Wants vs. Needs vs. Must-Haves: A Homebuyers Checklist

13 Min Read
Published Sept. 7, 2023
Agent shows family the features of the living room area in a home for sale.
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Finding a home to buy can be as daunting as it is exciting. You might not know where to start.

One way to narrow your search is to separate what you want vs. need vs. must-have in a home. There are going to be aspects to a home that you can’t live without, features that are important to you, and others that you’d like but don’t absolutely need.

We’ve created this handy checklist to help you separate your preferences from priorities, and figure out what matters most to you in a home.

Click here to download our homebuyers wants and needs checklist PDF.

Home Type

A great place to start is by thinking about which type of home would be right for you. There are pros and cons to buying a house, condo, or townhouse, depending on your lifestyle and needs. Here are some different home types and styles to consider.

Home Type Wants vs. Needs vs. Must-Haves

Detached houseA detached house is a single-family home that stands alone, usually with outdoor space.
CondominiumA condominium is a single unit within a larger building with shared amenities.
TownhouseA townhouse is a narrow, multifloor home that shares at least one wall with another home.
Multifamily homeA multifamily home is a detached structure that contains more than one living space to accommodate multiple residents.
Loft apartmentA loft apartment — also known as a studio — is an open space with multiple rooms.
Single-story homeA single-story home — also known as a ranch-style home — has only one floor.
Multistory homeMultistory homes are detached homes that have more than one floor.
Split-level homeSplit-level homes have at least three floors that are staggered and connected by multiple staircases.
Architectural styleYou may prefer a certain architectural style, whether it be modern, colonial, Spanish, or midcentury.


If you have a car, you need a place to park it. Here are some of your options.

Parking Wants vs. Needs vs. Must-Haves

GarageA garage is an indoor space to park your car that provides both shelter and security.
DrivewayA driveway gives you a place to park your car off the street. However, it lacks a roof and the security of a garage.
CarportA carport is an outdoor parking space that’s at least partially covered.
Street parkingParking your car on the street leaves your car more vulnerable to the elements, damage, and theft. You also might not always be able to find a free space. 


The number of bedrooms you need will depend on how many people live with you — or will live with you, if you expect your family to grow. It’s also a big factor that affects the size and cost of the home.

Bedroom Wants vs. Needs vs. Must-Haves

One bedroomIf you live alone, you may need only one bedroom. This also works for couples looking to cut costs.
Two bedroomsTwo bedrooms allow space for guests. You also could use the additional bedroom as an office or studio.
Three or more bedroomsIf you have children — or plan to have children — you might want to look at homes with more bedrooms.


The number of bathrooms you need will depend on the number of people living with you, as well as your budget. Another factor to consider is whether you prefer a shower or a bathtub.

Bathroom Wants vs. Needs vs. Must-Haves

Number of bathroomsThe average home has two bathrooms for every three bedrooms.
BathtubSome people are bathtub people, and that’s just the way it is! If you prefer to bathe in the tub, then this might be a must-have for you.
Walk-in showerIf you strictly shower, then you might prefer a walk-in shower and not need a bathtub.
Fractional bathroomsSome homes have fractional bathrooms. For example, a half bathroom has a toilet and sink, but no shower or bathtub.


If you have a family, or are planning on starting one, having kitchen space might be important to you. Even if you live alone, you may want to have enough room to cook for yourself and guests.

Kitchen Wants vs. Needs vs. Must-Haves

AppliancesAn oven, stove, sink, and dishwasher are common must-haves. A modern, built-in refrigerator and microwave might be nice, but you can always buy them yourself if the home lacks those features.
CountertopsCountertops are made from materials that range in looks and price, such as quartz, marble, and granite.
Dining areaSome kitchens include a built-in dining area, such as a countertop space or breakfast nook.
IslandA kitchen island is a stand-alone cabinet that comes with a countertop. An island offers additional storage, and may include a sink or cooking surface.
CabinetsCabinets can be made from materials as varied as wood, fiberboard, and laminate.
PantryA pantry offers more storage space for foods that don’t need to be refrigerated, and for small appliances and cookware that you use infrequently.


Each type of flooring has its own advantages and disadvantages. While this is something you may be able to change, buying a home that already has flooring you’re comfortable with will save time and money.

Flooring Wants vs. Needs vs. Must-Haves

HardwoodFloors made out of hardwood are durable and aesthetically pleasing.
CarpetCarpeted floors can be warm, cozy, and comfy — if they’re clean. Carpets can collect dirt, stains, and odors, and can deteriorate over time.
LaminateLaminate is an artificial material that often imitates the look and feel of hardwood, but is more affordable.
StoneStone is another sharp-looking flooring option that can be used both indoors and outdoors.
TileTile comes in many different sizes, colors, and variations. A potential downside is that tiles may crack and chip over time.
BambooBamboo isn’t only a stylish option — it’s also eco-friendly because it’s a grass that grows much faster than trees.
CorkCork offers a warm look and is comfortable to walk on, since it’s a relatively soft material.


The outside features of a home have a big effect on both its durability and its appearance.

Exterior Wants vs. Needs vs. Must-Haves

WoodWood siding gives your house a rustic character. However, its life span can be shorter than other materials, and it may need to be replaced every 10 years.
BrickBrick homes are study and durable. They’re also more fire-resistant.
ShinglesShingles — also known as shake siding — are often made of cedar, and can add character. However, this material also can rot and warp.
VinylVinyl siding is affordable and durable — it’s the most popular siding material. However, some people don’t like the look of it.
StoneStone siding offers a natural beauty that can boost curb appeal. It’s also expensive.
StuccoStucco siding is a porous material commonly found on Mediterranean and Spanish Mission-style homes. It’s also long-lasting when installed correctly.
Lot typeSome homes are located on a flat lot with plenty of outdoor space. Others are located on hills, or close to neighboring homes.

