Needs vs Wants

So many choices

The home that you choose to live in is a reflection of your lifestyle and personality.

Although you may think you have only a few basic housing options to choose from, many homes on the market are a mixture of two or more types.  The variety available is impressive, so you should have a good idea of what you’re looking for in advance.

Ask yourself what’s most important to you when it comes to your living space.  Decide which kinds of homes are acceptable before you start looking seriously.

Location may determine what you can afford – set your priorities, and determine what you really want.

Considering your future

One of the first things you need to decide is how long you expect to stay.  Your requirements will be very different if you plan to live out your days in your new home rather than if you’re looking to turn around and sell it for a quick profit.

In addition to what you need now, consider the potential for change in your future.  Though you can’t plan for everything that can possibly happen in the next 5 to 10 years, try to visualize at least the next 5.

Think about things that are important to you in a home – the things your home must have in order to make you comfortable.

These can be:

  • Location
  • Nearby facilities
  • Type of home
  • Exterior
  • Kitchen
  • Bathrooms
  • Bedrooms
  • Size


You’ve probably heard that location is everything in real estate.  That if you buy well, you’ll sell well.  These truisms are the cornerstones of real estate strategy.

The two important keys to remember in “What to look for in location” are:  The better the location, the more you can improve the house and its value.

Neighbourhood conerns

Make sure your potential neighbourhood suits your needs during the day, in the evenings, and on weekends.  Find out what you can’t see just by looking:

  • Safety
  • Emergency Services
  • Local information
  • Owner statistics
  • Education facilities
  • Commercial activity
  • Major construction
  • Public transportation services
  • Community affairs
  • Overall contentment

Signs that a neighbourhood is improving

Home improvements – When homeowners spend money to improve their homes, it shows that they are happy enough with the neighbourhood to invest in it.

Real Estate activity – Look for sold signs on homes.  It means there are many buyers wanting to live in the area.

Commercial postings – Signs that shops and businesses are developing.

Major public developments – New transportation sites can be a stimulus for business and development, and new zoning can indicate the government’s interest in the area.

Attractive exteriors – Look for well-maintained homes and well-groomed gardens and yards.  You can see if the owners care about their homes by the image the neighbourhood projects.

Pros of buying a brand new home

You can buy new in two ways:

  • Buy a vacant lot and build your house yourself
  • Buy a new home that’s already been finished by the builder

Good reasons to buy new

Safety standards:  Your house will meet the most recent standards in safety and energy efficiency – saving you money in the long run.  Your home will probably be more technologically up to date.

Choice of materials:  You get to see the builder’s specs, so you know exactly what you’re getting – construction materials, operating systems, and so on.

New home warranty programs:  You should be eligible for a new homeowner’s comprehensive warranty that covers defects in materials and construction, and may also cover building code violations and major structural defects.

Newness:  You won’t have previous wear and tare on the structural components, operating systems, or appliances.

Modern construction:  Improvements in home-building techniques and technology over the years may mean you’re getting better quality construction.

Cons of buying a brand new home

Lack of services:  The surrounding neighbourhood may not yet be equipped with accessible public transportation, schools, groceries, shopping or other amenities.

Distance:  New subdivisions and lots are generally found outside of densely populated regions.

Uncertainty about your neighbours:  You won’t know in advance what the neighbour’s are like.

Taxes:  Property taxes may be higher in a newly developed area that requires roads, schools, sewers and so on.  Also, you likely have to pay up to 5% GST on the purchase of a new home.

Fixed Prices:  If you’re buying in a new development, the price of the homes is usually not very negotiable.

Timing:  The construction development has an impact on your finishing date of your home.

Construction inconvenience:  You may have to put up with noise and dust created by the continual construction in the area.

Undeveloped landscape:  You may move into your home and find that you’re surrounded by mud fields and a giant dirt heap with no sidewalks or lawns anywhere in sight.

Out of pocket expenses:  You may have to budget for fencing, decks, landscaping, basement development, garage construction and so on.  These may not be in your mortgage payment, and are payments over and above your housing expenses.

Pros of buying a resale home

Convenience:  The neighbourhood amenities like public transportation, schools, parks, shopping, groceries, and so on will already be established.

Luxuries:  Extras that would be a serious strain on your wallet to build or buy new may come with the house.

Character:  Older homes may have unique features that give them character and add to the potential resale value.

Tax savings:  You don’t pay GST on the purchase of a resale home.

Landscaping:  Lawns and gardens will probably be well established.

Immediate readiness:  You can move into a resale home right away in most cases.

Cons of buying a resale home

Less energy efficiency:  Older houses are often less energy efficient, utilities may cost more, or upgrades may be needed in the not to distant future.

Repairs needed:  Previous wear and tare on the house may make maintenance more expensive.

Decor challenges:  A used home may not feel like your own until you redecorate.

Modern updates needed:  Minor renovations or repairs may be necessary to accommodate your lifestyle, or to meet new safety or building codes.

Structural concerns:  You have no say in the layout or what building materials are used.

Your neighbours, how close is too close

Whether you’re buying new or resale, you need to think about your neighbours and how much room you’d like in between your home and theirs.  Varying degrees of “attachment” exists – the most common are:

  • Single-family detached:  A house that sits by its self on its own lot.
  • Semi-detached:  Are joined by a shared wall, but the structure as a whole is independent of the other houses on the street.
  • Link houses or carriage house:  Share a common foundation.
  • Row houses or carriage houses:  Share a common foundation.
  • Apartment units or condos:  Are in low-rise or high-rise buildings that usually offer a secure entrance, elevators, and shared common areas.

Focus on your needs

We all know what we’d like in our ideal home.  The features of your dream home provide a good starting point for your search; most of us judge potential homes with our standards of perfection in mind.  Try to keep your mind focused on your home buying needs.  You shouldn’t let your emotions overrule practicalities.

Chances are you’ll sell your home in five to ten years, and trade up to a bigger one or down size to something that requires less maintenance.  So don’t worry if you can’t buy your absolute dream home in the perfect neighbourhood right now.  What you can afford will probably never match your ideal, but with a little flexibility, you can find a home that suits your needs today!

Working up a wants and needs list

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  1.  How far are you willing to drive or spend commuting?  This will determine the radius of your search area.

2.  How far away are the schools, and is busing required?  If you’re interested in a certain school, verify the boundaries with the school district.

3.  What style of home are you interested in and why?

4.  What type of floor plan will be the most compatible with your lifestyle?

5.  How close do you need to be to family, shopping, house of worship and recreational facilities?

Knowing what you want

So many elements make up a home that often deciding which ones are most important to us is hard.  You may take things for granted when you have them.  Don’t forget to make a record of those small items that make all the difference in your satisfaction with where you live.

Part of knowing what you want is knowing what you don’t want.  You will always find things you don’t like about your current home and other people’s homes.  If a certain deficiency is going to drive you crazy, you need to avoid it so that it doesn’t ultimately affect your use and enjoyment of your home.

By identifying your pet peeves, you can zero in on what you are looking for.

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