When you start searching for your dream home, it’s a great idea to take stop and take a moment to make a comprehensive house hunting checklist. If you’re a note-taker you’ve probably already been busy researching homebuying tips, but now it’s time to be a list-maker!
Instead of giving you a generic checklist detailing what you should do to find a new home, let’s walk through some considerations so that you can make your own checklist! There is no set formula — this is about you.
Wants vs. Needs
Start by differentiating your wants versus your needs, and don’t stop. That is the most important part of this list and your house hunting decisions. We recommended starting this conversation early, and circling back often. Here’s why:
It will save you time. If you have already decided the must-haves, then you won’t bother looking at houses that aren’t a good fit. You will also be mentally prepared to make a decision when you do find “the one” true home.
It will save you energy. Buying a home is an exciting and oftentimes emotional process, and that’s a good thing! There are a lot of long-term goals and life-long dreams tied in with this process. But as you look at houses, it will be much easier to set aside exhaustive indecision and questioning if you’ve already established what you will and won’t budge on.
It will save you misunderstandings. This is the perfect time to communicate with your spouse, partner, or family. Have decisions made before you look at properties, before you scroll through property listings, before one person has fallen in love with the sprawling green backyard of one property, or the gorgeous gourmet kitchen of another. It’s easier to communicate what you truly want in early conversations rather than when you’re at a showing with your realtor.
It will save you money. Ok, no guarantee here, but if you discuss and decide on your financial needs before you’re in the thick of it, you’ll be more likely to have an accurate understanding of your budget. Mortgage calculators can be helpful to get the ball rolling, but working with a mortgage professional can give you the full picture and the big picture.
Cover your bases before you build your castles.
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
— Henry David Thoreau
Your checklist should mostly address your personal needs and wants. This is an exciting time to start dreaming up that castle of yours. Let your imagination run wild as you walk through rooms in your mind in order to discover what you absolutely must have vs. what you’d love to have if possible. There are just a few key underlying foundational factors that experts recommend for every homebuyer. Avoid first-time homebuying misconceptions and missteps by assuring that you have support from both a real estate agent and a mortgage professional that are experts on your local housing market. Consider applying to get pre-approved for a home loan and reading up on what type of loan might be the perfect fit for you. Now, back to that dream castle of yours.
What’s on your checklist?
Type of home: Single family house or townhome? Do you need a garage? One or two stories? Is architectural style important? Consider all the options before you narrow it down.
Location: You may have already pinpointed suburban, urban, or rural, but there are still factors of proximity. Do you want to be in a certain school district? Do you need to have access to public transportation to the airport? Here are some homebuyer tips on evaluating location.
The rooms: Write out the rooms you want vs. the rooms you need. Do you want to have a formal dining room, or would a large kitchen do the job? How many bathrooms do you need? You’ll be able to build out a possible framework before you even peruse any houses. Take your time here and go through each room.
Start with those three basics and then decide what factors make your list. Consider these categories: flooring, walls, windows, lighting, exterior, roof, systems (heating, central air, fireplace, electric vs gas stove, plumbing, insulation, sewer system, water), outdoor spaces, yard.
There are no right or wrong answers and there is no one-size fits all home. We hope this checklist helps you assess what home might fit your personality, lifestyle, and budget. Happy house hunting!