Don’t Miss: Surprising Facts You Didn’t Know About Buying a House


Each room in a home has a different purpose. Here are some of the different rooms to consider.

Interior Wants vs. Needs vs. Must-Haves

Living roomIf you love watching movies at home or spending time with your family, a big living room might be important to you.
Dining roomThe dining room is a place to have meals as a family or to entertain guests.
Primary bedroom with bathroomYour primary bedroom suite is usually the homeowner’s bedroom, and often comes with an attached bathroom.
Home officeSince working remotely has become more common, many homebuyers are looking for homes with a room they can use as an office.
Recreation roomA recreation room is a place for children to play in, or where adults can relax or play games.
ClosetsClosets offer important storage space for outerwear, towels, equipment, cleaning supplies, and more.
BasementFinished basements can add square footage to the home. However, the risk of flooding means it can require additional maintenance.
AtticAttics can provide storage space for items you want to hang on to but use infrequently. Some attics offer room for an additional bedroom.
Laundry roomNot every home has a laundry room, but having a designated space for a washer and dryer gives you a place to keep laundry-related supplies.
PorchBuyers who want to maximize their outdoor space may seek homes with a porch attached.
GymThese days, more people have home gyms than gym memberships. If a home doesn’t come with a designated gym, you may want a room that you can convert into one.
Mother-in-law suiteAn additional living unit on the property that can house family members may add value to your property, or generate income as a rental.

Energy and Environment

Heating and cooling systems play a big role in how much you pay for utilities. The efficiency of your home systems also affects your carbon footprint.

Energy and Environment Wants vs. Needs vs. Must-Haves

HeatingSome homes have furnaces that burn natural gas or liquid propane, while other homes have electric furnaces.
Air conditioningCentral air conditioning is energy-efficient and cost-efficient. It also adds value to the home.
Water heaterTankless water heaters are more efficient than conventional water heaters, but they are more expensive to buy.
FireplaceA fireplace can add charm to your living room — especially if you live in a cooler climate. However, they are an added cost and responsibility to maintain.
ToiletsEnergy-efficient toilets use less water, which can be useful in drier climates that are prone to drought.
AccessibilityIf you or someone you live with has limited mobility, it will be important for your home to be accessible.
InsulationIf you live in a place with cold winters, then having a home that is well insulated helps you keep your heating costs under control.
WindowsEnergy-efficient windows are another feature that can help you save money on heating and cooling your home.
DoorsEnergy-efficient doors help keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Solar panelsSolar panels can help you reduce your energy bills and carbon footprint. They come with high initial costs, which is why it might be nice to find a home that already has them installed.


The outside of your home affects its curb appeal and its value. It’s also the first thing you see when you come home, so some features might matter to you more than others.

Outdoor Wants vs. Needs vs. Must-Haves

ViewEveryone loves a great view, but houses along the coast or up in the hills usually are more expensive.
TreesTrees can add to the curb appeal of a home and offer shade. However, they also can be a liability, and are expensive to remove.
YardA well-kept yard can increase the value of a home, and offer a safe place to play for kids and pets.
LandscapingPlants, shrubs, or a garden can enhance the aesthetic appeal of a property.
LawnA beautiful lawn can add to a home’s curb appeal and overall appearance. However, it can be expensive and time-consuming to water and maintain a lawn.
DeckA deck can be a pleasant place to barbecue and relax outdoors.
PatioInstead of a deck, you might prefer a patio space, with room for a table and chairs.
StorageA shed or garage can be a useful covered space to store things like lawn mowers.
Sprinkler systemA sprinkler system can help keep a lawn or garden watered and healthy.
PoolIf you have a passion for pool time, then finding a house with one might be a must-have for you. Just remember that they can be costly to heat and to maintain.
Fire pitFire pits can be a cozy place to host company in the evening.


Location usually is cited as the most important factor in determining the value and desirability of a home. It’s possible to change many different features about a home, but you can’t change its location, so it’s extra important to choose wisely.

Location Wants vs. Needs vs. Must-Haves

NeighborhoodSome people prefer to live in quiet, tranquil neighborhoods. Others prefer to live in a walkable neighborhood that’s more active and busier.
CommuteThe location of your job also can affect where you look for a home. Most people prefer to live as close to work as possible.
SchoolsIf you have children, the quality of schools near your home is an important factor when buying a home. In general, homes in good school districts cost more.
ShoppingIt can be helpful and convenient to live in a home that’s near grocery stores and other retailers.
DiningIf you enjoy eating out and meeting friends for dinner, it might be important to you to have a few good restaurant options nearby.
RecreationIf you have an active lifestyle or enjoy the outdoors, then you might want to find a home that’s located near a park, a gym, or hiking trails.
CultureIf you like going to the farmers market or theater, you may prefer a neighborhood that has more cultural opportunities.
TransportationIf you use the bus or train to get around, you’ll want to find a home that gives you easy access to public transportation routes.
UrbanLiving in the city allows you to live closer to others, and have easy access to shopping, dining, and entertainment. But depending on where in the city you live, the neighborhood can be louder and more crowded.
SuburbanSuburban neighborhoods can be a nice middle ground — quieter than the city, but not too far away from others. You likely will need a car to get around.
RuralBuying a home in a rural area gives you space, privacy, and the ability to enjoy nature. However, you’ll be farther from stores, emergency services, and other people.
WaterfrontHomes along the coast or another body of water often have spectacular views. They also typically cost more.


Here are answers to some common questions about homebuying wants, needs, and must-haves.


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