Wants vs. Needs When House Hunting

It’s hard to believe that I started the official house hunting process 6 months ago and have been a homeowner for just over 4 months. Holy cow this year has FLOWN by! The home buying process was a crazy roller coaster and I have SO much to share with you guys about it!

Today I want to talk about wants vs. needs when house hunting. Because honestly, the two can start to blur together. The #1 thing you need to do before you even start looking at houses is figure out your priorities. What are absolute must haves and what could you live without? Are there any deal breakers?

Wants vs. needs when house hunting

I started with my basic list but then quickly readjusted once I started actually going to look at houses in person. Because things I thought were just a want, ended up being a need – like a fenced in yard for my pup. Ultimately, my list ended up looking like this:

  • Need: 3+ bedrooms, 2+ bathrooms, appliances included, fenced in yard, in budget, garage
  • Want: Pool, bonus room, specific area of town, nook, closet organization, upgrades
  • Deal Breaker: Lots of work, small secondary bedrooms

It’s rare that you’re going to get every single thing on your want AND need list (unless you’re building from scratch), so prioritizing really helps! Plus, it seems like houses are flying off the market pretty quickly everywhere, so knowing what you want is key!

To help with the process, I used my favorite resources, Redfin and Zillow, to keep tabs on the houses on the market. The best part? Setting filters in the mobile app based on what I was looking for, which were primarily price range, number of bedrooms/bathrooms, and area of town.

Since I knew my search was serious and that I wanted to find something before the apartment lease was up, I also enabled push notifications so anytime a new house went up within the parameters that I set up, I’d be notified. It was using this method that I ended up finding, loving, and buying my first home!

If you’re wondering, my house doesn’t include everything on the wants and needs list. And that’s ok. My needs (the most important) were all met, and I did get lucky with several of my “wants” as well!

What are your wants, needs, and deal breakers for a house?

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  • I’ve owned 3 houses since I became an adult. Each time my list changes for what I want and need, but I really love house hunting.

    • I can definitely see wants/needs changing over the years. I agree that house hunting is so fun though! You get so many great ideas!

  • Gabriela Cerdas

    We are in the process of buying our first house and it is so difficult to understand that we can´t have it all :(. It´s good to make a list like this one.

    • Something you definitely have to remind yourself of a lot along the way :) I hope you have a smooth process!

  • Caroline

    So hard to have it all when you’re on a limited budget. Bought a house and moved in the week before I gave birth, such a stressful time!

    • Oh wow! I can’t imagine doing all of that at once! And totally agree about even more limitations on a budget, especially since you see all the fancy things on Pinterest, haha!

  • Buying a house is so hard these days!! Everything is super expensive!!

    • So true! The bidding wars + how fast things fly off the market are insane!

  • Ugh, in the Boston market there is no Want list…it’s all a huge bidding war and we usually lose out b/c we’re first time home buyers….We’ve been searching the market for about a year now with no luck. I’m glad you found yours so quickly though! You make me want to move back South lol

    • Ugh, I’m sorry :( There’s been a lot of bidding wars here too, but fortunately not as many in the area I was looking. I hope you find something soon! If not, the south would be happy to have you back!

  • Amanda Faber

    Congrats on the new home and great tips for first time buyers!

  • I really wanted a specific neighborhood and it became a blurred want/need because of the commute (or lack thereof, lol!) to work. Luckily, we were able to get into it within our budget, but it definitely meant compromising on other things we wanted. The market is ridiculous right now, so I’m excited you did find something you wanted to buy!!

  • We haven’t purchased a house yet, mostly because the prices in Vancouver are so insane that we wouldn’t get anything from a want OR need list with our budget!

  • Kari Jonard

    I used Redfin and Zillow a lot too at first but what I found out was that they were a couple steps behind the market. Every house I wanted to see from them was either already under market or was already sold. My realtor gave me access to their portal which they said was the best place to see homes quickly.

  • Miss ALK

    I’m years and years away from owning a home but these are great tips! Can definitely relate them to renting too!

    xoxo A
    http://www.southernbelleintraining.com

  • mckenna bleu

    A house with a pool is the dream!

