Finding your dream home has finally been upgraded from something you’ll “do someday” to something you want to start working on now. And there’s plenty of excitement to go around. It’s time to put wings on this dream so it can fly—and you’re realizing there’s a lot to that process. Today, let’s take a bird’s eye view of the dream home venture.

Majestic home with brick front

Starting with the dream

Naturally, everyone’s idea of a “dream home” could be different. Some homebuyers could care more about the structure and others about the design and decor. For some, the home will need to be one-of-a-kind. But others will embrace a classic look, valuing conformity to timeless standards.

Yet, while people differ, there will also be similarities too. While two homebuyers may end up with homes that look very different, some of their priorities could have been alike. For instance, they may both have wanted homes with 4 bedrooms, similar square footage, and 2-car garages.

At the end of the day, what counts as a dream home is a function of the searchers’ preferences. And that’s good news for us. Because it means that the search for the dream home is basically like the search for any other home. It’s the pursuit of a wonderful place to live that fits within a given set of parameters—parameters that sometimes change.  

Your parameters

Finding and buying your dream home will provide plenty of choices. So sharpen your decision-making skills as you dive in. Since this is the search for a home that fits into your parameters, start by taking stock of what those parameters are.

As you outline what you’re looking for in a dream home, you can start with the most basic. And for that, feel free to use the famous 5 W’s: Who? What? When? Where? And Why?

  • Who’s going to be living in the house?
  • What do you want the house’s specifications to be?
  • When do you need to move into this house?
  • Where do you want it to be located?
  • Why do you want this dream home?

The “who” question

Obviously, with this question, you’ll address who is going to be living in the dream home. But, you’ll also want to think about others who won’t be living in it but will visit. Thus, if you want to have a dedicated guest bedroom so you can entertain more easily, note that now. Or maybe you’re looking for a home with an in-law suite because you want to welcome longer-term guests or relatives.  

The “what” question

When you ask this question, you can map out some elements of your dream home. For instance, this could include square footage, bedroom number, and kitchen layout. Plus, it could specify that you’re hoping for an open floor plan and particular amenities like a pool or patio.  

Especially as you work through these, take some time to think about the relative importance of different elements. Some of them may be non-negotiable. Others may simply be fun ideas that would be nice to have if possible.

The “when” question

Is there a particular time frame you need to work within as you move to your dream home? For those of you searching in conjunction with other life events (like a new job), there may be deadlines. You may be trying to find a home you love before your new employment begins.

If you’re in a hurry, you may find your self settling for a home that doesn’t have quite everything you hoped for. However, if you have plenty of time, you may be able to wait to find the best place.

The “where” question

Of course, this is an important question. In fact, the importance of location, location, location in real estate has been pretty well popularized. Actually, the question “where?” taps back into two of our other questions somewhat.

Where you want to move will depend in part on who you are and why you’re buying a house. Consider how your location preferences could hinge on the stage of life you’re in. If you’re young and on your own, you may feel the flexibility to move anywhere. (And if you have wanderlust, this may be your ideal).

Atlas of the US with compass

On the other hand, let’s say you’re young with a growing family. While you still may be quite mobile, you could also prioritize living near extended family. And that could narrow your search field for your dream home. If you’re a family with older kids, now you have more stakeholders. Not only do you consider you and your spouse, but the kids may affect the decision more at this stage, too.

The “why” question

Depending on your stage and situation in life, you could answer this question differently. Here, you can think about the function this dream home is supposed to fulfill. Is it a retirement home that you plan to be your final move? Or is it a vacation home that’s also an investment property? Perhaps you plan for it to be your spot to settle in and raise your family.

When it all begins

Now, the home buying process can actually begin before you sign mortgage papers or start looking at prospective homes. In fact, you could even start years advance—setting aside money for a down payment.

Setting aside money isn’t easy, of course, because we all have things we need to buy. And on top of the things we need, there are often things we want, too. Thus, to save money for your home, you may find yourself budgeting to ensure that you’ll have what you need.

How to take action

Once you’ve decided to strike out in search of your dream home, you’ll want some action steps. Even though it’s important to know what to think about, you also want to know what to do. Naturally, it involves both finding your home and financing it. Or, in other words, getting it and paying for it.

When it comes to actually finding your dream home, there is more than one way to get the job done. And the work that you personally do may differ depending on whether you work with a real estate agent.

