As you look at houses and talk to new home builders in your search to find your perfect place, you'll see a whole range of features that look very nice but that also affect the price of the home greatly. It's essential that you get a good idea of what your needs are, as opposed to your wants, because to be truly happy in any house, that house needs to meet your needs. You can usually modify the house to meet wants, but the needs have to be met from the start so that, if you find yourself in a situation where you have to eliminate features to save money, you'll still end up with a house you love.
All Else Is Perfect
Start by making a list -- a big one -- of all the things you'd really like in a house. Go wild. When you're done, start looking at each item and think about, if everything else in the house was perfect but it didn't have that one item, would you still buy the house? You'll likely end up with three more lists after this exercise: one for no, which means that item is a need; one for yes, which means that item is a want; and one for those items that would be yes if the house was cheap and no if the house was expensive, meaning those items are wants, but very serious wants that border on need.
Now you have a place to start. You can give your real estate agent the list of needs so that he or she can keep those in mind while going through listings for you. As you find homes that meet the needs, see which ones meet the serious-wants. Should you find any that meet all of those, see which of that group meets any of the wants.
The Coin Flip
If you don't have the patience to ponder the list, there's a faster way: a coin flip. Choose heads or tails to represent necessary and forget-it, and flip the coin for each item. If you get a twinge in your stomach that makes you fear you're not going to be able to call an item necessary, then that item may very well be a need, and not a want. If you flip the coin for something that you know is a want, you aren't going to feel that bad if the coin shows that, you should forget about the item when the coin lands.
Justifying in Your Head
Try explaining each item in your head to an image of your most critical relative or friend. How pressured do you feel to justify your inclusion of the feature as a need? If you're constantly creating more excuses in your head, the item might be a want; if you give a couple of reasons and then feel annoyed that anyone should question you, it's closer to a need. Keep in mind that, if there's anything that people have been criticizing on your list in real life, then you might want to avoid using this method with that specific item lest you trigger issues that have come up in real life. Use this method for items you haven't discussed with anyone.
Newly built homes are a great place to start looking with your lists because they are usually in great areas with amenities nearby. Since no one has lived in them yet, you have more opportunity to customize them the way you want for a more reasonable price. Let your real estate agent help you find a fantastic home that meets your needs and as many wants as possible.