In hot real estate markets (like the ones many areas of the country are currently experiencing), it may seem like everyone wants the same features in a home. As available dwellings are snapped up within hours of listing—or even before listing—one wonders if people are looking at any factors besides location.
Even when homes are selling like hotcakes, though, it’s important to take a step back and examine what really matters to you. Before you start viewing properties and getting caught up in the excitement of one or two neat features, take stock of your priorities. Keeping your must-haves in the forefront of your mind can prevent you from being blinded by the little things, or from getting so caught up in a bidding war that your focus shifts only to winning.
Location and price are obviously high up on the list of priorities. But it’s likely you don’t have much wiggle room there. (We’ve heard of people buying and moving homes by semi truck and by barge, but they’re the exception.) Let’s examine how you can suss out some of the more aesthetically-focused (but just as important) must-have features as you begin your home search.
The personality: Unique and charming vs modern and minimalist?
Of course your new home will have a personality! Whether we’re aware of it or not, most homes ‘greet’ us in some fashion when we visit. Styles change based on the era of construction, the built-in features (i.e. arched doors, built-in shelves etc.), and even the outside finish (brick, stone, siding, etc.). Before shopping for a home, decide if Victorian-era charmers are off your list due to the increased maintenance, or if they indeed make the list for their charm. If sharp edges, sprawling countertops, and huge windows are more your style, your ideal home might be a modern build. ‘New’ doesn’t have to mean less personality, but it can mean less maintenance. It’s up to you to determine your preference.
The neighborhood: Ritzy restaurants or plenty of parks?
This one should be easy. Do you like to roll out of bed on Saturday and stroll down to the coffee shop? Maybe you follow that up with a trip to the farmer’s market before deciding which new restaurant to try that evening. If that’s your idea of a perfect Saturday, your priority will likely be a walkable, city location.
If your Saturday morning coffee is in a to-go mug to take on the bike trail, it’s easy enough to see where you’ll want to be. The country or a farther-flung suburb featuring a great park system might be one of your must-haves.
The flora: Glorious gardens or low maintenance lawn?
This could also be categorized as the curb appeal of your new home. While we all want the outside to look nice, how much work we’re willing to put into it varies. Perhaps you love designing gardens and filling them with your favorite flowers. If that’s your passion, one of your priorities should be a home with existing flower beds or green space that can be transformed.
Conversely, if your idea of heaven is a home with gravel instead of grass and lawn ornaments instead of trees, your priority should be a home with as little lawn as possible. Depending on your location and space needs, a condo or apartment might be the best options.
The floor plan: Wide open spaces or lotsa rooms with doors?
Have lotsa kids? You might want lotsa doors. 😉
We joke! But not really.
If you have many family members, you might very well want a room for each of them. Aside from that, what do you want your common areas to be? Do you like a kitchen that opens into the family room and dining room, making it easier for people to gather together?
Open floor plans have become very popular, but with the advent of COVID-19, many people saw the need for a separate office that granted them a quiet space to work. If the kiddos have remote school days, another room might be needed to prevent everyone’s Zoom calls from colliding.
It’s important to look ahead and try to predict what you might need as your family ages. While you can’t foresee every situation (I mean, did anyone predict a pandemic?), a little thought toward your future needs—as well as your present ones—can save you frustration down the line.
The kitchen: Top-of-the-line gourmet or back-to-basics simplicity?
Whether you live to cook or simply cook to live, the kitchen is almost always the heart of a home. People just like to gather near the food (and who can blame them, really?) While a double oven and a deep freezer seem really cool (pun intended there), if you never cook and don’t like to entertain, paying extra for a fancy kitchen isn’t a good use of capital. A standard, everyday kitchen will probably suit your needs. Then, you can pour that extra money into a theater room or a wine cellar and leave the house with the gourmet kitchen for your foodie friend. If you’re lucky, they’ll invite you over for dinner. Grab a bottle of red from the cellar and you’re all set!
The outside: Big gatherings on an elegant veranda or coffee for two on a tiny balcony?
If you tour a house and love, love, love everything about it only to walk outside and find it lacking, you’ve wasted both your time and that of the seller. Decide ahead of time if a large backyard for the kids is a deal-breaker. If it is, don’t even look at homes that lack this feature.
Similarly, if you absolutely cannot imagine life without opening your curtains to a gorgeous view of nature, the city skyline, or whatever your personal nirvana is, then make that your mission.
You’ll only be happy in your new home if you can live the life that suits you. If you lose sight of those key priorities, you’ll almost certainly regret it when the shininess wears off your newly-purchased domicile.
A little help
When it’s time to shop for a home, it can be surprisingly difficult to pin down what you really want and need versus what you kinda want and don’t actually need.
Our Smart Search platform allows you to choose the features you must have, and then shows you homes with only those features. Save yourself the effort of sifting through paragraphs filled with descriptions of things you don’t want!
(As of March 2022, Smart Search is available in the Phoenix, Dallas and Houston markets right now, with more to come.)
It’s all about priorities, people. Determine those (with a little help from Smart Search), and everything else will (eventually) fall into place.