By Carriann Johnson, interior designer and TV personality

As an interior designer for 16 years, I understand falling in love with the details. And it’s so downright exciting to shop for one of your largest investments – a home! But before you get carried away with your list of “dream features,” have you truly defined what you want versus what you need in your next home? In my years of working with hundreds of clients, I have found that the things we think are “must-haves” aren’t what we really need once our lifestyles take over.

Recently my husband and I found ourselves home shopping. When I sat down and really thought about what I needed – and not just what I wanted – to my amazement, we decided to look for a smaller home. The fancy outdoor living space and grand front entrance I used to want had been taken off our list. Entertaining space and a dining room weren’t ‘needs’ any longer due to our hectic schedules. We found a home with more intimate spaces that bring us closer as a family compared to the sprawling oasis of rooms we once wanted. Carefully considering our lifestyles helped us create a list of what we really needed.

What do you need from your home? Remember, key word here is “need.” A need should always trump a want when it comes to big decisions in life. Agree? Take a look at my list to help you find the right attitude when looking for your next home.

1) Make a list
Make a list with two columns – wants versus needs. Your needs should include things like location, school districts, neighborhood, your budget, number of bedrooms, features and amenities, plumbing and electrical that are updated, lot size, number of garage spaces, HOAs and Covenants. Wants may include nonessentials such as the specific style of the home, a newer furnace and hot water heater, remodeled kitchen or baths, deck, pool, hot tub, flooring material, fireplace or wood stove, newer windows and/or landscaping.

2) Consult with other family members
If you’re purchasing a home for more people than just yourself, consult with other family members to further define your wants versus needs. A larger kitchen may be important to your spouse, whereas your son or daughter may need extra closet space due to hobbies or interests. Consider how you want your family to live in your home. Believe it or not, studies have shown that square footage and the floor plan of your home can affect your relationships. Bouncing thoughts and ideas off one another can be very helpful in determining your wants and needs.

3) Consider tomorrow
Consider how long you may plan to stay in your next home. That in itself can determine your wants and needs. If you are planning to stay short term in your home, its location, value and neighborhood will be important, as will current market activity.

If you are planning to stay in your next home longer than five years, think about upcoming life changes. Are you planning to expand your family? Will you be needing an extra room to accommodate an aging parent? Will you need a generous lot for a future home addition? Is remodeling certain features in your budget?

4) Compromise and trade-offs

The home shopping and purchasing experience can be exhausting. However, being realistic will ease your mind and reduce your stress. We have been suffocated by the pressure to live a life that tells us we need certain things to be happy. Avoid the noise. Ask yourself: What makes you happy? If having a large kitchen brings you joy so you can cook for family and friends, make that a need. But be okay to let go of a large backyard if you live in a state where mosquitoes and rain dominate your summers. Spend time defining your lifestyle and what you could forgo in order to be happy in your home.

Keep these perspectives in mind when defining the wants versus needs of your home and you’ll be sure to find a home you love!


Don Jones Photography

Former HGTV designer Carriann Johnson, of Concepts by Carriann, LLC, is a top interior designer, television personality, host and spokesperson. Look for more of her pro tips on the RE/MAX blog and in the Own It! series of videos from RE/MAX.