Having been pre-approved for your planned mortgage, you know what you can afford, so it’s time to start home shopping. But you won’t be able to find your dream home if you don’t know what it is.
Use this comprehensive checklist to identify exactly what you want and need in a home before you start searching listings or attending open houses.
If you want a large or old-fashioned house, you can talk in general terms, but you need to think specifically about it before starting your real estate search. Will you be looking for a 1,800-square-foot house or a 7,000-square-foot house? When you say “older” house, do you mean a home built before 1900?
It’s worth considering that having a pool may increase your home insurance costs, so sit down before you check out another open house and determine what you need and want.
Once you learn more about your housing options, you may change your requirements. Initially, you may consider proximity to the beach a priority, but once you see how large ocean-front homes are available within your price range, you might decide that a short drive is acceptable. You’re likely to have to make compromises along the way unless you have an unlimited budget.
Here are a few tips and questions that will help you figure out what you like and don’t like about your current home, so you can find your dream home more comfortable and enjoyable. Using this printable checklist, rank specific home features according to whether they are “Must Have,” “Want to Have” or “Doesn’t Matter.”
Make sure you know your finances
Having your finances in order before searching for your dream house can make all the difference. Knowing your budget and the amount of wiggle room you have will give you a better idea of what’s important to you.
What are your savings for a down payment and future repairs?
Do you want a turnkey property or do you want to do some renovations?
How far along are you with your mortgage application?
How much are you willing to spend?
Plan for the future while considering your current lifestyle
It may be impossible for you to even begin imagining your future home if you do not have a picture-perfect image in mind. It may help to consider your basic needs and non-negotiables in a home first. Take a moment to reflect on where you live now — what are your favourite things about it, and what needs to be changed? Consider whether:
If you intend to have a home office or recreation area in the future, you will need space
A fenced yard is necessary for your pets
It’s important to you that you can walk
In the next couple of years, you plan on changing jobs
Access is needed when needing a wheelchair or for persons with disabilities
Is street parking sufficient or do you need a parking space
Choose the type and style of home you prefer
You will be able to determine what features you need in a house once you have figured out the basics. Search for homes on real estate portals using keywords to narrow down your options. Consider the types of homes available in neighbourhoods where you want to buy. Ask yourself these questions when you search.
Would you like to read more than one storey?
Are you interested in living in a single-family house, a condo, or a townhouse?
If you lived in an old house, would you like it?
How many bedrooms do you have?
How many bathrooms are there?
Do you need a guest room?
Which type of flooring do you prefer?
Do you prefer any particular architectural style?
Which room is your favourite, and why do you enjoy spending time there?
Are you a fan of spending time outside if you have an outdoor space?
How do you feel about taking care of a yard… do you enjoy it or do you find it burdensome? (Be honest!)
Decide on a location
Changing the paint colour of your home or adding an extension can refresh the look of your home, but it is not possible to change where your home is located. It’s easy to get caught up in the features of your dream home, but you should also think about your surroundings:
What is your preference for urban, suburban, or rural living?
Is traffic noise a problem for you when you are trying to sleep?
Are you interested in living in a particular city?
Is public transportation or highway access important to you?
Are you interested in getting involved in community activities?
Can you walk or bike to parks?
What is your budget for property taxes and/or HOA fees?
Is the view important?
Learn about the neighbourhood
It’s always a good idea to explore the neighbourhood before buying a home in the perfect location. Before buying, ask yourself the following questions:
Is your neighbourhood a good fit for you?
What is your commute like? Do you like it?
When you need groceries, want to drop by the community centre, or go to a medical clinic, do you have to travel far?
Do you have enough activities going on around you – or are there too many?
Make sure you document your visit
As you tour the home, compare its features with the checklist you made. Do any of your must-haves need to be revised?
Don’t forget to get a feel for the home and consider anything you may have overlooked. While the paint can be changed and the furniture can be changed, there are some things that cannot be changed, such as:
How much space do you have? Is it enough?
Is the finish and fixtures to your liking?
How do you feel about the windows (enough natural light, well placed, too sunny)?
Is the home appealing from the outside?
Can you think of any places where you could use more space?
If you had to describe the layout, how would you do it?
Is there sufficient parking at the house?
Finding the right agent to work with for your search will be easier once you know what you’re looking for. Determine your priorities to find the perfect house.