  • It’s funny how different buying a house is compared to renting an apartment! I thought I knew my wants and needs before buying a home, but it’s so hard to know until you’re there. For example, for our next home, I”m going to NEED a sunny yard. Right now we live in the shade, and we get lots of bugs and it’s hard to grow grass. Would have never thought of that before buying!

    • I couldn’t agree more! Although once you have the sunny yard you’ll probably want the shady yard, haha. The way of the world :)

  • Jennifer Schmidt

    Buying a house is so complicated and finding what you want can take a long time. Renting is easy but I like to be able to do what I want to my home.

    • Very true! That was the biggest downfall of renting – I couldn’t do all of the things that I wanted. It’s nice to not have to worry about that now!

  • This is such an interesting post! I have no idea what my needs or wants are because I haven’t even thought about purchasing, but you’ve inspired me to really think about those things! Right now, I would just be happy with more than one bedroom and potentially a fenced in yard for my dog to play in :) haha

    XO, SS || Seersucker Sass

    • Thank you! They’re all really important things to consider + you’ll be ahead of the game when the time finally comes to purchase :)

  • Were trying to purchase a home within the next year and we want a 3+ bedroom 2+ bathroom home with no carpet and decent sized bedrooms and closets. I’d love an upgraded kitchen but that’s more of a want than a need haha.

    • Girl, I totally feel you on that upgraded kitchen want! There will be plenty of time for us to get to all of those home projects over the years though if it’s not 100%!

  • thesophiadiaries

    Hmmmmm… definitely a good idea to do that break down! I definitely think it’s important to make distinctions. I totally think the categories work for apartment hunting too :)

    • So true! What are some of your must-haves and/or deal breakers in a place?

  • Sharon Glascoe

    Hello from a fellow Florida girl! I live in GA now but I was born and raised in Florida. We also have the same deal breakers in common. I grew up in a brand new home because my community was constantly growing. So that made me a tad spoiled. Therefore, I’ve always longed for homes that were easy to maintain with little maintenance. So glad you were able to find a home that you loved!

  • uhhh i struggle so much with this – I convince myself we need 4 bedrooms and a bonus room haha! I am fine renting for now because the needs vs. wants thing is to real of a struggle haha

  • We got a house with a pool and I am SO THANKFUL! Idk what we would do after weeding the garden on a hot day…the pool saves us alllll the time!

    • That’s amazing! And ugh, weeding is my least favorite thing! Mainly because last week a bug came crawling out when I pulled a weed up. Ugh!!

  • Erika

    I love this, writing down exactly what you want and what you are wiling to compromise on is such a great way to start the process!! -Erika- MyRevampedLife.com

  • Love this! I’m actually working on my real estate license, and these are all so important for buyers to remember! Some things can be changed – yards can be fences, walls repainted, etc., but the size of the house can’t all that much, and there’s always something that needs doing in a house. So a long to-do list from day 1 is only going to get longer! And love Redfin and Zillow!

  • This is a great post for people that may be first-time home buyers! I love browsing Zillow in my free time and dreaming about getting a house some day!

  • Christa Stull

    I’ll be needing these tips next May!

    • So exciting! Have you started thinking about what you’re going to look for?

  • IamBryant

    This is a great post for someone who is house hunting, especially for the first time. I think that we all try to focus on our wants too much, but when hunting for a house it is almost impossible for all of our wants to be met.

  • linda spiker

    I always struggles between needs and wants with EVERYTHING but especially living spaces. Thanks for the tips!

    • I feel you, Linda! It’s a HUGE investment so you want to make sure it’s perfect (or as close to perfect as possible)!

  • Haha I always yell ‘thats a need!’ when watching House Hunters haha.

