Sure, the right number of bedrooms is important. And, of course, you wouldn’t even consider a house in the wrong school district. But what are the other things that really matter when buying a home? You know, the things that make your life easier – or at least a little less chaotic – on a daily basis and that support your lifestyle. Because it’s those things that make or break how you feel about living there.
What’s true of relationships also pertains to house hunting: A place you fall for today could lose its luster later on if you choose it out of lust and not love. Pay close attention to what’s on the inside and not just the shiny, pretty stuff to make sure you’re making the right match. These nine must-haves will help.
The right location
If you’ve never had to sit in traffic for three hours a day, you probably don’t know exactly how much it completely sucks. It may be worth it to you because a long commute is the only way you’ll be able to afford a home, but have a serious talk with yourself first.
The right overall layout
Sure, walls can be moved and floorplans reimagined, if that’s what you’re into. But some things you might not be able to change, perhaps because you lack budget or space—or both. If the idea of being on a different floor than your children stresses you out and you fear you’ll never be able to relax and enjoy your new home, a first-floor master with all the other bedrooms upstairs may not be for you. A floorplan in which a child’s bedroom shares a wall with the master suite might also pose a problem depending on your, ummm, typical noise level.
Nothing kills the mood like having to squeeze your knees together while your honey is in the only (or only functioning) bathroom. If you’ve ever watched House Hunters and seen a couple buy an old home with one bathroom, which they justified because the place was “just so charming,” let us set the record straight: There’s nothing charming about peeing your pants.
So the house you’re considering has an updated master bathroom, and what it lacks in space it makes up for in style, right? Yeah, maybe not. Having to wipe someone else’s hair or leftover toothpaste out of the shared sink may not seem like a big deal the first time it happens…but just wait.
A good family gathering space
Whether or not you have kids (or ever plan to), a good family room or living room is key to long-term enjoyment of a home. The amount of square footage is obviously important, but also pay attention to the key features of the room. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a space you hate being in because the west-facing windows make it too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter and the TV niche is shoved into the corner, making it hard to see unless you’re sitting directly across from it. Or perhaps that’s just us.
Back to House Hunters for a moment. Who else cringes every time someone buys a house with a laundry room in a creaky old basement? Just the thought of having to carry laundry baskets down two flights of stairs is enough for us to say a hard “No” to that. Many basement-free homes have laundry rooms on the first floor, when all the bedrooms are upstairs. This may be an acceptable feature for most people—and it may be all you’ve known to this point—but trust us: Once you’ve enjoyed the convenience of an upstairs laundry room, you’ll never want anything else.
A sufficient garage
Burning your butt on a hot car seat in the summer and having to run the engine for 10 minutes before you get into a freezing cold car in the winter might anger you every single time you do it.
The right size backyard
Taking the kids to the park instead of letting them loose in a backyard you don’t have. Getting out of bed to walk the dog in the middle of the night—and in the rain—because, again, no backyard. Not having a backyard at all, or a tiny patch of grass that doesn’t give you space to move, might not be the kind of compromise you want to make. On the flip side, a large back yard that requires time and effort to maintain may take away from family time and create stress or anxiety.
A kitchen you can work with
Yes, you can replace a dishwasher or repaint your cabinets. Heck, you can rip the whole thing out and start over if you want, but most people aren’t looking to drop that kind of money on a brand-new kitchen. Is the kitchen workable as is? Are there small tweaks you can make that would create a space you want to cook in? Being honest with yourself about what you need, what you can handle, and what is realistic can help you make a good choice instead of one you may soon regret.