The Thrill Of The Hunt

Since we shared our house wish list back in the fall of 2010, we wanted to document what was on the list now (I just found it scrunched up in a vase that was sitting on the bedroom floor, naturally). It’s actually the same list  – we just scribbled things out as they changed and added new things as time passed (even when we weren’t house hunting, if we thought of something for our “someday house” we jotted it down whenever we came across the list). Not surprisingly, many things were the same – although it does seem that after 7 years of home-ownership our nice-to-have list grew a lot (I guess since we keep realizing new things we’d appreciate but don’t necessarily need).

Must Haves:

  • Four bedrooms (or three bedrooms and an office) of which at least three are on one floor
  • At least two full bathrooms and no more than three (three full ones occasionally felt like one too many tubs/showers to clean, so we were open to scaling back down to 2 or 2.5)
  • Within our budget (duh)

  • A private street with less through traffic (we wanted a place that Clara could ride her scooter and someday learn to ride a bike)
  • Around the same square footage as our last house, since that worked well for us (give or take 100 square feet or so – but nothing significantly larger or smaller)
  • Something not new (we just love a home with character and eons of potential behind all of those dated decorating decisions of yore)
  • Great schools (Clara’s the most important thing in the end, so it didn’t matter how awesome a house was if it wasn’t in a good school district)
  • Located in a walkable neighborhood (our long evening walks keep us happy and sane, so couldn’t live on a road where walking is dangerous)

  • A flat-ish backyard without a big treacherous drop off (this is another Clara & Burger safety parameter)
  • A safe and well loved neighborhood (the reasoning behind the word “safe” is obvious, and the “well loved” thing just means that even if our house needs help we’d love to be on a block with other homes that have already been spruced up, so we don’t risk over-improving our house for a crumbling-around-us neighborhood). You know, that “pick-the-worst-house-in-the-best-neighborhood” thing.

Nice To Haves:

  • A private backyard (our first house’s grassy and then wooded yard was the gold standard in our mind)
  • A kitchen that we could expand into a living/family room (you know we love knocking down walls, and we’ve noticed that a lot of newer homes have open living rooms and kitchens for a nice airy and casual feeling that appeals to us)
  • Extra high ceilings are always on our list, but they’re hard to find within our budget (just like our first two homes we didn’t hit on those this time, except for in the unfinished storage room, where we could potentially loft the ceilings a little and have exposed beams someday).
  • A brick exterior (we’ve grown used to how nice and low-maintenance they can be – although it can be harder and more expensive to find a two-story brick house so we were open to other options too)

  • Easy access from the kitchen to an outdoor BBQ/eating area without having to walk through a bunch of rooms (we love eating outside when the weather is nice – so once we switch out the windows in the kitchen for a big french door that leads out to the deck we’ll finally have this one checked off after two other houses without such direct access)
  • A window over the sink that looks outside (our first and second house both had pretty over-the-sink windows, but they looked into a sunroom in both instances)
  • A real pantry (our first house didn’t have one at all, and our second house had a tall cabinet, but not a true blue pantry with a door).
  • Sidelights around the front door (we honestly thought this was a pipe dream since no homes in our budget seemed to have them… until we found ours!)

  • We thought an actual foyer/entryway would be nice (our first two homes had a front door that led right into the living room/dining room)
  • If we found a two level house, we hoped the front door wouldn’t open right into the stairs (some other two story homes we toured had that setup and depending on how close the steps were to the door, it felt a little cramped – so we thought it would be nice if the stairs were offset from the door somehow)
  • A garage (we had a double garage at our first house, and a carport in our second house, so all the garage things ended up in the separate entry basement, which wasn’t as convenient – even though we made the best of it by adding a sweet little pergola).
  • A deck or patio (in our second house we DIYed both of them and lived to tell the tale – but we thought it would be nice to inherit one for a change, even if it needed some love).

And as for how we did, our new house meets all of the must-haves and checks nine of the twelve nice-to-have boxes (there aren’t any extra high ceilings going on, our backyard could use some shrubs to up the privacy-factor, and we don’t currently having easy outdoor dining table access from the kitchen). But we actually think all three of those things can be explored over time and we’re certain that at least two of them (the last two) can be accomplished. So it should be fun to see where we end up.

What do you guys look for in a house? Do you make two lists (one that’s full of musts and one that’s full of “in a dream scenario” things)? That seems to help us weigh the “needs” and the “wants” better than putting them all in the same category.


  1. Lorraine says

    I actually think it’s so exciting that you guys bought a new house. While I was initially shocked, I’m looking forward to following your journey from the beginning!!

  2. says

    That’s so great that you guys were able to find almost everything you were looking for regardless of which list it fell on. I’m so excited to see this house transform!

    As far as our lists, our must haves are:
    Central air, a decent sized kitchen (the bigger the better. I’ve been in a “2 butt kitchen” for 17 years. Translation: 2 butts are too many), a full basement that has high enough ceilings that we can do a tricep extension (Yes, we seriously do a tricep extension at open houses!) and at least 1 1/2 baths.

    Nice to haves: HUGE kitchen, nice tall fenced yard (good fences make good neighbors!), 2 car garage, a yard big enough for a garden patch, mucho storage.

    • Jennifer says

      It made me grin to read “true blue pantry” since there’s so much blue going on in your new house.

      We’re only just barely beginning to seriously consider our second house, so for the last couple years our list has been “two toilets and a real mailbox.” (We live in a very small town that doesn’t have door-to-door mail delivery. I hate that.) As we’re looking forward, though, I think we’ll have to add 1) more consideration for practicality of use than size of living spaces, 2) no strange textured walls or surfaces, 3) adequate heating and cooling for the size of the house, and 4) some sort of dedicated office space.

