First-time home buyers: Know your needs vs. wants

Shopping for your first house can be an exciting, and sometimes overwhelming, process. With all of the online resources available, it’s become very easy to peruse the available listings and click through hundreds of pictures of beautiful homes and properties. But where do you go from there? How will you know which is really the right house for both your family and your budget?  

One of the best things you can do to invest with confidence in the right home is to sit down ahead of time and make a list of wants and needs. Here’s how to start: 

1. Budget accordingly: If you’ve decided that you are truly in the market to purchase a home, you’ll want to start with your pre-approval. Find the right lender and arrive at a budget. How much house, including taxes, can you really afford? This will give you the framework to start with. 

2. Start with what you know: Evaluate where and how you are living right now. What do you love most about your current living situation? What are the things that you would like to see improved? Do you feel cramped when preparing food in your kitchen? Is the closet space you currently have enough? Do you need more bedrooms right now? Some of the big-picture things to think about are location, yard space, style and size, and how long you plan to stay in your first home. 

>>> RELATED: 5 of the biggest mistakes first-time home buyers make 

3. Prioritize: It might be handy to put together a long list of all your dream amenities and features. Once you have put down everything that goes in you perfect dream home, start by prioritizing into four groups: must-have (needs), would be nice (wants), would rather not (don’t wants), and absolutely not (deal breakers). Work through your entire list; it’s OK to shift things around while you work through each item. Is the popular “open-concept” an actual “must-have” for you? If so, why?  

4. Be flexible and adjust: After you’ve seen one or two properties with your realtor, go back to your list and see if there are adjustments you can make. Is the popular “open-concept” an actual “must-have” for you? Do you really “need” that fourth bedroom, now that you’ve seen what these houses look like in your price range? Are the things you considered to be “deal-breakers” actually enough to rule a house out of consideration? You’ll soon find that house shopping is all about balancing these needs and wants. There will inevitably be trade-offs. Find out what you’re actually willing to compromise on. 

>>> RELATED: 5 things every first-time home buyer needs to know 

5. Tell yourself the hard truths: The ultimate purpose of a needs-and-wants list is to help you find the right home at the right time. Don’t rule every home out because it doesn’t meet every single thing you’ve listed as a want. If you are honest with yourself about what you really “need” when you make your list, you won’t have as much difficulty when you do find a house that will work for you. As a first-time home buyer, you may not be looking for the house you’ll live in for the next 40 years. Make sure you look at homes that will work for you and your family for the foreseeable future, and don’t necessarily worry about what it would be like to retire there. 

When it does come time to buy your first home, be sure you’re working with a realtor you trust. There’s still a lot for you to learn, and you need good advice and guidance. Coldwell Banker Heritage Realtors has even put together a guide for first-time homebuyers. It’s a great time to buy your first home, and the Coldwell Banker Heritage Realtors website is the perfect place to start.