Defining Your Dream Home
One of the best ways to start putting together a picture of your dream house is to think about why you want to move in the first place. If you're a young family with more kids on the way, you'll probably want more bedrooms and maybe a big back yard. If you're a retired empty-nester, you may prefer a low-maintenance condo or townhouse.
This is one of the most fun stages of buying a home, because there are no limits. Think about what you like - and dislike - about your current home. What about your friends' homes? The home where you grew up? The houses you see on television? Do you secretly yearn to be a gourmet cook? Do you want to soak in a hot tub at the end of a long day? What about a family room large enough to hold a dozen friends when the big game is on?
Spend some time thinking - and talking with your family - about your likes and dislikes in a home.
Some Things to Consider
Kitchen: Big or small, eat-in or with separate dining room, gas or electric
Bedrooms: How many do you need? How many do you want? What would you want to do with an extra one (office, craft room, etc.)?
Bathrooms: Again, how many do you need or want? Do you want spa-style luxury, no-frills functionality or something in between?
Family / living / game rooms: How do you want to spend your time at home? What kind of space do you need? How much elbow room does your family need for relaxing, watching TV, playing games and generally hanging out? Do you want that space to be formal or casual?
Attics / basements / closets: Everyone needs a place for their stuff, and just about everyone will have more stuff in the future than they do right now. Attics and basements add a huge amount of storage space for items you don't need on a regular basis (camping equipment, out-of-season clothes, bulky tools). Closets handle the items you need every day. How much space do you need?
Garage: Do you want an enclosed garage, or is a carport fine for your lifestyle? Should the garage be attached or separate from the house? How big a garage or carport do you need? Does it need to store bicycles, all-terrain vehicles, a motorcycle or a boat? Do you need space for a garage workshop?
Stairs: Do you want your home to be all on one level, or split between two floors?
Extras: Are you a pushover for hardwood floors, bay windows or other special features?
Architectural style: What look do you want to come home to? Do you prefer Victorian charm, brick ranchers or something in between?
Materials: Brick or siding? Brick doesn't need painting, but repairs can be more costly.
Land: Do you want a yard? How much yard? What about trees or landscaping? Would you want to do (or hire someone else to do) the work to maintain a big yard?
Outdoor living: Do you need a patio or deck? Play area for kids? What about a screened porch?
Traffic: Do you want to be at the end of a sleepy cul-de-sac, or near where the action is? Do you want to live in a subdivision or on a city street? In a gated community, or in the country?
Driveway: Do you prefer a straight or curved driveway? If you entertain regularly, how much parking do you need?