Wants vs. Needs - The Difference

When buying a home, one of the first questions most real estate agents will ask new buyers is, “What do you want in your new home”? It might seem like an easy question to answer but identifying your “wants’ from your “needs” is an important aspect of home seeking.  When I talk with buyers, I always remind them that these needs and wants may and will likely change throughout the process of finding the right home.


A need is something that is essential to how you live.  This will be a big and long-term purchase, so it’s important to understand your needs. For instance, if you have a family of four, you truly can’t live in a studio-style apartment; bedrooms become a real need in house hunting. On the other hand, while having an acre of land would be nice, do you truly have to have that much space in your yard?  It’s important to also think about the maintenance and work behind maintaining acreage.


When thinking about what you “want” in a home, a want is a feature or amenity that would be an added bonus if it were available.  For example, as a buyer’s agent, I hear condo buyers wanting a fitness center in the building they are looking to buy in. However, they likely already have a fitness center they go to, so it’s not as important.  Another example that I hear sometimes in Arlington is wanting a garage. Garages are great but in a lot of the older Arlington homes, they don’t have garages. If you’re willing to give that up and park outside, this is a want.

Make a List

One way to focus your thought is to create a list of features and amenities that you would like to have in a new home. Prioritize this list starting with the essential (need) first and work your way down to the aspects that would be nice to have (want). Remember that you might live in this home for a number of years, so consider how your family will grow over the next few years and what needs might change.

Think about elements outside the house itself as well and don’t forget that long-term plan. Do you have school aged children, or will you? The location of the home might be a need as well. Commute times, parks and services must also be included in the list of priorities.

Home hunting is exciting; make sure you include your needs in your search so you don’t get distracted by a want instead.  Also, be prepared to maybe move some wants and needs around. As you see more homes, you may realize what you thought was a need is actually more of a want or vice versa.

What are some common needs and wants you think of when looking for a home?  Are there any other topics you’d like to hear about? Let me know in the comments.