Setting Up A House Buying Worksheet

My wife and I are looking at about three houses per night this week (on average), and because of the sheer volume of houses, we’re concerned about recalling all of our reactions to the houses as well as their primary features. As a result, last night my wife designed a house buying worksheet in order for us to standardize our thoughts on the houses we’ll visit.

What’s a house buying worksheet? It’s a short document that enables us to mark off the specific things we’re looking for in a house as we observe them, as well as record our individual reactions to the house as soon as the visit is over. We printed off a big pile of these blank forms before we even started on the house selection process so that we could record our reactions to all of them.

Why? Once we’re done looking, if we haven’t reached an immediate standard consensus, we can use these forms to quickly go through all of the houses we visited and isolate the ones that meet more stringent criteria, such as only ones with four bedrooms or only ones that elicited a particularly strong response from me. In other words, these sheets will provide the supporting data as we move from canvassing for houses down to selecting one.

What’s on the sheet? Our sheet lists the things that we’re specifically looking for in a house – a large kitchen (but not necessarily a newly-finished one), a bedroom easily accessible from the master bedroom to use as a nursery, and so on. These things will vary a lot depending on what your needs are – our needs reflect the fact that we have a son less than two years old and a daughter on the way and plans for potentially more children, so we are looking for things that will work well for children. We also try not to include things that we could trivially change ourselves, such as installing a “false wall” in a family room in order to turn a corner of it into a writing nook for me (something I’d like very much). We also include a section that has all of the standard house stuff, as well as a place to list what rooms can be found on each floor of the house.

How do I design my own sheet? It’s easy – just fire up your handy word processing program and make a list of all of the things you are really looking for in a house. Think about your needs – what do you really need from your home? Are you into cooking like I am? Then you may be looking for a large kitchen. Got young kids? A nursery room (a bedroom close to the master) might be good. Got teenagers? Bedrooms on opposite ends of the house (giving them breathing space and some noise isolation) might be good. Entertain a lot of guests? A formal dining room and living room might be good, with a separate family room elsewhere. From there, simply make a checklist or some other method of recording this data, then print off several copies and take one to each house you visit.

The only standard features I would recommend on such a sheet is a spot for the address and contact info for the agent, basic statistics on the house (square footage, rooms, etc.), and a spot for each buyer to record their thoughts immediately after the visit. I would also highly recommend a clipboard with an attached pen for the visit itself.

Is it worth the effort? The only real effort is during the preparation of the sheet, and that – for us, at least – encouraged us to talk at length about what exactly we were looking for, which was a very worthwhile use of time. After the house hunt, having all of these sheets will also be very useful as we deliberate – the ones we already have have been thumbed through a lot.

Tonight, we visit four houses. It should be interesting.

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