You’ve been pre-approved and know what you can afford, but the hunt for your dream home is stalled because you don’t know what that “dream” looks like.

It’s easy to talk in generalities about wanting a “big” house or an “older” home. But in order to better target your real estate search, you must think specifically about your dream abode. Will your “big” house be 2,400 or 5,000 square feet? Do you want a home built pre-1900 or pre-1980?

Before you visit another open house, sit down and make a list of your needs and wants — and yes, those are two different things. You may want a pool, but you probably could live without it. Plus, it’s worth considering that having a pool could spike your home insurance costs.

Understand that this list will likely change as you learn more about your housing options. Proximity to the beach may start as a priority, for example, but once you see the size of ocean-front homes you can get in your price range, you may decide a short drive to the water is quite bearable. Unless you have an unlimited budget, it’s likely you’re going to have to make compromises along the way.

Use these questions to help make your very own list of housing requirements:

  • Where do you want to live? What city? Neighborhood?
  • What price range will you consider?
  • Do you want to live within the boundaries of a specific school system?
  • Do you want to live near public transit?
  • Do you want easy access to highways?
  • Is neighborhood walkability important to you?
  • Do you want to live in a gated community?
  • Do you want to live in an area with community amenities such as a swimming pool or sports courts?
  • In what kind of house would you like to live? One-story? Two-story? Townhouse? Condo?
  • Is there an architectural style to which you’re drawn? Colonial? Craftsman? Contemporary?
  • Is there an architectural style you strongly dislike?
  • Do you want a new home (less than 5 years old)?
  • Do you want an older home?
  • Do you want a historic home (at least 50 years old)?
  • Are you willing to do a little renovation? A lot of renovation? No renovation?
  • How many bedrooms do you want?
  • How many bathrooms do you want?
  • What is the minimum square footage you’ll consider?
  • What is the maximum square footage you’ll consider?
  • Are there physical needs that need to be met (wheelchair access or limited stairs)?
  • Do you have pets with special requirements?

You should also take time to rank each of these home qualities as “must have,” “like to have” or “don’t care” using the checklist below. Identifying your priorities will help you find the perfect property:


(Source: Zillow Blog)

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