Setting Priorities and Organizing Them for Home Buying

Planning to purchase your first or next home is very exciting (if a little scary). Setting priorities can be a challenge.

Setting priorities is key to your success, but not easy for many reasons:

There are so many things you may want or even expect: a price in budget, a good and quiet neighborhood, and turnkey condition, certain schools, a larger home or yard, a tree lined street, a pool, a cottage, or any number of things. 

Before looking, you may be positive that what you want for the price you can pay is doable because you saw homes online and they looked about right.

Setting priorities - a checklist of commonly sought after features in a home to purchaseThe first time or two out and really looking at homes for sale can be very disturbing.  After seeing acceptable looking homes online, why are the homes you are looking at still so terrible for the money when you see them in person?

Or why are the disclosures filled with a long litany of needed repairs?

This is the adjustment to reality period, and it’s stressful and depressing for most first time home buyers in Santa Clara County. (See Managing real estate stress and worry on another of my sites.)

Adjusting and Setting Priorities

Some buyers have a must-have list that doesn’t line up with their budget at all.

How do you get your must-have list ranked so that you can buy something that’s in reach?

Start asking yourself (or yourselves) some either-or questions.

  • Which is more important to you, home size or home condition? (Smaller house in great shape or larger house that needs work?)
  • Which really is more important: having 3 bedrooms and 2 baths close to work, or on a nicer street with a further commute?
  • Is it better for you to get a low price and put in the “sweat equity” later, or would you prefer to buy a turnkey home but pay top dollar for it?
  • Do you have to have a formal dining room or would you give that up to be on a better street?

Most people want or expect more than they can actually afford in the current market. This is true in all price ranges, whether entry level condos or luxury homes.

One of my Realtor friends likes to say that if you have 3 items on your list (price, location, home size), the odds are good that you’ll get two out of three. That’s often the case.

Often the choice comes down to location – you may be able to get what you want for your budget, but not where you want it.  The trade-off may come in the way of a longer commute, lesser school district, higher crime area or some other factor.

Or, if location is a non-negotiable, your choice may be to get into a certain area with fabulous schools or a great little downtown area, but instead of a house, you’ll be purchasing a condo or townhouse. Or a house which needs a whole lot of work, or is smaller and has a smaller yard than you want.

Write down everything that you want, but start with two categories: the must have list and the want to have list. This is the first step in setting priorities. (Include things to avoid, too.)

Now pare down your must have list as much as possible (whether it’s budget, amenities, geography or anything else) to what you believe is your true, top priorities – only allow yourself five or ten items on this list. The shorter it is, the more attainable it will become, most likely. (more…)