limiting factors like pricing, location, size, and so on.


Your “wants” list will be made up of the “should-haves” — the elements and features that you’d like your ideal home to have, even though they’re not necessarily deal breakers. With these factors, there might be a lot more wiggle room when it comes time to compromise and adjust. You may even be able to break up your list of wants into smaller subcategories. For instance, you can rank them by order of priority, and help determine which “wants” you’re really planning to look for, and which would simply be a nice bonus.

In most cases, the best home for you will likely meet most or all of your needs, while also checking off at least some of your wants.

The Importance of Prioritizing Your Home Wants and Needs

There are many different ways to determine your real estate “must-haves” and “should-haves.” One common idea is to visualize and brainstorm about your future home, and then work backwards. In other words, start by listing all the specific features that you’d love to see in your dream property, and then separate these aspects by greatest importance and least importance. As you set your priorities, it will be easier to start distinguishing your wants from your needs.

However you make these lists, it’s a remarkably important part of the homebuying process. Creating lists of your wants and needs can:

  • Help you get organized for your home search
  • Give you a set of criteria to evaluate each home you visit
  • Make it easier for your broker to locate listings and streamline your search
  • Put you in a better position to make a decision on a home, by deciding ahead of time which items you’re prioritizing, and which you’re more willing to compromise on
  • Allow you to focus on other parts of the real estate process — like securing your mortgage preapproval, getting your old house ready to sell, and so on.

So, what features should you consider as you start to dream about your next home? Here are a few common factors that might help you to shape your “should-have” and “must-have” lists:


Arguably, price is going to be one of the most important factors to consider as you begin to search for a new home. Having a realistic understanding about how much you can spend can help clarify and guide other parts of your home search, including narrowing in on what types of homes you might be able to buy, and what neighborhoods will best suit your needs. One important step you can take to prepare for this consideration is to secure a mortgage preapproval. Having a preapproval letter in hand can help buyers get a practical sense of their purchasing power, and can help make it easier to put in an offer and negotiate on a property down the line.


It’s a cliche for a reason: “Location, location, location.” Location can easily be a want or a need, depending on your circumstances. It’s important to think ahead, and it’s often going to be crucial to get a feel for new neighborhoods as you begin your home search. Is this area somewhere you can see yourself living full time? Does the location put you close to schools, shopping, nightlife, your workplace, or any other features you’d like to have access to? Does the area have the types of properties that are high on your wishlist? Is there ample parking, or easy access to public transportation? All of these are questions to consider as you start to separate your location “must-haves” and “should-haves.”


Does your home absolutely need four bedrooms, to accommodate your family right now? Do you absolutely have to have a separate home office for your freelance career? Or are you more flexible when it comes to number of rooms? As you begin to think about your next home, it’s important to keep the size and space in mind. On the “needs” side, you might want to consider the minimum amount of space or rooms your home should have for your lifestyle. On the “wants” side, you might want to think about how you’d take advantage of any extra space or additional rooms, if you can get them.

Features and Finishes

Like snowflakes, no two homes are ever going to be exactly alike. Determining what features, finishes, and stylistic flourishes you’d like in a property can be a great way to build out your wishlist. This is a broad category, and might include the style of home (e.g., Victorian, two-flat, bungalow, etc.) and the amount of outdoor space available, as well as aesthetic features, like bathroom design elements, kitchen finishes, fireplaces, flooring choices, and so on. When it comes to this category, one important thing to consider is how much time, energy, and money you might be willing to put into updating or replacing features that you don’t love. Are you willing to invest in changing out design choices over time, or do you want to move into a home that checks off more of your boxes right away?

Safety Considerations

It’s important to keep safety top of mind as you begin to look at different homes. Everyone’s wants and needs in this regard will be completely unique. For instance, some families might need a first floor bedroom to accommodate someone with mobility issues. In other cases, families with children might want to avoid homes that are near busy streets, for example, or which feature a pool in the yard. At the same time, it’s important to consider the condition of the home. Are there any systems or features that need to be updated or replaced immediately?

Buying With Baird & Warner: It’s Easier Here

Looking for a property with enough space to hang a hammock? Dreaming of a home that puts you in the heart of it all? We get you. Whatever your real estate wants and needs may be, one of Baird & Warner’s hyperlocal experts can help you find exactly what you’re looking for.

At Baird & Warner, our mantra is “let’s make this easier” — from the day you start envisioning your next home to the day you’re handed the keys. For more than 160 years, Baird & Warner has been helping to turn an intricate, complex process into one that is smarter and more seamless at every step of the way.

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