    • Haha YES. That show + Pinterest totally distorted my views on what a home NEEDS to be. Fortunately, I was able to put that aside and be a little more realistic considering the budget constraints :)

  • Yay!!! This is such an exciting time. I went through this process two years ago and learned so much. I recently wrote a post about things that could help people going through what you are going through. Enjoy it! So fun owning. I am already thinking about what I want for the next house! haha it never ends

    http://lifeaskait.com/tips-buying-first-home/

  • Love this! My hubby and I are just starting our search and are diving into our wants and needs list. Although – we’re still finalizing haha!

    Kenzie
    SimplyJandK.com

    • How exciting! It can definitely be a process. Have you finalized anything on the list or is it all still in flux?

  • Adriana

    Breaking down your wants vs needs is so important! It isn’t necessarily a “need”, but I’ve always had a pool so when I have my first own home, I will definitely need a pool in my house haha!

    • I so relate! Unfortunately my house doesn’t have one, BUT my neighborhood has one for residents that I can use if I’m getting pool withdraws, haha.

  • My brother bought his first house a little over a year ago, and he had to make some compromises, too. House hunting is not something I’m looking forward too (and thank goodness I have a few years).
    with southern grace,
    Lindsey
    http://www.withsoutherngrace.blogspot.com

    • It’s really exciting and also tough at the same time. I hope when the time comes it’s smooth sailing for you!

  • Lynn White

    Such a great article and so important! When we bought our house almost a month ago, I had to give up my big kitchen. The house we bought is perfect, except the kitchen. Even though I spend more time there than any room in our house since I cook 6 days/week, it was worth it. I refused to live in a house that had a Homeowner’s Association.

    • Thank you! Congrats on your new home :) I know it’s tough to give up some of those big wants, but I’m glad everything else was perfect for you!

  • My boyfriend and I are trying to buy a house in the near future and we definitely can’t get everything on our want list. It is so important to think critically about what is a true necessity and what is an added luxury (:

  • Elly Leavitt

    ack a pool would be so fun! love differentiating between “needs” and “wants”… def something I need to consider more when apartment hunting. x

    • Absolutely! I hope you find the apartment of your dreams!

  • Christine Martinez

    Good luck! I can’t wait till I start looking for a home to buy! :)

    • It can be a little daunting but it’s also really exciting! Can’t wait for you to start the process yourself!

  • Anna Hubbard

    The difference between a want and a need are very important when house hunting! It’s always ridic what people on House Hunters “need” in order to live. Like okay Janice, I don’t think you NEED 8 guest bedrooms but if you say so…

    • Haha, YES. You definitely need to put it into perspective. If we all went around insisting our wants were needs we’d totally blow the budget!

  • I love your door mat. You bring up great points about assessing your wants vs needs- it definitely helps you stick to your budget. Good luck with house hunting!

    • Thanks :) It definitely does help! Glad I was able to find the perfect starter home!

  • Caitlin

    That is a really reasonable list, thanks for sharing!

    Beauty & Colour | Vegan Lifestyle Blog

  • Victoria McGill

    That’s a great list! I hope you find somewhere you love!

  • I don’t even have to look for a house, but I already know what I want. Definitely have to make a list of what I will need hahaha

    • It can be tough to distinguish between the two for sure!

  • Vicki C

    Great tips! Glad you got what you needed!

  • Yes! Being able to choose what’s a want vs. what’s a need is sososo hard, but also so important when house hunting! Glad you found a place that fits your needs and even incorporates some of your wants!

  • House hunting is so much fun! We didn’t get all of of wants when looking for our house (the yard was a mess and the kitchen and bathrooms were so outdated) but it’s slowly coming together! Glad you found a house you liked!

    • Thanks, Cynthia! I’m glad to hear things are coming together with your house! You definitely can’t win ’em all but sometimes you can get a great deal on something that needs a little more work!

  • Woo! I don’t even want to think about house hunting, lol. I can barely hunt for a new apartment without getting a headache.

    • It is kind of crazy, isn’t it?! I think if you know what you want it’ll make it a lot less stressful!

  • I’m looking forward to house hunting (kind of) when that time comes, although I have a feeling a lot of my ‘wants’ are going to become ‘needs’ :P

    • It definitely happens! I thought a fenced in yard would be a nice to have but after seeing some houses with and some without, I realized I definitely needed it for my dog!

