How long do you think the average Canadian spends hunting for a home?
One month? Two? The answer is five months, according to a 2013 poll. Five long and stressful months of traipsing through dozens of showings, searching for the perfect home. It’s enough to make anyone consider becoming a permanent renter instead.
But finding the perfect home doesn’t have to be a stressful or prolonged experience. By following my guide below, you’ll be able to create a clearly defined list of criteria that’ll help you find your dream home with minimal stress and time.
In fact, the methods I outline below are how I found my dream home in just a few months and with only five properties viewed.
First, I wrote down everything I needed in my home. My list contained items that I required to be happy. These were my needs. Here are some examples of common needs:
- A minimum number of bedrooms
- A parking space
- Proximity to family or work
Everyone’s list of needs will be different because everyone values different things. For example, my needs list involved a walkable and bikeable neighbourhood, at least two bedrooms, a parking space, and a backyard. As avid gardeners and pet owners, a backyard was important to my husband and me, but it might not be important to you.
Once you write down all of your needs, make a separate list of wants. A want is a feature in a home that would be great to have, but isn’t a deal breaker. Here are some examples of common wants:
- An open concept living space
- Granite countertops
- Hardwood floors
In my case, I wanted a home with a fireplace. I didn’t need it, but any home that I looked at with a hearth ranked higher on my list. My husband’s wish list included a space in the basement to brew beer.
If you’ve just started home hunting, odds are your wants and needs lists are quite long. Remember, needs are only items you must have—make sure none of your needs aren’t wants in disguise.
Here are some examples of false needs:
- Multiple bathrooms
- A finished basement
- A newly renovated kitchen
During my house hunt, my husband had originally said a fully detached home was a need. He had a preconceived notion that townhomes were too much like apartment or condo living. After attending multiple open houses, he realized this wasn’t the case, and struck that need from his list.
Visiting open houses will help you test your needs list to determine what you require in your dream home for long-term happiness.
While many of your needs are negotiable, some should never be changed into wants, no matter how long and hard you search for a home. One need that you should never alter is the home’s maximum purchase price. If you’ve done your research and used a mortgage affordability calculator, you know what you can afford and you should never stretch your budget for the sake of buying your dream home. Set a budget you’re comfortable with and stick to it.
Setting out a definitive set of wants and needs will streamline the home hunting process. You’ll spend less time viewing homes that don’t fit your criteria, and your real estate agent will only show you homes that have a high probability of being right for you.
This list-making strategy is how my husband and I found our dream home. After spending a year attending open houses as research, we had a solid list of wants and needs. Here was our list:
- A maximum purchase price of $300,000
- At least two bedrooms
- A parking space
- A backyard
- Proximity to transit, restaurants, and shops
- A fireplace
- A space to brew beer
- A finished basement
- Located on a quiet street
- Able to make the space open concept
- Relatively updated
- Old home charm
Our real estate agent sent us many listings. But because I had spent time clearly defining my criteria, I was able to reject many of the homes outright. I never set foot in a house that clearly wasn’t right for me. As a result, we only looked at five homes before landing on one that was right for us. We were able to purchase our home quickly with today’s best mortgage rates.
The house we eventually bought had every single item on our needs list, and many of our wants, including a fireplace and brewing area in the basement.