Sometimes I work with couples to help them find their dream home, only to discover that they have different dreams! What's important to one is not important to the other, or worse, is at odds with what the other wants. When two people have different ideas about what they are looking for, house hunting can look more like arm wrestling! It's important for everyone to be on the same page before the hunt begins, and for this reason I offer the following exercise. Begin separately. Each person sits down alone and competes the Wants & Needs Assessment:
Sit together and review the exercise. The first three questions are easy and will likely produce some agreement. The real work begins with the lists of 10 items. First, cross off any items on which both parties agree. Then note any items that conflict. For example, if one list says 'One story, NO STAIRS!' and the other says 'Split Level or Two Story,' . . . well you can't have it both ways. Don't Debate these, just circle them.
Now you have three kinds of items on your lists: crossed off items on which you agree, circled items on which you disagree, and remaining items which don't conflict with one another. Start with them. Talk about each item, why it is on the list, how you picture it in your new home and so on. Note whether the item is a 1, 2, or 3 (1 being most important, 3 being least), and transfer it to a new combined list along with the items you crossed off earlier.
Move on to the circled items. These are in conflict with one another so they must be negotiated. How important is each? If your desire for no stairs is a 1 and your partner's desire for a Split Level is a 3, no stairs probably ought to prevail and be transferred to the combined list. If the two items share the same number, for example if both are 2's, your conversation will be more in depth. Listen to one another. Ask yourself how flexible you can be. Gradually come to an agreement; or agree to disagree. Transfer the result of your discussion (even if you agree to disagree) to your combined list.
Share the list with your agent. Talk about the exercise and what you learned. And then start looking at houses. Now, remember those items you agreed to disagree on? It's amazing how quickly the disagreement evaporates when a great house that meets most of your other needs comes along! You can download a PDF copy of the House Hunters Wants & Needs Assessment with instructions HERE.