Most people begin thinking about their first home long before they can afford to buy it. Many have a clear idea of the type of home they want, what features it will have, and where it will be located. But if you're not sure what you want or need in a home, here are some things to think about before you buy.

Priorities

Make a list of needs that your house must fulfill, and put them in order of priority (number of bedrooms, proximity to schools or transit, accessibility for disabled, etc). Now add to the bottom of that list those things that would be nice to have (finished basement, renovated kitchen, or central air, for example). A real estate professional can help you refine the list around your budget and what's available on the market.

Location

It really is the most important factor, because where you live affects everything else in your life. Do you prefer the city, or the country? Do you need space for a garden, or storage for a motorbike? An espresso bar down the street, or a lake down the lane? Where and how you work should also play a role in your decision – are you willing to commute, or have you always wanted to walk to work? Will you need a home office? All of these factors will affect which homes and neighbourhoods you look at.

Lifestyle

Think seriously about how much home maintenance you are willing and able to do. A new home can be built and styled to your specifications, without you lifting a finger except to sign the deed. An older home might have more character, large trees, and an established neighbourhood. A condominium apartment is perfect for those who don't have the time or inclination to do outdoor maintenance. If you have children, think about proximity to schools and recreation.

Taste

“Dream Home” is a subjective thing. Everyone has an idea of what their dream home will look like, whether it's contemporary, Victorian, ranch-style or something in between. But be sure to carefully consider a home's features before ruling it out based purely on taste. Decide whether you really want to pass up a home that fulfills your every need simply because it's a bungalow instead of a two-storey, or modern instead of Craftsman. Keeping an open mind regarding style and turning a blind eye to decor could be key to finding the ideal home for you.