Shopping when you’re hungry can lead to disaster. Either you spend too much, fail to get the food you came for – or both. Though you went to the store for a week’s worth of meals and with the best intentions, you’ll arrive home with a bag of oatmeal, a trunk full of gelato and the ingredients for an exotic french feast you’ve been wanting to make ever since you saw that film…unless you make a list. A list will save you.
Shopping for a house is no different. Though you may have been dreaming of your new home for years before you start looking, it’s a good idea to get your thoughts down on paper. Think of it as drawing up a contract with yourself. Because when you’re feeling pressured by market conditions, your spouse, price fluctuations or “once-in-a-lifetime opportunities,” you can lose your head and jump on the first thing you want.
Of course, drawing up a truly useful list when it comes to buying a home is far more complex than making a grocery list. So to get you headed in the right direction, here are several things to consider when you start putting pen to paper:
Location, Location, Location: This one is the big one. Where you live affects where your children go to school, where you work (or don’t), the length of your commute, whether or not you can walk to the store when you need a loaf of bread and whether or not that bread is fresh-baked. The location of your home will also have the biggest impact on what it’s worth in years to come. So get ready to take a good hard look at where you’re willing to live (or not) because it will have the single biggest impact on your day-to-day life.
House Size: Yes, size matters. What’s the biggest house you’d want to maintain? The bigger your space, the more care it demands and the more costly it is to heat and maintain. On the other hand, what’s the smallest house you could live in comfortably with your family? Though you may only need a single bedroom for sleeping, are you both homebodies that will be tripping over each other in a tiny house? What about an office?
Lot Size: Of course cramped quarters can always be expanded if your lot is big enough so you should also consider how much land you need. Would a semi-detatched home suit you? What about a garden? Are you a farmer at heart that needs to grow their own beans or are you over it and looking for someone else to mow the lawn? Find out what your parameters are on either end of the scale for both house and lot size. Mull this over carefully and never budge!
Architecture: Face the facts – you can’t turn a Victorian mansion into a cool mid-century rancher and you can make a log cabin into a cute French provincial. The architecture of a building is what it is and if it’s not what you’re looking for, it won’t really work out between you two. There’s nothing worse than 1970 split-level home with fake scrollwork and a gabled addition. Ick. So include architecture in your list as well.
Privacy: Are you the kind of person who likes to leave all your curtains open? Do you avoid your neighbours or do you rush outside when they’re in the yard? Do you like to practice your drumming at midnight? How much privacy and seclusion you need or don’t need is important to your day to day life. Even houses in the city can have private yards and cleverly laid out lots, so if privacy is important to you – put it on the list.
Needs and Wants: It’s important to prioritize these when you’re looking for a home because as you shop for a home you’ll be presented with whole worlds of possibilities. Do you need a bathroom for your teenagers? A garage? A fence? Do you want a workshop? A fireplace? A sauna? Hardwood floors? Write them all down and then put them in order, most important to least important, to help keep things in perspective while you look.
Making the list doesn’t have to be hard, but it will take at least an hour or two. Every minute you spend will be worth it though. Once you’re done, you’ll be better prepared to sort through the myriad of housing choices available to you. You’ll also be able to clearly tell your REALTOR exactly what you’re looking for so they can help you find it!