I like to think there are three categories of items when it comes to looking at houses: Love It, Leave It and Need It. Sometimes people think they already know what items fall into which category, other times we learn as we go and the lists get narrowed down over the more houses we see. While a lot of things can be changed in houses like cosmetic things such as paint, flooring, or even the number of bedrooms, other items are not as easy to change or not even possible such as lot size, school district, or type of utilities available. 

In a competitive market, like we are in, it can be very difficult to find a house that a buyer loves everything about. I would love to show my buyers a house that checks every single important box they have and is entirely move-in ready, within their price range, and has no other offers to compete against but unfortunately, that just isn’t the reality right now. What are these categories of Love It, Leave It and Need it. I’ll use the items that my husband and I were looking for in our house search to help explain the categories. 

Love It. Something that goes into the Love It category is what I think of as a vague must-have. It isn’t specific enough like saying a property has to have a wood privacy fenced backyard on a 0.5-acre lot but is more generic like saying a nice large fenced in backyard. We knew when we started our search we wanted more space and less traffic to deal with. We were moving out of a condo at Knapp’s Corner area, and when we told people we wanted to move away they were shocked because they thought we would miss the convenience of everything being so close. We didn’t love the constant traffic to the highway at all hours of the day and were willing to give up some of that convenience. The other thing we wanted and loved the idea of was more space for at the time only one dog but knew a second dog wasn’t far behind.  So a good backyard for the dogs and future entertaining of guests was in this category. Lastly, we weren’t sure what our future family looked like so we wanted the option of more than three bedrooms, for either future children, offices, or guest bedrooms.

Leave It. These are things that as a buyer you can look past or are willing to deal with temporarily. A lot of cosmetic things fall into this category like paint colors, flooring choices, or trim and interior doors. Sometimes larger things can fall into this category depending on your patience, budget, DIY skills, and timeline. I was willing to look past just about any poor paint choice in a house because I knew I didn’t mind painting and could go room by room. Plus I always think there is something special about painting with your own color choices and making a house feel like your own based on your style and furniture. Given our budget and location, we were trying to stay into there were things I was going to need to leave. I really like to cook and a great kitchen was important to me, but once we found the house to put an offer on I had to leave the kitchen alone, knowing that in the future we would do a large kitchen remodel and make it great. A huge master bath wasn’t a must-have for me but was for my husband, and he wanted a great shower but like I had to compromise on the kitchen he had to leave the master bathroom. We were able to leave these things alone because the floor plan of our house supported big renovations for these items when time and money would allow and we both agreed that from the day we purchased the house we don’t love these things but are tolerating them for now. 

Need It. These are the must-haves or non-negotiables. Sometimes these items might seem trivial to other people, but my thought is simple if you are buying this house, living in it, and paying for it you need to like it. So no matter how silly some of the need-it items might be I will try my best to make sure those items are move-in ready and the first items we talk about when we review houses. I typically find that these items usually come from previous living arrangements and thinking back to what may have been very annoying or something you weren’t able to change at the time.  For me, on the house search, I needed to have a garage large enough to park my truck in. The whole time we lived in our condo I sacrificed the garage and if we were buying a house I wasn’t sacrificing that again. For my husband it was the school district, he needed us to have a house in the Forest Hills School District. 

Here’s a chart of the four homes we seriously considered, I won’t tell you which one we ended up with if you want to guess which one we bought send me an email with the letter of the house you think we bought!




Sq Ft/Lot Size





% of List Price to Pre-Approval Amount




1930 / 0.367 acres

2 Lower Attached

Main floor, Kitchen & Exterior

Near Forest Hills, convenient to highway in neighborhood

Great Deck, Modern Style, Small unfinished basement





2208 / 1 acre

2 Attached

Complete Remodel

Forest Hills off main road

Backed up to highway, large deck





3756 / 2.4 acres

2 Lower attached

Flooring and Paint

Forest Hills off main road

Pool, Cozy neat floor plan





2847 / .74 acres

2 attached

Roof, Furnace, Septic

Forest Hills in neighborhood

Three Season Room, great deck, fenced backyard



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