Home Buying 101: Step 4


Home Buying 101: A Step by Step Guide to Buying a Home.

Step 1 | Step 2 | Step 3 | Step 4 | Step 5 |

Step 4: Make a List.

Buying a home can be a frenzied process. Even in a slow market homes often sell quickly in the Seattle area and many receive multiple offers. This means that many times you’ll need to make a decision quickly about whether to make an offer on a home. If you’ve done your homework ahead of time the decision will probably be fairly straightforward. If not, you may end up buying a home that’s not right for you or missing out on a home that’s perfect for you.


OK – Grab a pencil and sheet of paper and let’s get to work.

  • Make a list, separately. Most folks purchase a home with a spouse, family member, or partner. If you don’t fall into this category you’re off the hook. If you do, it’s very important to not skip this step. Without biasing the other person’s answers sit down separately and make a list of what you want in a house. This list should include:

    • The “Must Have’s”: These are the things that are absolutely essential to you. In other words, if you don’t have them then you’re not buying the house.  This might be things like location (after all, you can remodel a house but you can’t pick it up and move it), square footage, etc. Make sure to not confuse your “must have’s” with your “like to have’s.” These items will be your Alamo, so make sure they’re very very important to you.

    • The “Like to Have’s”: These are things that are important to you but you’re negotiable on. This might be things like architectural style, granite counter tops, or a big back yard.

    • The “Absolutely Not’s”: These are things that are deal killers for you. For instance you might say, “No matter what I won’t buy a home in X Neighborhood,” or “I won’t buy a home that has foundation problems.”

    • Price: Write down the top dollar you want to spend.

  • Combine the Lists: Now that you’ve  made your separate lists it’s time to compare notes.

    • Start by just combining the lists together. Everything from both people’s individual lists go on the master list.

    • Look for duplicates: If you find that both people have written the same thing on the list put a star next to these items. If one person has that item as a “Must Have” and the other person has it as a “Like to Have” bump it up to “Must Have.”

    • Look for contradictions: If one person has “New Home” as a must have and the other person has “Classic Tudor” as a must have then it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to get both these things. Now is the time to discuss, claw, fight, beg, and bribe for your position. Perhaps one person gives up another “Must Have” in order to keep a different “Must Have.” No matter what though don’t consider the job done until you’ve resolved these contradictions and each person is satisfied.  If you don’t, these contradictions will come back to haunt you when it’s time to make an offer.

    • Agree on a price: If both people have similar price points in mind then this job is easy. Even if the price points are within 5% of each other splitting the difference is probably the way to go. However if your prices are 10% or 20% apart it’s time to step back and talk about your priorities.

At the end of this process you should have a master list that has both people’s “Must Have’s, Like to Have’s, and Absolutely Nots.” The final list should be scrubbed from all contradictions and have all duplicates either starred or moved to “Must Have’s.”

  • Discuss the list with your Agent: On the next step we’ll talk about choosing an Agent. Once you’ve done this it will be important to sit down and discuss your list with them. Your Agent will be able to help you further revise your list by pointing out items that might not be realistic for market conditions. For instance, if you want a 2000 square foot new construction single family residence in Green Lake but your budget caps out at $300,000 then this home may simply not exist. Your Agent will then be able to redirect you to something more realistic. He might suggest that you look for homes north of 85th street or that you consider condos instead. After you’ve met with your Agent you may need to go back and make one final revision to your list. Once everything is final send a copy to your Agent so he can help you look for houses that meet your criteria.