Now it’s time to fill out what we call your “Dream List.” This is a handy worksheet where you’ll write down your “must haves,” such as number of bedrooms, size or type of house, neighborhood, maximum price, and anything else you consider a minimum requirement in a home, such as a garden. There’s also space for you to note your “would likes,” features you’d prefer but could live without or possibly add later (such as a deck). Of course, expressing your preferences doesn’t mean you’ll get all of them. But later, when you’re out househunting, carrying a copy of your Dream List will help make sure you keep your priorities straight.
Ooh! I forgot about the washer and dryer! I’ve been dreaming about that my whole New York life!
Carrie, Sex and the City
The Dream List also includes a section for things you absolutely won’t accept, under any condition, such as a kitchen with bad lighting. You might need this reminder one day, when you find a house that’s perfect in every other respect.
Check in with your partner. If you’re buying the house with another person, make sure you assess your priorities and complete the Dream List together. It won’t help to make a list of priorities, only to find out they’re in direct conflict with your fellow buyer’s.
Put my practical needs as a single woman first. Hope thought she was looking for a cute Craftsman with wainscoting, high ceilings, and a yard. “In fact,” she says, “I almost bought a house that fit my supposed ideal. But at the last minute, I realized it wasn’t going to work. My work hours don’t leave time for home maintenance, and my safety was an issue in that neighborhood. So I switched gears and bought a late ’80s townhouse with a drive-in garage with direct access to the house, in a nicer neighborhood. It’s architecturally boring, but I’m comfortable there, the homeowners’ association deals with most of the maintenance, and I haven’t had a moment’s regret.”
The “Dream List” can be found in the Homebuyer’s Toolkit on the CD-ROM. A partial sample is shown below.
Dream List Directions
This Dream List includes the more common features found in many homes, but you can add others to this list (perhaps a must-have hillside location with a view) or delete some features. Add as many details as you want in the left-hand column (“General Features”). At the end of the Dream List, there’s a section for those things you absolutely will not accept, under any condition. There’s also a section at the end for notes, such as comments about a particular house or neighborhood—something you want to be sure to remember, such as a quiet location at the end of a cul de sac. These last two sections are not shown on the Sample Dream List, but they are on the complete form, which is available on the CD-ROM.
Fill in the “Must Have” column with your minimum requirements and the “Would Like” column with features you’d prefer but could live without. For example, for the “Number of Bedrooms” feature, you might write “3” in the “Must Have” column and “4” in the “Would Like” column. For some features, you can simply place a check mark to show that yes, you must have or would like that feature (such as a dishwasher). In some cases, you’ll add additional information: For example, you might put a checkmark indicating that a house meets your upper price limit, and then note the actual price of the house. If a “Must Have” can be added when you move in, such as a deck or second bathroom, you can also note this.
If you fill out the left columns of the Dream List now and print more copies, you can use this sheet over and over again. Each time you visit a house, simply write in the address and note how it compares in the right-hand column (“This House”). Save copies for homes that seem like good possibilities.