Why You Need a House-Hunting Wish List

A house hunting wish list is a crucial tool for any home-buyer.The other day at a coffee shop, I overheard a young couple talking about their upcoming house-hunt. "I always wanted to live in a cute, two-story bungalow," the wife said. "Bungalows are great," the husband said, "and I think split-levels can be kind of funky, in a cool way."

"Yes, we should definitely look at split-levels -- and ranches, too!" the wife said.

This enthusiastic couple was all over the map. True, some home-buyers don't know exactly what they want until they start looking. But I wanted to lean over and join their conversation. "You need to create a house-hunting wish list," I would've told them, "it'll make this process so much easier!"

SImply put, a house-hunting wish list is an outline of everything you want, don't want, and absolutely need in a home, plus any non-negotiable deal-breakers. Your wish list becomes your road map, guiding you and your Realtor to only those properties that make sense to see. This is a crucial tool for anyone looking to buy a home -- and it's something we encourage virtually all of our home-buyers to do.

Here is a sample wish list that you can download and use for yourself -- be sure to make a separate copy for every home you view, so you can compare and keep track of them later:

House Hunting Wish List

When my husband and I were looking for our current home, our wish list saved us time -- when we'd looked at a few homes we didn't like, I started feeling desperate. I sent our Realtor a link to a home for sale -- it was ranch-style, newer construction, far outside the Beltline -- and I asked her to make an appointment. She immediately emailed back: "You've told me you want a two-story, older home closer to the Isthmus -- are you sure you want to look at this?" Her reality check was exactly what I needed.

And our wish list saved us heartache -- when we found another home in our preferred neighborhood that had zero yard space, no garage, and not even a driveway, it didn't matter to me how "perfect" the online pictures looked. Off-street parking and at least a little bit of yard were non-negotiable, so we moved on without thinking twice.

Many buyers eventually have to make a few compromises with their wish lists -- for example, we wanted a formal entryway and a wood stove. The home we bought has neither -- but it does have arched doorways and wood floors and lots of windows (also on our wants list), as well as a garage and space for a vegetable garden (on our needs list).

Every buyer's lifestyle is different, and so the kinds of things you include on your wish list will be different, too. But we see some common themes. Most buyers' wish lists include mention of at least a couple of the following items:

  • Yard space
  • Garage/off-street parking
  • Fixer-upper vs. move-in ready
  • Architectural style (ranch, split-level, two-story, etc.)
  • Age/condition of big-ticket items (roof, furnace, etc.)
  • Size of kitchen
  • Central A/C
  • Fireplace/wood stove
  • # of stories
  • # of bedrooms
  • Minimum total square feet
  • Vintage architectural details
  • High vs. low-traffic street
  • Proximity to schools, businesses, and other amenities

So, how do you know what you want, need, and absolutely wouldn't like? If you're a first-time home-buyer, that's sometimes hard to determine. Sometimes it's helpful to visit a few open houses -- of different architectural styles, in different neighborhoods -- to see how different kinds of homes "feel".

It's also helpful to ask home-owning friends and family for their advice. When we were looking for our first home, we asked friends what they would look for, the next time they bought a house. We got some great advice that way -- and we knew to look for certain things that we may not have thought of otherwise.

It's hard to know what will make you fall in love with a house. Every now and then, a buyer whose heart is set on a bungalow near the lake falls in love with a suburban split-level, and vice versa. In those cases, the wish list can fly out the window. But most of the time, it's an essential tool -- something that makes almost every home search easier. How? ROOST's own Jessica Riphenburg explains:

Before viewing homes, we’ll review your house-hunting wish list together, discussing the types of properties you should anticipate finding, and helping you adjust or clarify wish list items if needed. We'll also help you set realistic expectations and uncover flexible wish list items. Many buyers, for example, need three bedrooms, but through discussions with us, they may discover that a two-bedroom with finished basement space would also work. By opening yourself up to this option, you may find homes with more updates, better floor plans, or in your “top choice” neighborhoods. The worst thing you can do is create overly restrictive criteria, resulting in missed opportunities, wasted time, and unnecessary frustration.

We keep a copy of your wish list on file and refer to it until we've found the right home for you. We'll ask you several questions throughout showings and take notes regarding your feedback. We may discuss revising the list as we go, if we realize that certain items aren’t as important as you initially thought, or if you have additional criteria that wasn’t originally on the list. Since we have a strong sense of neighborhoods, inventory, and price points, we can introduce you to areas and homes you might not have know about.

Bu using your wish list, combined with our knowledge and expertise, we'll help to save you time and money, while making the process as stress free and enjoyable as possible!

So, download your House Hunting Wish List today, and start looking!