If you are in the market for a new home, then real estate listings can seem overwhelming. There are a few things you should prioritize - and those things depend on your needs, goal, and lifestyle.
1. What is your maximum commute? Unless you are one of those fortunate individuals who gets to work from home in their PJs, you should set a time radius from your place of work. There is little point to having a very nice house you never get to see.
2. How good are the schools? If you have children or any plans to have children, you should look at the quality of the local school district, which can be highly variable. If you have older children who already have plans you might want to consider the location of "magnet" high schools they are interested in.
3. Do you want an older house? In some cases, older houses can have advantages - for example, some older houses that were built before the invention of a/c are better designed to keep out the heat, resulting in lower bills. In other cases, they may have maintenance needs that can be expensive. It's a good idea, for example, to ask if any house you are looking at has aluminum wiring (a fire hazard that should be replaced ASAP). A historic house may have limitations on what you can do in terms of alterations.
4. Does the house have enough closet and other storage space? Some people don't mind not having much closet space, but if you have a shoe collection...
5. Is there a space for your hobbies? Do you need a workshop space that isn't the garage? A good basement can prove invaluable if somebody in the family likes to carve wood or similar. Weaving or sewing, on the other hand, need a nice open space indoors with natural light, such as a spare upstairs bedroom. Other things you might particularly want include a wet bar and a wine cellar for entertaining or outside space for projects that need a lot of ventilation.
6. Does the kitchen fit your needs? When was it last renovated? If you entertain a lot, a large, open kitchen can be invaluable, especially if it is open plan or has a wall knocked out between it and the dining room, allowing the free flow of conversation to and from people cooking and preparing food. Look at bathrooms too - refurbishing bathrooms is expensive, so consider whether you would rather have a rain shower or a large tub.
7. How many bedrooms do you actually need? How many children are you planning on - and how high is your risk of ending up with an extra (i.e., twins)? Do you need or use a spare bedroom? You should try and buy a home large enough to allow for family growth whilst remaining within your budget.
8. Do you need a home office or den? If you work from home, you will benefit from a separate space with a door that can close (and this is required to deduct home expenses as business expenses).
9. How large a yard do you want? This may also depend on whether you intend on having children, but some people want a large yard just for their dog(s). Do you want to grow your own food?
10. What kind of neighborhood do you prefer? Do you want to be in amongst the urban bustle or do you want woods at the end of your yard? City and country living both have their charms, and you should make sure every member of the family is taken into account.
11. HOA or no HOA? Some people like knowing that a homeowners' association is there to help mediate between them and their neighbors if needed. Others have heard one too many horror stories and want to stay well clear. At a practical level - are you willing to give up a bit of freedom for what you can do with your property for the advantages of a HOA or not. These are just some of the most important things to consider that can help you narrow down your choice from thousands of listings to just a few - and ideally to your dream home.