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Wants vs. Needs Checklist for Homebuyers

The home buying process can look as different as each buyer, and it’s important to sort out your personal wants vs. needs before you can find the right home for you. All of this information and the emotions that come with the home buying process make a clear checklist of wants and needs an essential tool.

Let’s start with the "needs"

Start with the necessities. Your checklist's “need” category is precisely that, items that you need to have when buying your home, things that you can't change, such as location, type of home, space, and potential for expansion. All that needs to stay withi your budget!

#1 Location

How close to work do you want to be? How about schools and shopping?

#2 Adequate space (different for everyone).

Adding square footage will be expensive.

#3 Staying within budget.

Sticking to a set budget is crucial when choosing your next home. Needing to stay within budget is something that will trump most other items on your checklist. It’s important to set a budget early on in the home buying process and to stick to it. If you overspend on the house, you will be strapped for cash to add any of your “wants”.

#4 Type of home.

Do you crave privacy or love to garden and want a single-family home? Or do you prefer a condo or townhome where exterior maintenance is included and your neighbors are close?

And now for the "wants"

Next, we have the “want” category of your checklist. These are items that you want but can live without. They could also be added to your home at a later point in time. The wants should be flexible, as you should be willing to compromise if the home doesn’t have what you exactly want.

Wants could include:

  • Central air conditioning (can be a need for some)

  • Fireplace

  • Screened in porch

  • Large fenced yard

  • Backyard pool

Consider the following as you develop your needs vs. wants list:

How long do you plan to live in your home?

What are your long-term goals? They will most likely impact the duration of time you spend in your next home. When moving forward, these long-term goals will also impact what you consider a “Need” vs. a “Want”.

Set realistic expectations.

If you are trying to find everything you want in one house, be prepared to be disappointed. Start your research early to better understand what is currently available, what the market is like, and what you can afford, to be emotionally and financially ready.

What do you like/dislike about your current living situation?

Take that knowledge and incorporate into your list. When separating the nice-to-haves from the must-haves, think about those items that will add value to the house, and those that will not. Home features like the countertops or flooring can be value-adds, while more personalized features like a unique accent wall color might not be.

When buying a home, always keep in mind that interior and exterior aesthetics can easily be changed and updated at a later time. Items such as flooring, carpets, paint color, and appliances can all be changed.

“Our list of needs and wants for our next home included things we couldn’t do to our current one, such as a wood burning fireplace and screened porch, as well as central air conditioning. Who knew we would fall in love with a 100-year-old farmhouse on the Eastern Shore? The location and water view sent a couple of our wants out the window. No fireplace, but there is a woodstove, and the three season porch with views of the bay. So, it’s back to stripping wallpaper, updating the kitchen and swapping out the woodstove for a fireplace. And because we stayed within budget, we will also finally be getting central air, which had also been one of our wants."

Final Note: So the house you fell in love with doesn't have central air conditioning, or a screened porch, but you love everything else about it. Can you live with window air conditioners for a while? Is there room to add a porch in the future, or is that something you can do without in order to have more interior space or a larger yard? It's time to strike that balance between needs and wants!


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