Separating Wants From Needs

Separating Wants from Needs

What do you want in a home? It’s a simple question. But it’s not necessarily the right one to ask when you’re preparing to start the house hunt. Add a few more words and you’ve got a better question: What do you want in a home, and what do you really need? Carefully considering your wants and needs is a key early step. You’re not likely to get everything you want in a home, unless you’re building it from the ground up (with the budget to match). Your home search could be a frustrating experience unless you separate the things you truly need from the amenities and features you’d love to have but can live without.Consider “needs” to be true essentials that aren’t easy (or possible) to change. These are genuine must-haves that leave little room for compromise. Your “wants” are the kind of non-essential things readymade for a wish list.

Make a list

Make a list with two columns – wants versus needs. Your needs should include things like location, school districts, neighborhood, your budget, number of bedrooms, features and amenities, plumbing and electrical that are updated, lot size, number of garage spaces, HOAs and Covenants. Wants may include nonessentials such as the specific style of the home, a newer furnace and hot water heater, remodeled kitchen or baths, deck, pool, hot tub, flooring material, fireplace or wood stove, newer windows and/or landscaping.


This one isn’t exactly easy to change. Do you need to be in a certain school district or closer to work? Are you looking for a more urban setting or would you rather be nestled in the suburbs? Younger buyers without a family on the horizon might want to live closer to city centers. Property taxes and homeowners insurance costs can vary depending on the location, and those can have a real impact on your homebuying budget.


This is usually where the “want” floodgates open. Many buyers want things like a master bedroom with adjoining bathroom; fireplaces; updated kitchen with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances; hardwood floors; updated bathrooms; walk-in closets; patio or deck; and so much more. And it’s OK to want all of this and more. But try to prioritize all those amenities and features and determine if any are true needs. If you’re passionate about woodworking or some other hobby, you might need a dedicated workspace in a basement or a garage. Maybe a media room or an eat-in kitchen is a true need for you. On the other hand, some buyers reject outright any property with a swimming pool because of the upkeep and costs. The key is to be honest and open with yourself. You also have to be flexible. It’s not uncommon for both needs and wants to change as you look at more homes. Amenities you thought were essential might become less so the more properties you see. On the other hand, something that started out as a “want” might move into the “need” category as the home tours roll on.

Time in Home

The average homebuyer expects to live in their home for about 14 years, according to the National Association of Realtors. But everyone’s situation is different. If you’re likely to PCS a few years after purchasing, your wants and needs might be a lot different than someone planning to stay in the home longer. If you’re likely to move in the coming years, schools can be important even if you don’t currently have school-age children. Many future buyers will have good schools high on their shopping lists. Factor in your short- and long-term goals and plans when you’re thinking about wants and needs.


It’s important to understand that different wants and needs come with different costs, all of which vary depending on the housing market you’re in, the price range and more. Sellers want to recoup their investments in things granite counter tops, jetted tubs, three-car garages and more. Newer features and sought-after amenities are likely to drive up a seller’s asking price. Keep your loan preapproval and your housing budget at the forefront.