Knowing What You Want

by brandt

Even though we don’t have our house (yet!), Ashley and I have been glued to the TV.  Obviously, HGTV is one of the stations of choice, with Ashley liking the design shows, and me opting for manly shows involving guys like Mike Holmes doing manly things like knocking out walls and what not.  We both can come to an agreement about one thing: We love being voyeuristic and watching shows like “House Hunters” for inspiration, self-awareness, and insight.

A couple of days ago, we were dog-sitting for some friends and while Ashley slept, I indulged myself in some very coveted hockey-on-TV time.  I fell asleep during the middle of one of the games, and when I woke up, Ashley had it on HGTV.  “House Hunters” was just about to start, and having already received my fix of hockey for the day, I turned my glazed-over half-asleep eyes over to the TV to watch the latest round of houses.

HGTV gets some interesting people on their “House Hunting” shows, and there are some great pluses and minuses.  I’m sure the producers tell the people to be vocal and talk a lot when they go through the houses, but sometimes they come off as petty and picky.  I’m sure it’s nerve-wracking for the agents and the buyers, but sometimes the agents go from being knowledgeable real estate professionals to uncomfortable sales people.  I’m sure they try to find places, houses, and people who are very interesting and will get them viewers, but sometimes I look at the houses and think that what they’re portraying is extremely unrealistic (such as the people on Sunday who were looking at houses valued between $1.5-$1.85 million out in Denver, Colorado).  Ashley and I are at a different place in our life than the people HGTV is looking for (just starting out in our jobs, first-time homeowners, looking for great economical deals), but sometimes “House Hunters” is just unrealistic.

While this last Sunday’s show was a bit unrealistic, the people they had were very interesting.  I believe the husband was a scientific engineer of some sort, and she was a researcher (I want to say psychological research).  The reason I bring up their professions is that they were very organized, detailed, and knew exactly what they wanted.  When they were touring their current house, the husband was listing the things he wanted changed or updated, including a finished basement for entertaining, a dedicated exercise room, an office that was big enough for both he and his wife to both work in, and other smaller house-needs.  They had spreadsheets, they had lists of priorities for houses, they had exact budgets they were looking  at, and to say they were prepared would be quite the understatement.

In my half-awake state, I started reflecting on Ashley and I, and how we decided on what we were looking for in a house.  When we met with our agent, we were lost.  We had no clue what we wanted.  We kind of knew the area we wanted, but that was about it.  When I first talked to our agent on the phone (who had come highly recommended from a friend of ours), she asked me “So tell me, what are you looking for in a house?”  I froze up.  I didn’t know what we were looking for.  I knew that our apartment was a bit too small for my tastes, and that I didn’t like the layout of it, and our 7×7 kitchen was too small.  So I told her we’d like a house with a big kitchen.  She asked if we had any other desires in a house. I think I might have said something about a decent sized yard, something about the school district we wanted to be in, and that I guess I wanted to get a foreclosure because those HAD to be the best deals out there.

As we started touring houses, we started learning what we wanted.  Just because a house had a big kitchen didn’t mean it was the type of big kitchen we wanted.  Just because a house was a foreclosure didn’t mean it was a good deal (and we saw a lot of really nasty foreclosures).  As we toured more houses, and learned all the boundary lines within the area, we knew exactly the area we wanted to live in.  I mean, we knew the borders down to the road (which is a long story for another time).  Our agent has been great, because as soon as we would determine something (like our street boundaries we were wanting to stay within), she would rework our listings and come back with some more houses.

So what does all this have to do with each other?  I think if I were to give advice to anyone getting ready to begin their home search, the most important thing would be to start scouring over at every single house you could find on the MLS listings or on  Like I’ve said before, we had no clue what we wanted.  We toured about 5-6 houses, with me emailing or talking on the phone to my agent giving her my feedback, and after a couple of weeks, she said “OK, that sounds good, I think I know what you’re looking for.”  What?  We didn’t even know what we were looking for!  But we stuck it out, kept looking at houses until we finally determined the recurring themes in the houses.  For us, we liked big houses that we could grow our families in, we liked more modern houses (built within the last 20 years), and we liked “potential”…something that we could live in right away and not worry about any weird diseases sharing the house with us, but being able to expand and mold the house the way we wanted it.  We knew we wanted a big kitchen, but what does that even mean?  After touring the houses, we figured out we wanted it big enough so both of us could be in there and not be in each other’s way and for us to entertain guests, but be cozy enough for us to be able to actually clean the place.  We wanted a basement, but specifically we wanted one that had the potential to be finished and decked out for an ultimate man cave (or, depending on the children we have, a pretty-princess playroom…as much as it pains me to see my man cave go away).

