Needs & Wants

As I inch closer toward a full on house hunt I’ve been compiling a list of needs and wants. I’m trying to keep my mind open about what type of house I want from an architectural sense. I know there are certain styles that I like more than others, but I don’t want to limit my options due to a bad experience in one house. I know there are certain things that are must haves and others that are things that would be nice to have. I realize everyone has their own opinions, but here are some of my needs and wants, in no particular order, along with my justifications for them.


Single Family Home
I’ve been told by more than one person that to keep the price down on my first home I should be looking for a multi-family home. While this sounds good from a price perspective, I know just as many people if not more that complain about hearing their neighbors and their neighbors hearing them. The privacy factor along with the idea of sharing walls with someone who may or may not take care of their home as well as I would is concerning. If they have bugs, or water damage, or somehow burn their house down, it’s a lot more likely that it will affect me if I’m connected to them than if I’m not.
Off Street Parking
Concrete would be nice, but asphalt is just fine. The ability to park at least one vehicle on a driveway or parking pad is something I’m not willing to compromise on.
High-Speed Internet Available
This sounds trivial, but there are still quite a few places that don’t offer high-speed Internet other than a satellite connection. Wherever I choose to buy, if the house doesn’t have high-speed Internet available, it’s out of contention.
Not Near Busy/Noisy Street
While looking at some houses in what I perceive to be my price range I’ve driven up to some that look very nice, then I get out of the car. Noise from a nearby busy street or highway is not something I’m willing to tolerate. Traffic from a main road is also not something I want to deal with, not only from the noise end, but also from a safety and convenience standpoint.
In the Lehigh Valley a basement is a pretty common feature, but there are still plenty of houses built on slabs. Not only do I want a basement for storage, but I’ve seen crawl spaces and I don’t want to mess with that if and when it’s time to do maintenance.
I’m sure a homeowner’s association is good for some people, but I can’t find a single reason I would want to belong to one. Not only is it a fee over and above taxes, but having a group of people telling me when I can put up Christmas lights or what color I can paint my shutters is just ridiculous.
Not Near High Tension Power Lines
They’re ugly, they emit a buzzing noise and I’ve heard all kinds of things about them causing health issues. I don’t want to live near them.
Safe Neighborhood
I realize that no area is crime free, but I’d rather not have to worry about being mugged when I take out my trash or my car being broken into.
No Permanent Smells
While I was casually looking at houses I saw one that seemed great and for a price that seemed too good to be true. I drove past to take a closer look and I still couldn’t see anything greatly unappealing, until I turned the corner and saw that a waste water treatment plant was just two blocks away. Living near a waste water or trash facility is definitely something I don’t want to do.


Near Bethlehem
Lately it seems like just about everything is going on in and around Bethlehem. While I don’t need to be within walking distance of downtown, being close to the action would be nice.
Central Air
This one pretty much speaks for itself, but I don’t want to have to mess with window air conditioners.
I’m a car guy. I want to be able to store and work on my cars, even when it’s dark out or the weather isn’t nice. I think most guys want a Garage Mahal, but even something small is better than nothing.
Basement Outdoor Exit
I have to wonder how other companies that make cellar doors feel about the term Bilco doors, because just like Xerox with photocopies and Kleenex with tissues, Bilco seems to be synonymous with basement entry doors. I don’t think we’ll get many tornadoes, but being able to enter the basement from outside would be preferable, especially when dealing with large items like a furnace.
Not In A “Development”
This falls under the same idea as my “No HOA” need, but lately it seems like houses are just built on top of each other and all look the same. Cul-de-sacs and zero-lot-line houses are also something I’d like to avoid.
City Sewage
I’d really rather not deal with a septic system if I don’t have to. They’re one of those things no one cares about until it breaks, but when they do, it’s a big expense.
Garbage Collection
After hearing about Bethlehem’s garbage collection fiasco I thought that not having a common garbage collection service was a huge item on my list, but learning that some areas have no garbage collection at all put this on my list. Burn barrels and being forced to haul items to the dump or recycling center isn’t a total deal breaker, but it’s darn close.
Modern Electric Service
Two prong outlets and fuses are things that would have to be immediately updated. A house with a 200A service would be nice, but breakers and 3 prong outlets are a good starting point. If I had to, I could get a house rewired, but it’s not inexpensive and it’s time consuming.
Covered Porch
I always loved the house in Forrest Gump. Something about big wrap around porches where you can go out and listen to the rain is just appealing to me. I know a few people with them and they’re great for numerous things.
Good Mobile Phone Coverage
I currently live in a black hole of mobile phone coverage. It doesn’t matter which carrier it is, it seems that everyone has poor reception where I live. I’d prefer that not to be the case where I buy.
A Decent Yard
A yard is something I debated putting on the needs list, but I have it listed under wants because what I mean by having a yard is not just a patch of grass that takes less time to mow than it does to gas up the mower, but I want somewhere I can spend time, do some landscaping, build a fire pit and just enjoy time with friends.

