Five Questions to Answer Before You Start House Hunting

A few big picture items to keep in mind as you come up with your “must have” house shopping list.

How long do I plan to be in this house?

Your answer to this question will help you determine a couple things. Let’s say you’re a newly married couple looking for a first home. Knowing how long you plan on being in a home will help determine your needs. If you’d like to make this home a place to raise a family for the next 15 years, you may want to prioritize local schools. If you think the house will be a starter home where you’ll be for the next 5 years, this is not as critical — you will have time to find another home when your kids are school-aged. If you don’t plan on having children, schools are obviously less important.

What functions do I need the house to provide?

Ask yourself: Do I love hosting cookouts? Do I want to work on my car in the garage or driveway? Will I need backyard space to grow a garden? Come up with a list of things you want to be able to do in your new home and derive some must-haves from that. For example, if you plan to move across the country and your family will be visiting often, you’ll need at least one guest room or a transitional place for them to stay. If you plan on hosting cookouts or holiday meals, you’ll need space for people to gather and eat.

How comfortable am I overseeing or doing home renovation projects?

Some people are okay doing a little fixing up. (And opinions vary on what “a little” means!) Others want to hire a contractor to customize a house to their tastes. Still others want 100% move-in ready or a new build. You don’t need to be a master electrician or plumber, but having an answer to the question of home renovations going into your house hunt will help guide your search effectively. Be prepared to discuss your comfort level with your Realtor, and be honest with what types of renovations you feel confident doing and have the time to do.

How much time will I be spending at home? On my property?

This question will help you determine your sizing needs. If you will be working long hours or traveling often, maybe a townhouse or condo makes more sense than a 4 bedroom single-family home with a large yard requiring lots of maintenance. If you have a large family and want to spend time outdoors (or if you have outdoor pets), you may need a single family home with a larger yard to provide a bit of separation from your neighbors.

Knowing the answers to these questions and understanding what is non-negotiable will help light the path to your next home. Be sure to share your questions and answers with your Realtor. He or she may have valuable insight based on field experience and will be able to better tailor your home search using these non-negotiable items.


Erin Ankeny is a licensed Realtor with Weichert, Realtors — New Colony in Columbia, Maryland (recently named the #1 place to live in America). She lives in Columbia with her husband and baby daughter, along with their cat Penny. You can find Erin on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Please feel free to reach out any time with questions you have regarding real estate, buying a house, or selling your property!