That was the biggest key for me, looking at as many houses and layouts and everything to really nail down what we were looking for in a house.  What things are on your “MUST HAVE” list?  Did you know what you wanted in your house before you went looking?  And for those of you who don’t have a house yet, what’s on your dream house list?

Image via Digital Content Producer


6 Comments to “Knowing What You Want”

  1. Amen.

    I wrote up a similar post here [] :o) Funny how we all seem to hit certain checkpoints along the way. Kind of like house hunting milestones!

    • It’s really interesting how people hit those milestones. I mean, I originally thought “Ohhhhh it’s not that big of a deal,” but now, I can go into a house and know within 5 minutes if I like the house/want to make an offer on it or not. I’m sure many of us grizzled house-hunting veterans all feel that way at some point! Good to know I’m not the only one!

  2. Funny story about our house search… we actually got started because Mike’s brother called us to tell us there was a house for sale in his neighborhood that was an unbelievable deal. We weren’t looking, weren’t even married yet and had no money saved. We went to look at it and put an offer on it. Over the weekend we looked at each other and were like, WHAT THE HECK ARE WE DOING!? But it gave us the bug and for the next 2 years or so, we toured a lot of houses for fun, drove around the area a lot and learned what we wanted before we were that serious about buying. So when our house came around, we knew it was a) a great deal and b) everything we wanted. My rookie self would have gone for the first house we saw had we had the money for it. We even knew at the time that that place would never be our “forever home” (is that term used for humans, or just adopted animals?). Chances are if we bought that house in 2008 we’d already want out by now. I really didn’t want to move ever again, so we wanted our first house to be our last house, because that’s how I grew up I guess!

  3. First off. House Hunters. I enjoyed that show before I learned that many of the episodes have people who are already in contract with a house and they just go and look at other houses simply for the show. I felt betrayed when I found that out.

    When we started looking for a house, we knew a few of the features that we wanted although we labeled a lot of them as “wants” and not “needs”. Some of the needs were a minimum of 3 bedrooms, a garage, and not a split level house. Some of the wants were hardwood floors and a nice kitchen.

    Once we started looking at houses, we would find something that we just really didn’t like about a house (keep in mind that we also looked at 12 houses in one day–that’s a lot of houses to go through!). The master bathroom was awkwardly shaped and really skinny (ours is really small but is more square so it doesn’t feel so cramped). The kitchen was not much larger than our apartment kitchen. The layout of the house didn’t really vibe with us.

    We knew when we found the right house. It was the third to last house we visited on that first day. Hardwood floors, new kitchen appliances, an open feel to the kitchen, 4 bedrooms, a large yard. And best of all, because it was empty, it was so easy to mentally place furniture as I walked through. Our realtor said that’s a sign that you really like a house. Is it our dream house? No. Are there things we’ve learned that we’ll look at when we go to another house? Yes. Do I still love it? Absolutely.

    • Wow, I kinda figured that they had some sort of deal with HGTV for “House Hunters,” but not to that extent. I figured HGTV would pay their closing costs on whatever house they got, but that makes it seem……….meh………..I agree with you.

      12 houses in one day is quite a bit….we did 5 houses and were exhausted afterwards. Interesting the wants vs. needs concept though. I mean, we had our “needs” (basically, 3br/2ba/big kitchen/basement), but our wants were all over the map. Once we nailed down exactly where we wanted to live, we were left with a handful of houses that met both the wants and needs category, and we had to change up our lists a bit.

      And there’s something to be said about that feeling of mentally seeing where furniture is supposed to go and how the house “feels” with the family. That’s been the hardest part for us, going through that “feeling” on a few different houses before we finally got a chance on this one.

      🙂 thanks for the bloggy love!

  4. We made a list with our realtor, and it had a “must” column and a “would be nice” column. I think we got almost all our musts, a few “would be nice”. The only “must” I know we didn’t get was a garage, but Robert wants to build his idea of a perfect garage anyhow. Other musts were wood floors, 3 bed, 2 bath, porch, fireplace… And a “would be nice” that we got was planked roof.

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