What do you think? It’s still an evolving list, but is there anything I’m missing? Is there anything on here that you don’t believe is as big of a deal as I’m making it? What were some of your needs and wants and after purchasing, how did you feel about them? You’ll notice my lists didn’t include anything about gourmet kitchens, whirlpool tubs, master suites or fireplaces. I’m a handy guy and I’m also realistic and know that with a limited budget, lots of frills and upgrades aren’t things I’m going to have inside the house. If it’s got good bones, I can work with that. If it has shag carpet, olive green appliances, a dated bathroom and wood paneling on the walls, I’m completely willing to buy that house. I’m hoping that I can fit my wants and needs in with a house that has some aesthetic things that other buyers can’t get past or aren’t willing to do the work on to replace themselves.

5 thoughts on “Needs & Wants

  1. Even single family homes have neighbors. We are very lucky with our neighborhood. Folks are great. Observe lawns, and quality of cars parked on streets.

  2. I enjoyed reading your lists Todd (I wish all my clients knew what was really important to them!) So here are my observations: 5 of your 9 Needs have to do with location…and the mantra in real estate is location, location, location so you’re right on the mark there. Personally I could not agree more with you on every one of your 9 items, especially the High Speed Internet! When my husband & I were looking to build here in the valley that was our #1 criteria and the reason that we now live in Palmer Twp and not Upper Nazareth Twp! Knowing you as much as I do (or don’t) I think you might want to move 2 of your Wants up to Needs: Near Bethlehem & The Garage. Both of these things are integral to who you are and for someone that is putting as much thought and patience into this process, you should really have the enjoyment that both of these things will bring to you…just my opinion! If I had to pick one thing that I think you should be willing to compromise on it would be the central air. This can be a rarity in older homes and the majority of homes in your preferred area ARE older homes. You can always add central air in the future or use 1 or 2 good window units to cool the entire house. The window units can be more economical too.

    In conclusion let me just share one thing with you: ask any real estate agent and they will tell you that the majority of people end up buying a home that is completely different from what they originally thought they wanted! Most people are driven by emotion and when they are smitten with a home, they are willing to compromise many things!

    • Thanks for the feedback, Tammy! I am sure my list will evolve as I learn more, but I don’t want to be someone buying on emotion and making a dumb mistake. I’m sure I’ll make plenty of my own, but I’d like to learn from the mistakes of others as much as possible.

  3. I disagree with Tammy. I ended up in exactly the house I wanted, in Bethlehem, detached, old architecture, great block, off-street parking, 2 car garage, central air, great bones.

    What we didn’t expect were some repairs beyond our capability (like a faulty chimney and some projects done “on the cheap” by a previous homeowner). They did not disclose some details that would have been good to know. For example, even though our house has A/C, it doesn’t cool the whole house evenly (it was a retrofit). We spent some of the money we saved for renovations on repairs.

    If you have an opportunity to speak with the neighbors of a home you’re considering, they may give you insight that your realtor and theirs don’t have or won’t share. The house across the street from us is for sale and when we’re out in the yard or walking the dog, people ask us about the neighborhood and whether we’ve been inside.

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