On the Hunt for a New Home? The Must-Haves vs. Nice-to-Haves

July 17, 2019

When house hunting, you’ll most likely have a long list of wants and needs in mind. You might need a four-bedroom house to comfortably fit your family, or maybe the proximity to work is your largest deciding factor. And then there are the other elements you’re hoping to score, like an in-ground pool or finished basement. 

When on the hunt for a new home, it can be overwhelming to find the perfect place that checks all the boxes. That’s why it’s best to consider what factors are absolutely necessary and which would just be an added bonus. In this blog, we explore what should qualify as new home must haves vs. nice to haves in order to make your real estate search easier. 

Home Must Haves vs. Nice to Haves

The Home Must Haves

A House in Your Price Range 

Sticking to a budget is essential when considering a move. For instance, with the Knock Home Trade-In, we’ll get you fully underwritten and pre-approved so you know how much you can afford for a new house before you even go shopping. 

While it’s not necessarily required to go through the pre-qualification process before going on home tours and before considering a purchase, knowing how much money you can afford to spend will help you narrow down the home search. 

If you get approved for less than you’d hoped for, weighing your must haves vs. nice to haves will be crucial. Establish what is most important to you in a new house, whether it be the amount of living space, the neighborhood, or the home’s unique features. Knowing what elements are the most important to you will help you be more efficient in your house hunt, allowing you to put in an offer sooner rather than later.

At that same time, you don’t want to get too picky when it comes to your wants and needs. If you’re dead set on a 4 bedroom house with a den, a pool, and a two-car garage, you’ll probably miss out on a great home available in your price range that is just missing one minor item on your list. 

Knockstar Shelley Smith says,

Must-Haves vs. Nice-to-Haves Shelley quote
Shelley Smith

“I recommend leaving your house search criteria really broad because the best fit could be just outside of that search criteria! I believe you should begin your search with a must-have and nice-to-have list, but when you begin your online search, expand those requirements just a little further. The perfect house may have a wooded lot instead of a flat backyard, you never know! ”

When it comes to sticking to a budget, Knock can help. With the Knock Home Trade-In program, we submit an all-cash offer on your new home. This model typically gets you 2-5% off the list price, since sellers are attracted to the safety of the cash offer. Enjoying this savings off the purchase price can give you the freedom to explore more of your nice to haves. 

Location, Location, Location 

Most people have a general area in mind when looking for a new residence; there are plenty of factors to consider as you hone in on the perfect location for you including commute time, school districts, neighborhood safety, and live-ability. Depending on what stage in life you’re at, the must-haves can look vastly different. Young professionals looking for a starter home will most likely care more about the surrounding downtown offerings, while families put more consideration into the school district and community feel. 

According to a recent Zillow report, after safety, the next most important factor to home buyers was a home in their preferred neighborhood (57% of respondents listed it as a top priority). Right behind that was the work commute and proximity to shopping. Clearly, location is a major consideration for most homebuyers.

A house’s address is more important in certain areas of the country than others. For example, in our Knock market of Atlanta, Knockstar Ashley Walter notes:

Ashley Walter

“Around Atlanta, location is a big factor since traffic and the commute to and from work can be very long. Sometimes sellers have to weigh out location versus getting everything they want in a home. To get closer to Atlanta is more expensive, but they might have to give up square footage, a basement, or an updated home to get that prime location.”

Before going shopping, take a look at the bigger picture and your goals for the future; do you plan to stay in this house for the next two decades, or are you looking for a temporary residence that you may sell in a few years? Planning ahead will help you to consider which location is best in both the short-term and long run. 

One Size to Fit All

A house with enough room for your needs is a must have. Are you planning to expand your family and need more bedrooms? Are you expecting to be an empty-nester and need something smaller? The amount of space a house offers should be a must have consideration in any situation. 

Amount of bedrooms and bathrooms, the size of the common living areas, and the square-footage of land are all elements to think about when going on home tours. You can further narrow down the list by ranking which factors are most important; in most cases, beds and baths will be the most essential, and you can easily filter your online search by the number of each you absolutely need. This way, you won’t waste time looking at potential homes that are just too small. 

Knock clients Kevin and Ashley C knew they needed more space: 

Ashley and Kevin C Dream Home

Sometimes bigger is simply better. Kevin and Ashley C were ready to upgrade from the starter home they had purchased in 2011. While their old house had 4 bedrooms, they simply wanted more space to expand. The home they found may have had only one more bedroom, but it also came with over 1,000 more square feet of space. When they got it for a great price and their previous home sold faster than market rate, they were thrilled to have made the trade to their bigger and, for them, better dream home.  

Enough rooms to fit just your immediate household might not be enough for you. A spare bedroom is important to home buyers of every generation, with over half of people in all generations noting it as an important requirement. Is an extra bedroom important for your needs? Keep this in mind when calculating the amount of bedrooms you’re looking for. 

The Home Nice to Haves 

Now that you’ve narrowed down your budget, location, and home size, you can start to think about the upgrades you’d really love in a dream home. Nice to haves should be the elements that you see as an added bonus, but wouldn’t deter you away from a house if it didn’t come with them. We all hope to find the perfect house that checks every box, but in reality, most homes won’t offer every single item on your wishlist. 

Nice to Haves in a Seller’s Market 

Especially in a competitive seller’s market, you don’t want to pass up on a house just because it doesn’t have brand new cabinets or a backyard that’s already perfect for entertaining. Currently, mortgage rates are at a steady low, inspiring more people to apply for a loan to achieve the American Dream. Mortgage loan applications rose 26.8% in just one week in early June, making it a more competitive market for home buyers. If you’re looking to secure a house soon, you might need to forego some of the added perks you hoped for. 

