Maybe you’re wondering, “What do we really want in a house? What kind of home should we really buy?”

First, write out a three-column list: Gotta Have, Would Like to Have, Would be a Dream if We Had. Then list every facet of a home you can think of: Two stories, two full baths, hardwood floors, quiet neighborhood, big backyard, whatever. Be very honest with yourself. Don’t leave out any significant detail. Everything should go into one of those three columns, and if you can’t decide, stick it in the third.

Then, research, research, research. And share your list with your agent. If you’re in a hot market, set up as many prompts from that Gotta Have column as you can on a web search and subscribe to alerts. When something fitting your Gotta Have list hits the market, you and your agent will hear about it immediately.

Finally, set time aside to look—as much as you can. If you’re moving to a new city, burn whatever time off you can to do a hot-and-heavy barnstorming tour of all the possibilities. And stick to that original list. That’s your go-to crib sheet. When you walk into the right place, you’ll know. Having that list in your mind will make all the difference when the right home is staring you in the face. 

Just remember: Taking the time to be honest early on will help so much when the pressure is on to make a decision!