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Putting It All Together – Budget, Location, Criteria for Your First Home

Week 4 of our 4-part series — How to Find the Perfect Home for You and Your Budget

Taking that first step to buy your very first home can be scary and daunting. You want to find a home you will love but also afford. In our four-part “how-to” series for first-time buyers, you’ll learn what to do every step of the way and how to incorporate our strategies with your own to find a home that is “perfect” for your budget and your lifestyle.


Here’s a weekly run-down of our “perfect home”-buying formula:

As a first-time buyer we’ve asked you to go over your budget, narrow down a location, and decide on your criteria for a new home … but we haven’t let you go house hunting just yet!

You may think that’s crazy, but it isn’t.

At this point, you should have read Weeks 1, 2 & 3 of our series. We covered budget, location, and criteria and how you first need to figure out your own answers to each of these three items before you start looking at homes.


Because these three – budget, location, and criteria — are intertwined and play a key role in finding the “perfect” home for you.  It’s important for you to take the time before you go house hunting to understand these two requirements:

  • Know where you are with the specifics for each one of the three; and
  • Know how each one can affect or influence the others in your search for a home.

Undertaking this entire process and how each is linked is essential when looking for a home that is affordable, meets your needs, and will satisfy most of your wants. You don’t want any regrets when those moving boxes arrive!

Confused? Here are more details on this process below.

The 3 Buckets – Budget, Location, and Criteria

When we ask you to “pull it all together” at this point in the home-buying process, we use an analogy of 3 buckets.

Each and every factor that you can think of when you are buying a home fits into one of these 3 buckets:

1.) Budget

2.) Location

3.) Criteria (The first two are obvious but when we say criteria, we mean things like how big, how many bedrooms, condition, etc.  Aspects about the home itself you require.)

Each bucket doesn’t have to be equal in “weight” but the total weight combined of the 3 buckets must be aligned or balance the scale they sit on … that is your ultimate goal.

So how does this translate to looking for a home?

First and foremost, you have to understand what you are putting in each bucket and make sure you use this order: budget, location, criteria.  That way you’ll be able to house hunt with a plan and a purpose!

This order is crucial and that’s why we always tell our clients to first figure out their budget bucket for a new home.

Now it’s your turn — BEGIN with what you want to pay per month, THEN know how much cash you have for the purchase, and THEN bring that information to your real estate agent and lender to have them tell you what your price range should be.

We’ve written many articles on this topic, but here are a few to help you with this concept:

Of all the buckets, it’s important to get this one figured out before you start looking for a home. And then don’t change it until you’ve exhausted adjusting your location and criteria first before deciding to alter your budget. Only change it if you’re not successful finding a home.

Next, focus on the location bucket.  Where do you want to live, why?  What characteristics of that location are important to you?  For example, if you love walkability and an easy commute by bike every day, there are plenty of neighborhoods that fit that particular need, even if it’s not the one you originally had in mind.

Third, focus on the criteria bucket.  What do you really need in a home?  How long do you plan on living there?  What do you want your life to be like during that time period?

Remember, you should have gone through each of these and “filled” each bucket up.

Alignment = Your New Home

Next, you need to make sure that there is alignment between each of the three buckets so they don’t spill over into “no-house land.”

For example—if you won’t compromise on location and can’t change your budget, then you must focus on the “criteria” bucket.

That means, you might want to consider a fixer upper or a two bedroom plus basement instead of a three bedroom home. That way you can still have the location and budget that you want most. See how you need to make adjustments and each bucket influences the others.

Approaching your home search in this very organized and methodical way may sound silly or boring, but it works.

If you ever feel like giving up or are frustrated by the process, think about your home search in this way … three buckets that need to be aligned or balanced on a scale. It’s absolutely normal to have this give and take, and you’ll be in your new “home sweet home” in no time!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this four-part series and learned how you can find your new home with ease and success.  If you need a refresher on the steps in the process here’s how to access the first three articles in the series:

Want help?  Just email jennifer@wheredoyoudwell.com and we can show you exactly how to apply these tips and strategies to YOUR own home search.