When we spoke with Knockstar Joe Shehata, his biggest piece of advice for home buyers when it comes to home must haves vs. nice to haves was of the same sentiment:

Joe Shehata

“You may have a checklist of items of things you definitely want or need, but as you keep searching, you’ll find that a single house probably won’t check off every single box. But, that doesn’t mean you should just take it off your list. Sometimes things you think are deal breakers aren’t really deal breakers, so take that into consideration when looking for a new home.”

In a buyer’s market, you may get the opportunity to nab a home with some more extras without breaking the bank. Regardless of which side of the transaction the market favors, having an idea of the nice-to-haves you’d like to see in your next home is a smart way to narrow down the home search. Keep a list in mind of your favorite home upgrades to make the decision process easier. 

Below, we explore popular nice-to-haves to consider when searching for your next place. 

Upgraded Kitchens and Bathrooms

Thanks to social media influencers and HGTV programs, upgraded kitchens and bathrooms are arguably the most sought-after home upgrades people look for in a new place. And this comes as no surprise, as the cost to renovate these areas of the home are typically the most expensive. According to HomeAdvisor, in 2019, the average kitchen remodel costs upwards of $23,000. If you can score a house that already has the kitchen and bathrooms you’ve been seeing online, and it’s within your budget, you’re in luck. 

With the Knock Home Trade-In, Elaine B was able to secure that perfect place:

Elaine Home Upgrade

Elaine B was upgrading from her beautiful brick ranch in Atlanta to a larger home in the Canton, GA area. The new place had 6 beds and 5 baths, perfect for a family looking for ample space; it was also a new build and boasting any upgrade you could ask for, from an oversized kitchen to a master suite, all within a community.

But, don’t bank on finding the home with gourmet kitchen and luxury bath you see in magazines. In today’s world, it can seem imperative for you to have a high-tech refrigerator equipped with a tablet and WiFi or a smart stove that connects to your iPhone. Yet, we also see how quickly technology evolves, with tech of the moment becoming outdated overnight. Consider the usefulness of your desired upgrades and whether the additional cost is really worth it. 

To stay within your budget, your desired neighborhood, and home size, there’s a chance you’ll have to compromise a less-than Pinterest-worthy living space. This is where you really need to decide what’s really most important. 

Outdoor Extras

A home isn’t just what comes within the four walls, but also what’s offered on the exterior. Depending on your geographic location’s climate or personal preferences, you might feel like an outdoor living space is just as crucial as what’s inside the home. Outdoor upgrades may include a fenced in yard, in-ground pool, or paved brick patio for entertaining. Strong curb appeal and landscaping are something to consider as well, and are typically a strong selling point that attracts many buyers. 

According to a 2018 report by the American Institute of Architects, outdoor living space remains a highly desired home feature. But, it’s more of a preference than a necessity in most cases. Think about how much time you plan to spend outdoors and whether your house’s exterior offerings are as important as other elements inside the home.

Community Amenities

Must-Haves vs. Nice-to-Haves Community Houston
Photo Credit: BuilderOnline

Piggybacking off of outdoor space is the phenomenon of community amenities. Builder communities have added plenty of upgrades to attract young buyers who aren’t satisfied with just a house and a yard. Tennis courts, common social areas, swimming pools, and fitness centers are just some of the offerings to entice the 74% of millennials who care more about experiences than products. Just take a look at this home community in Houston; they have deemed common areas “Amenity Village” and offer everything from a yoga studio to an observation deck treehouse.

But, don’t be fooled; in most cases, these extras will come with a fee in the form of a monthly HOA charge. Be sure to factor that cost into your overall budget and see if it makes sense to pay more for the added benefits. 

A Finished Basement 

A finished basement is a popular upgrade for many families, especially those looking for more space for a kids’ playroom, an area to entertain or lodge guests, or as an optional in-law suite. For Knock customers Samuel and Tara, it was a win:

Samuel W Knock customer must-have vs. nice-to-have

With their 2 year old daughter Ella getting ready to go to preschool, Samuel and Tara W wanted to make the move to a better school district. They also wanted to find a home with more space for their growing family and a backyard for Ella and their dog. So they sold their starter townhouse in favor of purchasing a bigger single family home with a finished basement and a big backyard where the family would have space to spread out. 

Keep in mind that even though a basement isn’t yet finished at the time of purchase, that doesn’t mean you can’t renovate yourself! Taking on this extra effort to redo the area yourself expands the list of home options in your search. 

So, What Must You Have? 

In the Present Moment

A house hunt is a fun, yet challenging task that many will do many times in life. And the most important elements, or the “must haves” are a home within your budget, a desirable location, and enough room to accommodate all dwellers. From there, you should create a list of extras, or “nice to haves” that you’d love to see in the home you choose.

Your home must haves vs. nice to haves will most likely change over time, so the house you’re looking to purchase now should fit your lifestyle at the moment. If you’re a millennial couple with dogs, you’ll probably be willing to sacrifice an extra bedroom for more backyard. If you’re looking to downsize after retirement, a community with recreation can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. Your needs will continue to evolve, but that shouldn’t hold you back from finding a home that’s perfect for the here and now; with the Knock Home Trade-In, moving into your next place will be easier than ever before. 

In the Long Run

When considering both home must haves and nice to haves, also think about the ROI they will afford you in years to come; some, like granite countertops or a highly-rated school district, will help raise your home’s value when it comes to sell. Others won’t affect the bottom line nearly as much.

Overall, the most important thing is that you’re happy in the home that you choose, and can envision yourself there for however long you plan to stay. Although a home might not have every single item on your list, it can still be an amazing place to call your own. 

In the market for a new home, but also have an old one to sell? Let us help you find the house you’ve been waiting for. 


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