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Buying a home: What do you want in your new house?

As soon as anyone gets the desire to buy a home, they will probably start the process by day dreaming about what they want in a house and imagine living in their dream home.

My husband and I have polar opposite tastes in pretty much everything. Naturally the topic of what we want in a house came quite late in our process of buying a home. I was almost afraid to bring up that topic because I had a good idea on what he wanted and I know I will hate it. So I decided to first look for starter homes and see what the price range was, figure what we can afford, make sure our finances are in order and finally, bring up the topic of what each of us actually wants in our home.

I was not wrong in guessing we will have a hard time coming to a consensus of what our dream home will be like.

What do we want in a house – Take one

The first time we started this discussion was while having a relaxed dinner. The night was going very well until this topic came up. After 45 minutes of heated discussion proved futile, we decided to end the conversion with just one result – we knew very clearly what the other wanted.

Me: A beautiful country home with a great view, a separate office and guest rooms, big kitchen and lots of land for gardening.

My husband: A very small, minimalistic cabin.

What do we want in a house – Take two

His vision of our dream home was unacceptable to me. So the next time I brought up this topic on a late Saturday afternoon, I was armed with a list of reasons why a minimalist home is absolutely not for us. The feeling of finding the other person’s vision unacceptable was mutual, so he was ready with a laundry list of reasons on why my large country house with acres of land won’t work for us either.

Sigh…back to the drawing board. At least this time we didn’t fight, instead I was determined to make it work and started approaching this systematically.

First, I narrowed down the city we wanted to move to.

Second, I narrowed it down even further by concentrating on jobs. I found which companies will have requirements matching our qualifications and then I took a 30-45 minutes commuting radius around the largest cluster.

Third, I searched for houses in this particular radius that was within our price range.

Finally, I collected everything that was listed for sale and summarized, realistically, what we could hope to get.

To make this tedious process of figuring out what we want in a house, I decided to make it a fun exercise and created a wish list quiz for each of us to fill out (you can download the wish list here).

Dream home: What do you want in a house checklist

Photo credits: jedavillabali, dexxus, wicker-furniture, kitchendesigner

What do we want in a house – Take three

In the wish list, I went to elaborate detail and questioned every single priority, feature and amenity to make us think through our choices. Another reason for creating a wish list is, I have heard from a lot of people that “I will fall in love with a house” and decide to buy. I wanted to avoid that. I wanted to have a logical, sanity check every step of the way to home ownership. I do NOT want to fall in love with a house and then find out that something absolutely essential is missing. My wish list had a section for each of the factors that will make a house my home. And each of the sections had subsections and questions for further clarity.

Home buyer wish list: The basics

  • What is the maximum price range you are comfortable with?
  • What level of fixing up are you willing to do?
  • What is the age of the home?
  • What is the price range you are looking at if you have to fix things up?
  • How long are you willing to wait for the ideal home before you start settling?
  • What is the ideal number of sq. feet?
  • Bedrooms:  Minimum ___________ Maximum ___________
  • Bathrooms: Minimum ___________ Maximum ___________

Home buyer wish list: Neighborhood

  • What do you expect in the neighborhood (schools, restaurants, shopping)?
  • Home owner’s association (If you selected a score in the extremes 1, 2 or 9, 10, please explain your reasoning for doing so)

Hate                    1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Love

(My husband didn’t care for HOA one way or the other, but I went with extreme dislike. I have heard a lot of bad things about HOAs – ranging from HOAs being money pits all the way to HOAs being control freaks on every single aspect of the house. I do not want to pay loads of money only to request permission to change a door knob in my house.)

  • Any other wishes for the neighborhood

Home buyer wish list: Home exterior

  • What is the preferred home style?

Farmhouse, Craftsman bungalow, Modern, Prairie, Ranch, Colonial, Cottage or [add your own]. If you need explanation on various architectural styles here are a couple of resources – HGTV & Home style library.

  • What home styles are a definite no?
  • Preferences for common amenities (If you selected a score in the extremes 1, 2 or 9, 10, please explain your reasoning for doing so)

Hate the idea                                      Love the idea

Large front lawn       1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Large backyard        1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

What size backyard is ideal?

Driveway                    1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Garage                         1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

How many?

View                             1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Busy street                1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

OR

Cul de sac                   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Pool                              1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

  • Any other wishes for home exterior

Home buyer wish list: Kitchen

What is the ideal kitchen size?

  • Preferences for common amenities (If you selected a score in the extremes 1, 2 or 9, 10, please explain your reasoning for doing so)

Hate the idea                                      Love the idea

Eat in kitchen                         1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Separate dining room         1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Granite countertop              1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Appliances included            1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Gourmet kitchen                    1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

(Gourmet kitchen usually includes – spacious feel, high end appliances, pull out cabinets, built in cutting boards, granite or bacteria-retarding marble, bookshelves for cookbook display, etc.)

