Buying a House? 4 Things to Take Off Your Must-Have List Now

Don't let your vision of your dream house cloud your judgment on which details you really need in a home.

U.S. News & World Report

Take These Off Your Home Must-Have List

Before you put your dream details for a home on your must-have list, consider whether you're willing to pay the higher price tag to get everything you want.(Getty Images)

As most adults know, life is about compromise. No job is perfect, no relationship is perfect and no home is perfect. When you start looking for a home, it's important to go through your wish list with your real estate agent and talk about what is realistic and what isn’t – and what will cost more than you thought it would.

In many urban environments, for example, apartment-dwellers might need to forego outdoor space, especially in a place like Manhattan. In other real estate markets, buyers may find they need to compromise on things like the garbage disposal, having a doorman or gated community, architectural features or a swimming pool. That said, certain things can be added to a property or changed, while other flaws might need to just be accepted.

For most buyers, the perfect home might be financially out of reach, and many buyers find themselves settling for a home that they like (and that they learn to love) even though it’s not their original dream home. Sometimes, it’s even possible to find out that those desired features could have a huge disadvantage.

With that in mind, here are a few items you don’t need in a new home as badly as you thought you did:

  • Open kitchen.
  • Large bedrooms.
  • Fireplace.
  • Community amenities.

Open kitchen

In the world of new construction, an open kitchen has been the common standard for many homes for more than a decade. In resale, many buyers want to know if a traditional kitchen can be opened up if it isn’t already. It seems that this is a very common want for many, particularly for people with young children or those who like to entertain in a more casual setting. But like any trend, the open kitchen floor plan may become a dated feature in the coming years. In a lot of brand-new construction, many homes now have a more traditional, closed kitchen, like in years past.

An open kitchen can be great for entertaining, especially if your kitchen is gorgeous and generally tidy, but for many buyers, an open kitchen becomes less of a must-have than they might have thought when they first started looking for a new home. If you keep a messy kitchen, it actually might be better to have your mess tucked away and out of sight.

Large Bedrooms

Are you a bedroom person or a living room person? This is a question you should think about as you start to look at properties. There’s no right answer, but when space is at a premium in urban real estate markets like New York City, Chicago or San Francisco, often the square footage will be more allocated to either the bedrooms or the living room.

Bedroom people tend to spend a lot of time in those more private spaces. Maybe they bring the mail and dinner into their room and watch TV in bed. Living room people will only use their bedroom for sleeping. If you consider yourself a living room person, having a large bedroom is less important than you might have originally thought.

Fireplace

There is no doubt that a working fireplace adds something charming and inviting to just about any space. A wood-burning fireplace can be wonderful in the winter, but if you don’t use it, there’s little point in having it.

One home seller recently revealed that when she bought her home 20 years ago, having a wood-burning fireplace was one of the most important must-haves in her home search. Twenty-five years later, she admits that she never got around to having the flue inspected and has never used the very fireplace she thought she needed. She is now looking for a new home and although she doesn’t need a traditional wood-burning fireplace, she intends to install an eco-friendly version without a chimney to achieve a similar effect.

Community Amenities

In many urban markets, new buildings and communities are touting their many amenities, including not only gyms and roof decks, but also conference rooms, resident lounges, pet spas, swimming pools and even wine cellars. Out of this list, the only one that is used regularly is the gym. Often when you tour a new building, resident lounges, roof decks and pet spas are empty and appear rarely used. It might be nice to have these amenities the one or two times a resident uses them during the entire duration of living in the home, but they should not be the tail that wags the dog in choosing a home.

However, sometimes we are just obsessed with certain items on our wish list that we cannot let go of – which is fair. In this situation, there is one other compromise that can be done, if your funds allow it: the price. At a recent closing, when asked if he felt he'd compromised on his wish list, the buyer said he got everything he wanted, including the chic location, large terrace, open kitchen, high ceilings and contemporary move-in ready renovation. However, this came at a high price. The apartment was significantly more expensive than the buyer's original budget. No home is perfect, and sometimes the big compromise might be the price.

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