Needs vs. Wants for your New Home

Needs vs. Wants for your New Home

Are you thinking of building a new home or a new shouse? The overall cost per square foot of your building project will be greatly determined by your list of wants and needs. Making decisions about a long list of choices can be overwhelming. One way to make sure you will remain in your targeted budget is to divide your considerations into a needs list and a wants list.

The needs list will include all the things that you must have for your family to be comfortable in the living space. This list includes the things that are difficult to change after the build is completed. Give additional consideration to those things that add long-term value to the home.

Considerations that should be included in your needs list, include:

Overall size: According to the National Association of Homebuilders, (NAHB) the average size of a newly built home is 2,600 square feet. Do you plan to live in your new home for the rest of your life or is it likely that you will move in the next four or five years? Create enough space to suit your lifestyle for the time you expect to live in the home. Be honest with how you will actually use the space─will it be used frequently or infrequently. Focus on the size and space needed for each of the living spaces and the amount of time family members will spend in that space. Then, add up each of the individual spaces to reach your overall size.

Number of bedrooms for family: When thinking about the number of bedrooms in your new home, consider the number of children you currently have or plan to have. Younger children may be comfortable sharing space with a sibling, while older children will enjoy their own space and privacy. Do you need to have space for aging parents or other family members?

Number of bathrooms for family: When considering the number of bathrooms, think about the desired level of privacy and convenience you prefer. Bathrooms can be one of the more expensive parts of a new home, so be realistic in your choices. Consider half bathrooms, which are less expensive and can be located in a spot that is convenient for guests.

Size of kitchen: The NAHB says that the average size of kitchens in new homes tend to be proportionate to the overall size of the home. Homes under 2,000 square feet have an average kitchen size of 193 square feet while homes of 3,000 square feet or larger have an average kitchen size of 423 square feet. To size the kitchen in your new home, think about the amount of time you spend preparing food for your family. Also, if you want to have an eat-in kitchen, you will need to add more square feet to the design. This can be done with an area for a table and chairs, or with a larger island that has both prep space and eating space. Keep in mind, the size of your kitchen will impact the number and sizes of cabinets and countertops needed. Many kitchens now are part of the open-concept design, which can fit in with the overall flow and function of your home.

Size of garage: Vehicles sizes keep growing as does our desire for more space for storing stuff. Consider vehicle styles used by family members and accommodate space to park while allowing additional space for work benches, storage cabinets and tool storage.

Basement: Including a basement in your new home can provide for extra living or storage space. Many families use this space for family entertainment, hobbies, offices or an in-law suite. Having a basement may also provide an added sense of security for protection from whatever Mother Nature has to offer.

Storage space: Some designers suggest that the amount of storage space should be equal to 10% of the home’s total square footage. But there are no hard and fast rules. Instead, think about what you enjoy for hobbies, the number of family members, number of pets and having ample pantry and kitchen storage. Most homes have specific storage areas for shoes and clothing; linen closets; a kitchen pantry; coat closet; outdoor supplies; children’s toys; cleaning supplies; hobby supply storage; and a dedicated storage area for entertainment equipment or home security systems.

Energy-efficiency: The Department of Energy suggests investing in energy efficiency to save energy and money while enjoying a more comfortable and durable home. A well-insulated home can reduce the size of your HVAC systems and reduce the long-term costs associated with operating your home. An efficient home combines energy-efficient construction technology, with efficient appliances and lighting for an overall cost-effective home.

Guest space: Having an extra space to accommodate guests will make them feel welcome in your new home. When planning this space, think about how often you typically have guests. Consider making this space a multi-function space to get the most use out of the square footage.


The wants list will include the things you would like to have, but that are not required in your living space. This list will include things that would not be difficult to change in the future as your financial situation or lifestyle changes. Including a long list of wants to your build will add up to an overall larger average cost per square foot.

Considerations that should be included on your wants list, include:

Window and door styles: Window expense will be determined by the color, finish and materials selected along with the specific sizes, shapes and functions desired. Think about your need for ventilation and outdoor views along with adding natural light to your living spaces.

Interior finishes: According to a survey by the NAHB, interior finishes account for the largest share of construction costs at 25.4 percent. Interior finishes include things like trim, doors, mirrors, painting or other wall coverings. Many interior finishes can be changed or updated later as your financial or lifestyle preferences change.

Exterior finishes: The exterior materials for your new home will have a wide range of costs. For example, vinyl siding is considerably less than fiber cement siding. However, fiber cement siding can come in a variety of textures that look like real wood. When choosing your material, consider the long-term costs for maintenance and upkeep along with material warranties.

Floor coverings: Floor coverings should not only be chosen for their looks but should fit the need for durability and use of the room. For bathrooms and kitchens choose a flooring that can hold up to the challenge of splashes and spills such as porcelain tile or vinyl. For dining, living or family rooms, consider engineered wood products that are more budget-friendly than solid wood. Flooring can range from $2 per square foot to over $5, and some of that cost will determine the level of maintenance and durability of the material.

Cupboards and cabinetry: Construction type will have the greatest affect on the cost of cupboards and cabinetry. Choices include stock cabinets which are the least expensive, semi-custom or the more expensive custom-built construction. After you select the type of cabinet construction, focus on the features and style options.

When planning for your new home or shouse, prioritize your needs list first. Then, as your budget allows, prioritize the items from your wants list realizing that those choices add to your long-term financial commitment.



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