  • Leighann Hall

    Oh boy, house hunting is SO hard. Wants vs. needs definitely blur. We ended up going with a fixer-upper, so it was rough!

    • They sure do! That’s why I think it’s important to really evaluate them! I think fixer-uppers are good too (if you like DIY/handy projects) – I just knew that would be tough for me! Haha

  • Yay, so glad you found a house with all your “needs”! Is it nosy to kind of want to see your new house?? xx

    • Thank you! And not at all, haha. I love seeing what people do with their spaces! I’ll be starting to share more soon!

  • Shannon Graham

    I absolutely loved Zillow when searching for our house. We got a crazy good deal on an investment home because of that site!

    • That’s great! Those search parameters are so helpful!

  • I’ve never purchased a house but a lot of this can advice can be used for renting as well. I agree that the most important thing is to lay out what you are looking for because it can be very overwhelming especially if you are on a deadline! :)

  • A deal breaker on a house is a yard that is unmanageable or looks like a ton of work. My husband is severely allergic to grass and I just hate yard work. A want and need on a house would be having ample closet space! Especially in the pantry. We are currently bursting out of our pantry so having a big pantry would be a need for us.

  • A deal breaker for us are small rooms as well! We also love the openness of newer floor plans, but that isn’t always an option depending on budget! Loved reading more about your wants verses needs in a home! Makes me think more about the home buying process and that stage of life is coming so quickly!

  • Kaitlyn Fickle Killebrew

    After recently buying a home last year I can say a lot of our needs were similar! My husband had many more wants than me but I think we ended up right where we belong!

    • So glad to hear that! Still hard to believe we’re homeowners, right?!

  • Trecee Hutchinson

    I am about to start house hunting and this list is so helpful! My biggest deal breaker is needing lots of updates and termite damage!

    • So glad to hear it! Those sound like really good things for the deal breaker category. I hope you’re able to find the perfect home!

  • Agreed, some of my wants weren’t met, but to be honest the fact that we were afforded the option to even buy a home was a wonderful thing for us!

    • Such a good way to look at it, Alex! It’s such a huge milestone in life!

  • Amy

    Such great points. I will def have to save this for when I go househunting in the future~

    xoxo,

    Amy | Pastel N Pink

  • mQs

    Such a great post. In the next year or two I’ll be house hunting!

    • Yay! It’s never too early to start thinking about your wants and needs (and of course browsing listings online)!

  • We just went through this…. my advice. Keep sticking to your guns! We are now building a house in a new neighborhood and got so much more for our money! Best of luck to you!

    xx,

    Lacey//theglittergospelblog.com

    • That’s amazing! I totally agree about not settling. So happy to have found the perfect first home!

  • What a great list! I will be buying a home soon and this helps so much!

    • Thanks, Silvia! So exciting that you’ll be looking to buy soon! What would you say are your must-haves or deal breakers?

  • Emily

    Awesome list! We are currently in the process of house hunting.

    • Thanks, Emily! I hope you find the perfect house!

  • Shakeia Rieux

    This will help a lot when I decide to go house hunting. Some of the things on the list I never thought about, but I will definitely keep this in mind

  • tannawings

    Wants VS Needs actually applies to most things. Wants are fleeting and may not be what you truly want. Kinda like a wish and it doesnt quite turn out how you planned.
    A need, is something you NEED youre going to make good use of it, it is going to valuable to you and please you.
    Congrats on your new home!

  • Dana Rodriguez

    Thanks for sharing the resources you used. And congrats on your new home! We are probably going to be looking for a home in the near future.

  • rochelle33

    Thanks for sharing will use next time i am looking

  • These are such great tips! I always remind myself when I am looking for housing that this isn’t my dream home, just my “right now” home and try to prioritize what is most important to me!

    xx katie // a touch of teal

  • Really great tips!! Love that door mat!!

  • Deborah Gardner

    Such a great reminder! Pretty soon we’ll be looking to buy our first house and the wants seem to be so distracting!