      If we can pull that off and not lose the features of our current house we love (sunny spaces for gardening, a large garage, and relatively open living spaces), I will be happy as a clam.

  3. says

    Thanks for the timing of this.

    We just had one of those list-y chats on Sunday and it gets revisited probably every day as another move to another state is only a few months away.

    The perk this time is that we have family in the area who is more than willing to scout homes, send pics to us, and do any investigating that we might need.

    If there’s one person I can count on to help, it’s my hub’s mother. After all, she became his legal guardian after he was hit by a car resulting in a severe TBI (

    • Kathryn says

      Thank you for posting the link, Wendy and for your candid and clear explanation of three letters that didn’t really conjure anything to me before. I’m probably just one of the many you’re going to educate with that piece. Thank you.

  4. says

    When we bought our house (the only house we’ve ever bought) our list was 3 bedrooms and must be inhabitable right away. We didn’t mind it needing some love, but we didn’t want to have to fork out $50,000 for a kitchen/bath reno right away.

    The main thing for us was location. Our apartment was in a great area where we could walk to a lot of different things. We saw some great houses, but in the end we went with the house that was in a walkable community. We absolutely love it.

  5. Lesley says

    Totally had a need and want list. One item we each had on our want list have been upgraded to need, with all else being equal, now that our budget would be higher; for me, a fireplace and for my husband, a front porch.

    …next time…

  6. Elizabeth says

    I have always done a need vs wish list. I lucked out and the house we bought about 2 years ago met both my lists :) And 2 years later I still love it and walk thru saying I can’t believe this is our house….I don’t see us moving anytime in our future which is rare because I use to literally start looking for the next house shortly after we moved in to our current house– I love change and liked to move every 3-4 years. But not anymore…I have found my forever home :) And now I have enough space to just change the inside every few years instead of moving!!

  7. Lina says

    I’m still so psyched about this new house! One question though: do your neighbors know who you are (do they know about the blog, book, etc.)? I’m curious to know how much attention your moving into the neighborhood has received.

    • says

      Hardly any of our neighbors have any idea who we are, but we have met three families who do. They have kids Clara’s age so it’s awesome for her to be meeting some little partners in crime…


  8. says

    Oh house hunting! Though it may not have been intentional, you totally just reminded me that unless you custom build (and even then) there is no such thing as an absolutely perfect in ever way house. I often find myself playing the “I wish” game with our house and wondering why we bought it, this reminds me that out of everything we saw, it was the one and now I’m reminding myself of all the things I love about it. :)

    • Sherry F says


      I do the same thing and I have to remind myself all the time of all the effort my husband and I put into finding a house that suited us in the small area we were looking in (we confined our search to three school districts) that we could afford. I think we have found our forever house and I hope you have too.

  9. says

    I love making lists like this! House hunting is perhaps one of my favorite things, even if the process can be laborious and occasionally disappointing.

    Our current house fit all our major checkboxes, but requires a lot more maintenance than we initially thought it would. In the end though it’s still way less than we would have spent if we bought something that was more updated, and you can’t get the sidewalks and mature trees (or location) that we have in a newer house.

  10. says

    I love your list and the fact that you’ve checked nearly every single item!!
    We just spent 2 months looking for a rental in the Yorkshire area and even though we only had 2 non-negociable criteria (NO carpets and a real shower as opposed to a bath without a shower attachment) after nearly giving up we finally found an old stone terrace that’s perfect for us:

    It’s a little on the small side but I know we can make it work, specially since we ended up being able to choose between this one and a slightly larger house outside of town that seemed like it was meant for an older couple. This one just felt right.
    Goodbye Paris, hello lovely Yorkshire countryside! I can’t wait to finally be able to WALK to places instead of always taking the train or car because there’s nothing to do in my dreary suburb!

  11. says

    This is a great tip. We did the same thing when we did our major renovation about 5 years ago. We made a list of “must have”, “nice to have”, and “don’t want” items. We ended up with pretty much exactly what we envisioned. We ended up deciding against a few things to get other things we wanted more. We gave this tip to some neighbors recently and they said it really helped them focus.

    • Larissa says

      What a great idea to add a “don’t want” list. Never would have thought of that, but it is equally as important. Thanks!

  12. Kate Mc says

    My list has a few of the same, my current sink faces a wall, with a ceiling light attached at eye level so I want a sink window to outside as well. I would also like a kitchen that opened to family room so as to watch kids while getting stuff accomplished. A pantry is necessary, and what I wouldn’t do for more storage than we currently have. Trying to explain why the snow shovel is in the linen closet is sometimes difficult.

  13. Emily says

    We didn’t necessarily write down our musts and wants, but we knew what they were going in.
    Our musts were:
    At least a two-car garage
    At least three bedrooms
    At least two full bathrooms
    A dining room (no eat-in kitchens here!)
    Quiet neighborhood
    Cheap & Ugly-I like to redecorate, and it doesn’t make sense to redo something new just because it’s not my taste
    An attached garage would be nice, but a detached wouldn’t have been a deal breaker (got it!)
    A separate powder room for guests (got it!)
    Not a corner lot (we lost on that one!)

    • says

      I’m having so much fun hearing about your lists guys! Thanks for sharing. This is like House Hunters. Without the “I’d like this house except I hate the paint color so I can’t buy it” moments.


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