Finding a home to buy is rarely easy. Some buyers look for months, even years, before finding the right house. When you do find the right house, a mixed bag of emotions can cloud your good judgment. You’ll probably wonder if you’re making the right decision.

Recently, one buyer who’d been looking for months decided that she was ready to buy. She was intent on making one of several new listings work for her and her family. When she previewed a new listing in her favorite neighborhood, she was sure she’d found the home she was going to buy. The listing showed beautifully. It had been nicely renovated. It has the right number of bedrooms and baths. There was a family room and a lovely yard.

Then she visited another new listing that she also liked. In fact, she liked the living space better. While this house didn’t have a remodeled kitchen and nice family room like the other house, it was bigger. The yard wasn’t as nice as the one at the first house and the school district wasn’t as good. But, the house worked better for the life style of her growing family.

To complicate matters, her husband preferred a listing that was larger than either of the other two and it was located in the better neighborhood. However, it was on a busy street and it needed a lot of work.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Compromise is a necessary part of the home buying process. The perfect house doesn’t exist, no matter what your price range. But before you give up on finding a home that has absolutely everything you want, reexamine your wish list carefully.

Most buyers create a home shopping wish list before they embark on their house-hunting mission. If you haven’t done so, you should, especially if you’re having difficulty deciding which property to buy.

After you’ve created your list, prioritize it. It’s helpful to divide the list into three sections. The first section is for those features in a home that you must have–the non-negotiable items, such as the number of bedrooms and baths. The second are those features that you’d like to have, but that you can live without if necessary. For example, you might like to have a view, but you’d take a home without a view as long as it had a good yard. Lastly, list the items that you absolutely don’t want, like a home that’s up a lot of stairs or too close to a freeway. If you’re short on time, a home that needs a lot of work might be on your no list.

Some buyers find it useful to create a grid on a sheet of paper, or on the computer. Across the top of the grid, create a column for the each item on your wish list. Group the columns according to the three categories: must have, want to have, don’t want. Then create rows that crosscut the grid of columns–one row for each home you’re considering. Fill in the grid with the features of each home. This will help you to visualize how close each home is to your ideal.

It’s easy to get sidetracked when you’re looking at listings, particularly if they have been staged for sale. Staging can disguise defects. When a listing looks good, it tends to make buyers feel at home. This is an emotional feeling that can interfere somewhat with a rational home buying decision.

THE CLOSING: That’s why it’s important to step back and rationally analyze how well the listing will work for your needs before you make an offer.

Dian Hymer is author of “House Hunting, The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers” and “Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide,” Chronicle Books.


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