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When looking at real estate listings, it can be easy to fall in love with the idea of living in a house with a specific design or features, but you most likely won’t be able to get everything on your wishlist. Focus on things that you couldn’t change and differentiate between needs and wants so you can make a list of top priorities to guide your search. 

Things to Prioritize 
Location is important in real estate, but people have different priorities. Figure out if having a short commute, living in a good school district or being near restaurants and entertainment is important to you and your family. 

Focus on the condition of the house. If you buy a home with a cracked foundation and you wind up with expensive repair bills, you may come to regret your decision. Make sure that major systems, such as plumbing and electrical, are in good shape so you don’t have to make costly repairs after you move in. 

You may have a long list of things that you would like, but that are not necessarily requirements. For example, you may prefer a two-story home, but you may be willing to buy a one-story house if it has everything else you want. Size is important, but a smaller house that is well designed may have more usable living space than a home with more square footage.

You might find a house with fewer bedrooms or bathrooms than you would like, but you could build an addition later. Other things, such as a pool or a patio, could be added in the future.

When making your list of priorities, consider potential downsides. For example, a house with a huge yard may seem ideal, until you think about the amount of time you would need to spend on lawncare or the amount of money you would have to pay someone else to handle it.

Hash It Out
Make a list of features that are most important to you and others that would be nice to have. If someone else is buying the house with you, that individual should make a list independently. Work together to narrow them down to the top 3 – 5 priorities, then another list of things that would be nice to have.

Be Realistic About Price 
If you got preapproved for a mortgage, you should not necessarily spend the amount you were approved for. The lender’s calculations may not have included significant expenses, such as property taxes, private mortgage insurance, homeowners insurance, maintenance, repairs, childcare and healthcare. 

Talk to Your Agent
Once you have identified your top priorities, share them with your real estate agent. After you begin looking at houses, you may realize that some things on the list aren’t as important as you thought they were, and that some things you thought would be nice to have are actually top priorities. If that happens, revise your list and discuss it with your agent. 

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