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Home buying tips: What you want isn’t always what you need

It can be an exciting endeavour to shop for one of your largest investments – a home. However, before getting carried away with a list of dream features, it is best to define what it is that you want in a home versus what it is that you actually need. Often things that were once seen as a must-have aren’t that important when lifestyles and circumstances change.

“When it comes to finding the right home, it is best to sit down and think about what it is that you really need – and not just what you want. After some contemplation you may find that the ideal home for you and your family is not what you initially thought it would be,” says Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa. “Buyers may want a large home with a garden and room for entertaining, only to find that their lifestyle and busy schedules don’t allow for it and a low-maintenance, lock-up-and-go property would suit them better. Carefully considering your lifestyle with help you to create a list of what is truly needed.”

Buyers should ask themselves, what do I need from my home? Goslett says that the keyword to remember is ‘need’. “When it comes to making a major financial commitment such as purchasing a home, or for that matter any life-changing decisions – a need should always trump a want. The challenge is separating and truly determining the difference between a need and want,” says Goslett.

He provides a few considerations to help buyers determine whether they are looking for a property with the right mind-set:

Create a list


A great way to organise one’s thoughts is to put pen to paper. Create a list with two columns – one for wants and the other for needs. The needs column should include elements such as location, school zones, neighbourhood, budget, number of bedrooms, features and amenities, plumbing and electrical that are updated, stand size, number of garage spaces, Home Owner’s Association and Body Corporate details where applicable. The wants column is for the aspects that are regarded as nonessentials such as the specific style of the home, renovated kitchen or bathrooms, deck, swimming pool, hot tub, flooring material, fireplace or wood stove, window material and landscaping.

Discuss the matter with other family members


If the home is being purchased for more than just one person, it is best to consult with those who will be living there to further define what they regard as needs and wants. Certain aspects will be more important to certain family members. For example a larger kitchen might be a priority for the lady of the home, while the children may need extra cupboard space for their hobbies or interests. Discussing the matter with all family members is a helpful way to determining wants and needs. It is important to consider how you and your family want to live in the home, as studies have shown that the size and layout of the home can have an impact on the relationship between its occupants.

Consider your future plans


A major consideration is how long you plan to stay in the property. This aspect in itself can have a massive impact on your needs and wants. If you are planning on staying in the home for five years or longer you should think about possible upcoming life changes.  These could include having a baby or accommodating an aging parent. While the home may not currently have an extra bedroom, could it be added onto to meet your future needs?

Be prepared to compromise


Searching for a new home and going through the buying process can be exhausting. However, being realistic will ease your mind and reduce stress. Life often indoctrinates people by telling them they need certain aspects to be happy. It is best to take a step back and ask what truly makes you happy. The answer to that question will be unique to everyone - if a large garden will make you and your family happy, then make that that a need. However, be prepared to compromise on other wants if necessary. Spend time defining your lifestyle and what you could forgo in order to be happy in your home.

“Determining the difference between a want and need will make the decision aspect of the home buying process far easier. While buying a dream home is a good aspiration to have, it is more important to buy the right home,” Goslett concludes.


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