If you’re planning on buying a home anytime soon, let me give you some helpful advice: Be prepared to distinguish needs from wants so that you can be confident about which homes you want to make offers on when the time comes.
Start with your dream home…
Envision your ideal home. Does it have a huge plot of land for your dogs to run around? Or is it a high-rise condo overlooking big city lights? Where is it and what makes it special to you? Now, think about your budget: How much house can you really afford?
If you’re ready to shop for homes, you should have already gotten a pre-approval from a lender. So, with that price in mind, you may need to forgo some of the wants. Unsure what’s reasonable and what’s not in your price range? This is where your agent comes in. One of the main roles of a real estate agent is to know the area, know what homes are going for, and about how much added features, like an additional bedroom or a pool should add to the price.
As you put together the picture of your dream home, you may discover that there are features you don’t want to sacrifice and for which you’re willing to pay more. Maybe it’s living within a thirty minute drive from work, an open kitchen or family room, or even something less common, like wheelchair access for a family member.
Sometimes, the wants are easy to distinguish from needs because you’ll find yourself saying “a pool might be nice.” But another way to look at it is: wants are things that you can add or change on your own.
If you watch cable house-hunting shows, it can be maddening to see couples turn down home after home because the flooring isn’t right or it doesn’t have a patio.
Some people don’t even want to consider getting their hands dirty and working on their home themselves, but trust me, finding a great home at a good price is infinitely easier when you’re flexible on wants.
Focus on “value items”
In real estate, a value item is a feature that adds value to the property to future buyers.
When evaluating your needs and wants, it’s a good idea to consider value items with more weight than things that are personal preference but add little value.
Items that add value include dual-pane windows, granite countertops, hardwood floors, land, nice landscaping (but don’t forget you’ll have to maintain it) and even intangibles like a beautiful view and being in a top-rated school district.
A great real estate agent will be able to help you determine the difference between a valuable feature and personal touch.
Of course, some big features don’t always add value.
For example: Does a pool add value? It depends. Some folks just don’t like them or have young children and are afraid of the safety risks.”
So a pool is kind of a toss-up depending on where you live.
Anything too personal may lack value in terms of resale. For example chicken-coops, or bright yellow walls. You may fall in love with the giant mural that the current homeowners painted in their child’s room. After all, your son loves Spiderman too! Just keep in mind that when you go to sell, someone will want to repaint over it, and they’ll count the cost of repainting when they consider what to pay for the home. Things that add value are generally thought of as beautiful, safe or convenient by the majority of people. Things with no value are special to you for a reason that other people might not understand or want.
As you prepare to buy a home, remember that no home is perfect. Whether finding a place to rent or buy, you will always end up making compromises. But with a good understanding of what’s most important to you, what you can live without and what will add value to the home, finding the right one will be easier.