Non-negotiables when buying a house
Non-negotiables when buying a house

Non-Negotiables When Buying A House

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Buying a house is a complicated process, especially in a hot sellers’ market. If you are finding it difficult to get the home of your dreams, you might need to start thinking about what are your non-negotiable items. Unless you have the financial ability and flexibility to build your own home, you are unlikely to find one specific home that has everything you are looking for. When searching for a new home, it’s a good idea to separate your needs from your wants.

Needs vs. Wants

The first step starts with compiling your must-haves, your needs, your non-negotiable items from the things that would simply be nice to have. Of course if you manage to find a home that checks off every box that would be amazing, but the fact of the matter is that such a scenario is unlikely. You might find success taking a list of home criteria and ranking them in order of how important they are to you and your family.

Non-Negotiables When Buying a House

The list of non-negotiables will be different for everyone, but here are a few things to serve as inspiration as you make up your list of non-negotiables when buying a house:


Location, Location, Location is the mantra of all real estate, but there’s a reason it’s such a commonly-repeated phrase. A home’s location is probably the biggest factor when deciding whether it’s the right one for you. You might be moving across the country to start a new job, or you might be looking for a new home with good schools to raise your family. Either way, you may have a specific location that is non-negotiable.

Location also includes things like commute time and the quality of the school district, if you have kids you’re planning on enrolling in public school. Although working from home is becoming more popular, if you still have a daily commute, you’ll want to choose a home that doesn’t leave you tearing your hair out in traffic every day. 

Size / Number of Bedrooms

You’ll next want to take a look at what size of a house is a “must have”, and how much house is “nice to have”. You may WANT 4 bedrooms but could survive with only 3 if you needed to. Keep in mind that your “stuff” tends to expand to fill however much space you have. So even though you might be moving to a much larger house, you might find yourself in need of decluttering before too long.

Garage / Parking

Your situation will play a big role in deciding whether off-street parking is a non-negotiable item — if you’re living on your own in a city with great public transportation, you will have less need for a garage than if you have a large family living in the suburbs. If you do feel you need off-street parking, is a driveway sufficient? Or would a carport work? If you need to have a garage, does it have to be attached? Taking time during the homebuying process will increase your odds of making a wise choice with your next home purchase.

Outdoor Space / Yard / Pool

Another item to consider adding to your non-negotiable list is the outdoor space. If you have kids that have been cooped up in an apartment for too long, you may feel it is necessary to have a big yard for them to play in. Or if you like to entertain, having a backyard, patio or deck might be mandatory. If you live in a warmer climate, then a swimming pool might make it onto your “must have” list.

Rental Potential

A final item to consider is what you’re going to do when you’re done with this home and ready to move onto the NEXT home. Yes, it might seem a bit silly to start planning your next move before you’ve even finished this one, but it makes sense to at least start thinking through the possibilities. Are you interested in potentially starting a passive income stream by renting your home out once you move?

If so, you will want to consider its rental potential, and how much rent you might be able to get from it. Or, you may know that this is your dream home that you’re never leaving, in which case you may not need to worry about it. Still, it’s something that savvy homebuyers will consider as they search for a home.

The Bottom Line

It’s very unlikely to find a single home that meets every single criteria you have in mind. It’s most likely that you’ll have to make tradeoffs. Just about everything can be had for the right price. But if you don’t want to break your budget, it’s a good idea to separate out your non-negotiable items from your “nice to haves”. Use this list as a starting point, talk it over with friends and family, come up with additional items. You’ll be well on your way to finding the home of your dreams.

Dan Miller
Dan Miller

Written by Dan Miller

Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of, a site that helps families to travel for free / cheap. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and 6 kids. More from Dan Miller