Today, with all the information easily available at your fingertips, shopping for a new home can be as easy or as complicated as you want to make it.

What I’ve noticed most is there is a lack of an organized process that many homebuyers make navigating through the exciting new home buying landscape. Let’s face it, looking at beautiful new homes in perfect new communities is exciting and fun! Who doesn’t like imagining their children coming home from a top-rated school, spending a little time studying in their own artfully decorated bedrooms, playing a video game in the cool media room and then going out to the community pool with all their new friends? It’s all heady stuff, and that’s the dream that many of us have when we think of a new home. It’s easy to lose sight of everything we need when we’re looking at a perfectly designed and decorated model home. That’s why I believe, that a pre-search process that helps home shoppers set the parameters of their new home search would not only give them more confidence as they maneuver through the new home buying landscape, it would also help them get the perfect home for their family.

What I saw both as a new home sales manager and as an advertising executive working for home builders was most home shoppers moving through the new home shopping and buying process in the wrong order. They started looking at new homes and communities first and then decided what they wanted in their new home after that. In other words, they often started their search visiting model homes, a task that would have been more productive if they had postponed it until after they’d done a bit of homework. As I mentioned earlier, looking at perfectly marketed new homes and communities is exciting and very emotional. These homes, communities, marketing materials, and sales personnel are carefully staged to influence individuals. Visiting a model home before you’ve done a little research allows the builder to frame your new home search, rather than you. This can end with the builder getting the sale and the shopper getting the home the builder or wants them to get rather than the home they wanted or needed.

It may sound simple, but the most important thing to do before you start the new home purchase process, and especially before you enter your first model home, is to clearly understand the why(s) behind the reason you want a new home. Is it because your family is growing or that you desire a better school for your children? Is it because the community development is encroaching on your neighborhood and or you feel threatened by growing crime numbers in the area? Have your children left the house or have you suffered a divorce and need less space? Is it because your current home is falling apart and inefficient, or are you tired of apartment living? Did you just get a raise and want a nicer home? All of these are great reasons to move, but to ensure you end up purchasing the perfect new home, you should know why you’re moving, or you run the risk of buying a home that doesn’t satisfy the main reason you wanted to move in the first place! The fact is, there are probably a few critical reasons that you feel you need to move, and you should understand and explore all of them from the most important to the least. As you begin, take a moment to write them all down. Some will be easy to think of, and others may take a little time. Don’t be concerned if the list gets very long. Buying a new home is an important decision, and it’s best to get as much as you can on paper. You can edit the list as you go.

It may not seem like it, but writing all your reasons down at this early stage is the most critical first step in the process. A friend of mine once said that the source of every problem is much further upstream than you think. This first step is where you will lay the foundation for everything you do during your search, and it will provide you with a handy and constant reference point to use when the emotional process of new home shopping begins, ow when things start getting complicated. Approaching this first step carefully and thoroughly will give you the confidence to know that whatever homes you see, real estate agents you speak with, or new home salespeople you encounter you’ll have an internal personal guide that will help keep you on track.

You can easily segment your Why(s) list into sections. The first section lists all the why(s) you want to move, and the second is why(s) you don’t like your current residence. The first list could include things like more bedrooms, places for the children to play, closer to work, less traffic, energy-efficient, great schools, near the lake (or shopping or golf or church), bigger yard, gated community, bigger kitchen, covered patio, lower taxes, closer to schools, home office, game room, more bathrooms or living space for parents. Some of the new master-planned communities have amazing amenities like large water parks, competition swimming pools, tennis and basketball courts, on-site elementary and middle schools, inexpensive childcare, café’s, movie theaters and exercise rooms. If these are some of the things that you’d like in your new home, write them on your “Why To” list.

Once you’ve spent a little time on the “Why(s) To” list, you can start on your “Why(s) Not To” list. The first few entries on this list will probably come very easy. This list may include things like: the house is too small, the kitchen is outdated, no room for the kids to play, the house smells, neighbors make too much noise, don’t like doing laundry in the common laundry room or laundromat, bad schools, no room for the kids to study in the house, too far from work, awful traffic, no place for the kids to play, no kids in the neighborhood, too much crime, house smells, the house is unsafe, area floods, too much trash in the neighborhood, too close to an undesirable neighborhood, utility bills too high, rent to too high, too much wasted space, needs major renovations, outdated appliances, and HVAC systems, or there is nowhere for visiting parents to stay when they visit.

You’ll see that some of the “Why(s) To” and the “Why(s) Not To” are pretty aligned. Some items may just be opposite sides of the same issue. These are probably some of the most important things on your list and should be taken very seriously. If they’re bothering you enough for you to write them down (in slightly different versions) on both lists, they’re probably critical to you.

Once you’ve completed your “Why(s)” lists, you’ve taken the first step to find the perfect new home. I realize that it sounds corny, but knowing your “Why(s)” will make you a wise new home shopper!