Jennifer Lee Mazeika


“Home is where your story begins, I’ll help you get there.”

Prioritizing Your “Must-Have” vs “Want” List

We would all like to start with our “dream home” but let’s get real. . .  Having realistic expectations when it comes to the neighborhood and type of home you can afford is often an eye opening experience.  Your ultimate goal is to stop paying a landlord rent and to build equity in your own home. Here is a practical strategy for owning your own home today.

What Is A “Must Have” and What Is A “Want”?

Buyers who try to get everything may end up not getting a home at all. By dividing your desires into the two lists, you will reveal the most important features in a home to you. This allows you to start your home search based on your highest priorities and saves you time and frustration.

“Must Have” is anything you absolutely must have and you cannot easily change.

  • Number of bedrooms
  • Number of bathrooms
  • Garage or storage area
  • Home office
  • Lot size
  • Distance to work
  • Updated systems in house

“Want” is something you’d like to have & that you could change over time, such as:

  • Paint and Carpet
  • Deck, pool, hot tub
  • Hardwood floors
  • Specific style of home
  • Remodeled kitchen or baths
  • Fireplace or wood stove
  • Newer windows
  • Landscaping

At first, Wants will try to sneak into your Must Haves list!  A great home buying tip is to be tough with yourself to make it easy later.

Establish a Firm Price Limit and a List of “Must Have” Features

You have already gotten pre-approved for a mortgage so you know how much the bank thinks you can afford each month.  But just because the bank thinks you can afford to spend $350,000 for a home does not mean you have to spend that amount.  Use a tool like the Affordability Calculator on Zillow to help you determine your monthly budget.

It’s easy and convenient these days, to browse the hundreds of houses for sale in your area. But a good agent will know how to zero in on the homes that meet your must haves list and also fit your budget. Be sure to share this must haves list and communicate clearly about your budget.  You want to make sure you and your realtor know your expectations. You don’t want to view homes that clearly have all your must haves and maybe even all you wants but are above your budget. A great agent will know how to keep to your budget, fulfill your needs and maybe even sprinkle in some of those wants.

These tips for buying a house should make the process much easier for you. Every property is going to come with some compromises to your list, but when you are talking about your new home, they should feel minimal.

Staying Within Your Home Buying Budget

Another strategy is to live in your first home for at least three years and then sell and trade up to a larger home in a more desirable neighborhood.  A good real estate agent can help you keep an eye on the area you want to be in the future and keep you informed of any new listings that match your wish list. Meanwhile, you weren’t paying rent each month to a landlord but building equity in your own home. You will also build a credit history of paying a monthly mortgage payment.

If you have trouble finding what you are looking for in a home, you really only have two choices. Pay more or reduce the number of “Wants” so you can get a home that fills your “Needs.”  You don’t want to pay more and experience buyer’s remorse. A house isn’t an item you can return if you change your mind or find yourself ‘house poor’ because the monthly mortgage payment is too high.

Remember communicate clearly with your agent.  Good agents respect your finances and only show you homes you can afford. If you find your agent is constantly asking you to look at more expensive homes, it’s probably time to find a new agent.

Getting Your Must Haves in Your New Home

When buying a house staying within budget takes discipline. So approach the buying process with care. Know what you’re willing to spend, and refuse to look at homes listed above your budget. If you’re unable to find a suitable property after a few weeks or months, revisit your budget to see if you have any wiggle room. If not, hold out – it’s only a matter of time before the right house comes along. And a real estate agent who truly has your interests at heart will stick with you.

My motto is, “Home is where your story begins, I’ll help you get there.”

For a Free No-Obligation Consultation, contact me at 540-537-2332 or email me at