Walk in pantry                         1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Island/breakfast nook         1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Appliance color                      1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments: (If it is important, what color)

  • Any other wishes for the kitchen

Home buyer wish list: living room

  • What is the most important feature you are looking for in the living room?
  • Preferences for common amenities (If you selected a score in the extremes 1, 2 or 9, 10, please explain your reasoning for doing so)

Hate the idea                                      Love the idea

Fire place                       1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Vaulted ceiling             1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Carpeted                         1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

OR

Hardwood                        1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Formal Living room     1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

  • Any other wishes for the living room

Home buyer wish list: Master Bedroom

  • How big should the room be?
  • Should there be a bedroom in the first floor or does it not matter?
  • Preferences for common amenities (If you selected a score in the extremes 1, 2 or 9, 10, please explain your reasoning for doing so)

Hate the idea                                      Love the idea

Vaulted ceiling            1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

His and her sinks        1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Soaking tub                   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Separate shower         1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Has a View                     1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Fireplace                        1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Walk in closet               1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

  • Any other wishes for the living room

Home buyer wish list: Other rooms

  • What other rooms would you like and how important is that room is for you? (If you selected a score in the extremes 1, 2 or 9, 10, please explain your reasoning for doing so)

Hate the idea                                      Love the idea

2nd bedroom                                     1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

3rd bedroom                                      1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Media room                                        1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Separate den/office                         1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Big garage to use as workshop    1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Patio/deck                                     1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Workshop                                      1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Basement                                       1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Great room                                    1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Game room                                    1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Library                                     1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Mother-in-law suite                          1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Home buyer wish list: Other features

  • Preferences for other amenities (If you selected a score in the extremes 1, 2 or 9, 10, please explain your reasoning for doing so)

Hate the idea                                      Love the idea

Central AC/heat          1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Energy Efficient           1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Community pool         1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Clubhouse                      1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10        Comments:

Home buyer wish list: Wrap up

  • Using all the amenities and features listed above as a guideline, when will you pay the maximum end of your price range?
  • You won’t be able to find a house that has everything. If something has to go, which one would be the first to go and in the decreasing order of importance, list the features that you are willing to let go for a cheaper house or a better location.
  • What are some things that you cannot-live-without? In other words, if you find a house that doesn’t have these items, it is a deal breaker.

I have this entire wish list in a PDF with space to write on. Download it here.

I took this PDF and went on a “figuring out our dream home” date. Sitting in a coffee shop, we each filled out a copy of this sheet. We compared it side by side. Surprisingly, some of the things we were in total agreement on. Most of my love-it features were a don’t-care for my husband and vice versa. Same deal with many of the hate-it features.

There were a few things that ended up on opposite sides. The comment section on each of the love-it or hate-it features really helped us talk about it in a rational and logical way, so weren’t just jumping down each other’s throat. For example, I love stainless steel appliances because, well, they are pretty. My husband hates them because they show finger prints easily and are a pain to maintain in a clean, streak free conditions. I didn’t think about that at all. Knowing his reasoning helped me rethink my priorities. So that went in the “May be” category.

Both of us knew that unless we had unlimited money, we won’t be getting everything we wanted. We just wanted to make sure that the nest we pick for ourselves will have all our absolute necessities for us to be happy and then some. 

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Pauline

way to reach a compromise! you could also have gone for your option 1 and build your husband a shed in the garden :)

Reply

Suba

Pauline, that is the eventual plan. Right now, we can’t do that because the area we want to live in (close to jobs, we do not want a long commute) doesn’t have houses in large lots. We have to move to the country to get that. May be at some point during our financial independence, when we don’t need jobs, we would do that. When we do, that is the arrangement we are going for :)

Reply

Michelle

I love this list! All great things to think about.

Reply

My Financial Independence Journey

I’m generally concerned with how close my home is to work since I have to do that commute 5 days a week. After that, I’d like it to be close to fun and in an area that might make it easy to sell if I had to move. If I had a family I would want to make sure that it has enough room for them or for any foreseen growth. Then the kitchen – the kitchen must be good.

Reply

Suba

Yeah we are evaluating the house based on how easy it will be to sell/rent. Too close to the jobs, we need loads of money to get more than a condo. So we have to compromise on how far we want to go vs what we want in a house. 30 mins in traffic is the maximum we came up with, let us see how it goes.

Reply

Jenny @ Frugal Guru Guide

HA! My husband wanted to look at 1 bedroom condos when we had a 4-year-old. He grumbled enormously about the size of our current house–2 living, 4 bdrm, eat-in kitchen, no formal dining. Now we have 3 kids and are are using every inch of the house, with homeschooling, working from home, and guests. He’s changed his mind about “all that extra room” now!

Reply

Suba

:) Yeah that is what I told my husband. With both of us working from home, we are already on each others way with out one bedroom. If we add kids to the mix, it will be crazy with a house size he wants. We are looking at 3 bedrooms now.

Congrats on the baby!!!!

Reply

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