Finding a home without a real estate agent

If you’ve decided not to work with an agent, look for homes online or scout out the area in person. Online options include Realtor.com and Zillow.com. Plus, you can also look on a local classifieds website. Newspapers may have housing listings, too.

Classified section of the newspaper

Then, there’s also the word of mouth method, which involves letting others know you’re in the market. Any of your friends could potentially know someone who wants to sell their home.

Find a home with a real estate agent

If you do want to work with a real estate agent, that may lighten your responsibilities. Your agent will have access to the MLS (multiple listing service). Thus, they may take on some of the work of finding homes that fit your bill. (Though you can still look for homes, too).

Your agent can also set up appointments to take you to see these homes. And that means that your time is freed up from having to coordinate this yourself. Take time to find a good real estate agent to assist in your search. Since you’ll be communicating with the agent through the process, you want someone who you think you’ll work well with. For instance, this could mean finding an agent who is responsive to your questions, pleasant, and helpful.

How to find an agent

One way to find an agent is to ask other homeowners for recommendations. Who did they work with, and would they recommend him or her? Alternatively, you can simply pick up the phone and call an agent (or an agency). Perhaps you found their phone number on a sign, online, or in an ad.

But, what if you feel really uncomfortable contacting an agent—after all, that feels like the dreaded cold call? Well, if you’re feeling very lost but want to do something, you may not have to call. Instead, you could try heading to an open house in the area you want to move to.

One benefit is that this gives you a feel for what houses are for sale in the area. But the other benefit is the chance to meet a real estate agent face-to-face. If he or she seems like someone you’d work well with, ask if they’re taking new clients. They may be happy to become your agent, too (even if you’re not buying that particular listing).

Where will the money come from?

Any time you have to make a big-ticket purchase this is an important question. A home is definitely a big-ticket item, and you’ll need money to make the purchase. Earlier, we mentioned saving for a down payment. So, yes, you will be contributing some money of your own. But you won’t be the only source of money.

Some people in the world will have money to pay for a home in cash. But a lot of people need help financing such a large purchase. The amount of money it takes to purchase a home is usually more than most of us have saved. Probably the most popular method people use to get help buying their home is a mortgage.

How to get a mortgage

This means you’ll be reaching out to a lender. Or a lender will be reaching out to you. In fact, let’s say you’ve already talked to a realtor about your interest in buying a home. He or she may already have put you in touch with a lender. Alternatively, they may have asked a lender to reach out to you.

Lenders make mortgages. In short, they lend you money to purchase your home. Then you pay them back over time (30 years is a common time frame). Pre-approval or pre-qualification could be first steps when working with a lender. And some of the paperwork may be able to be filled out online.

Sign here sticky note on paperwork

But do keep in mind that you can choose the lender you want to work with. Just as we advised you to choose your real estate agent well, also make a good mortgage lender choice, too. Find someone you think you’ll be able to work with productively.

The home itself

Real estate agents and mortgage lenders can be part of your process toward your dream home. But just as we talked about above, you also need to think about the home itself. Knowing what you want could go a long way as you choose your home.

If you know what you want ahead of time, you can avoid wasting your time. For instance, there’s no need to burn up hours looking at a house that’s not even an option. Plus, you won’t waste other people’s time—from homeowners to buying or selling agents. (Especially, your own agent—the buying agent).

Prior experience or no prior experience

If you’ve purchased a home before, you probably have an idea of what you do and don’t want. (This could hold true even if you’ve simply rented a home before). You’ll remember kitchens that were nightmares or bathroom showers that you never want to repeat. But if you’re completely new to home buying, you may not have the same baseline.

Thus, there could be times when as a homebuyer, you don’t know what you want. And in that case, seeing homes could help. You may want to see homes on the market before you get a better handle on what you’re looking for.

In this case, we suggest you communicate this to your real estate agent beforehand. That way, your agent will know what to expect as they work with you. Plus, they can select the homes they show you with that in mind. Perhaps they can find a range of homes to help you understand your options.

Start on the right foot

Maybe this home purchase is a first for you. If so, check out our 10+ First Time Home Buyer Tips: Save Your Sanity & Avoid Costly Mistakes. With no prior homebuying experience, you might also feel unfamiliar with mortgages, too. Let us introduce you to the concept. Or take a look at Brighton Mortgage | 5 Questions To Ask BEFORE You Sign Anything.