Couple touring house with real estate agent.

How To Determine Nonnegotiables When Buying A House

Lauren Nowacki6-Minute Read
March 13, 2020

Purchasing a home can be stressful, but knowing what you want and don’t want can help make the process easier. When it comes to finding your dream home, consider which features will bring joy and which will be a nightmare. Having a list of absolute musts and must-nots can help you save time, energy and money in the long run. These musts and must-nots are known as your nonnegotiables.

What Are Nonnegotiables?

Nonnegotiables are the things you must have or will not accept, settle for or negotiate on. You may or may not realize it, but nonnegotiables pop up in many key areas of your life, including the type of person you date, the job you accept and the place you live. Nonnegotiables are personal preferences, typically based on your values, principles, goals and lifestyle needs.


When it comes to buying a home, your nonnegotiables would be features of the home or red flags that came up during the purchase process that you just won’t settle for. Your chosen nonnegotiables can be as concerning as a structural flaw or as trivial as a preferred layout or color aversion. These are the features you cannot live without or, perhaps, cannot live with. They are your absolute must-haves and absolute deal-breakers.

Non-Negotiables When Searching For A Home

Before you put in an offer – or perhaps even step foot in a potential new home – you’ll want to know certain nonnegotiables, like the features, location and price of a home. This will help save you a lot of time and energy during your search for a new home because you’ll be able to better filter your search criteria and focus your efforts on homes you’ll truly love. Here are a few examples of nonnegotiables to consider when searching for a home.


Number of bedrooms. How many people will live in the home? Does your job require a home office? Do you plan on growing your family during the time you live in the home?


Type of driveway. Do you have more than one car? Are you living with someone with a completely different schedule? If so, a single-car driveway could be inconvenient.


Type of garage. If you need extra storage, have a boat or trailer, or want to protect your car from the elements, you may want a home with a single-, two- or three-car garage.


Layout. Do you prefer an open floor plan? Do you need a handicap-accessible home or one without stairs? It’s one thing to want a specific type of layout. It’s another to need one.


Commute. How far are you willing to drive to work every day? Along with the time you’re spending on the road, consider how much you’ll be spending in gas each week and how many miles you’ll be putting on your car, especially if it’s a lease.


School district. What type of education do you want your child to receive? How will you ensure their safety? Some schools are more advanced in technology or offer more after-school activities. All are important things to consider when looking at the type of school your kids will attend.


Location. Are you a suburbanite or a city dweller? Do you want your home to be within walking distance of good restaurants, parks and other attractions? Do you prefer to reside in a remote area or don’t mind living on a busy road?


Price. Be realistic when it comes to setting a budget for a home. Review your living expenses and see what type of monthly mortgage payment you can swing while still being able to afford your basic needs.

Nonnegotiables When Purchasing A Home

Once you find a home that checks everything off your list and your offer is accepted, nonnegotiables you didn’t even think about could be added throughout the rest of the transaction. Here are a few to prepare for during such steps in the process as the home appraisal and inspection and general communication with the seller.


Money down. A mortgage lender can only loan up to the appraised value of the home. If the appraisal comes back lower than your offer, a few things could happen: the seller will need to lower the sale price, the buyer will need to pay the difference out of pocket or the deal will fall through. If the seller is not willing to budge on the price and asks you to pay the difference, that could be a large amount of money. It also means you’re purchasing the home for lower than what it is worth and you could potentially lose money on your investment. 


Red flags. The biggest reason you shouldn’t skip the home inspection is that it helps ensure that the home you’re buying doesn’t come with a number of expensive problems. An inspection will help uncover safety issues and any present or potential problems with the home, including its foundation, roof, electrical, plumbing and heating and cooling systems. If it does uncover any red flags, you’ll want to know what you’re willing to accept, negotiate over or walk away from. These could include foundation issues, roof problems, old plumbing systems or features that aren’t up to code.


Timeline. If you purchase a home that the seller hasn’t yet vacated, they may ask for more time after closing to move out of the home. Be ready to have a hard date that you aren’t willing to go past, so you aren’t finding yourself with no place to stay or dealing with a seller who won’t leave.


Your gut feeling. If at any point in the process, your gut is telling you not to purchase the home, you may want to listen to it. Until you sign all the paperwork and are handed over the keys, you can walk away from the process. Just be aware that it may cost you money since you could lose your earnest money deposit and you won’t get a refund on such out-of-pocket costs as the inspection and appraisal.

Determining Your Nonnegotiables

There is no wrong list of nonnegotiables since they are based on personal preferences and priorities. Everyone has different tastes, goals, personalities and lifestyles and will prioritize the things they want or don’t want in a home differently. Don’t be timid when it comes to naming your wants and needs.

To determine your nonnegotiables, start by asking yourself the questions listed in the sections above. Envision your dream home and write down the features you absolutely love. Try to notice what your dream home doesn’t include, too. Write those down as well. Still not sure? Look at a few home listings or attend a couple of open houses. You’ll learn real fast what you want in a home and what you don’t.

Chat with home-owning friends about what they love and don’t love about their homes and why. Ask them about their home buying process and what they wish they would have done differently. For more information, check out the home buying section of the Rocket HomesSM blog, which provides information on what to look for in a home and what to expect during your search and purchase processes.

Ways To Find Out If A Home Has Any Of Your Nonnegotiables

There are a number of ways to determine whether a home meets your requirements. Some happen before you even step foot in the home, while others will happen later in the process after you spend some money. Make sure you do your due diligence to find out if the home is worth pursuing early on if possible. That includes doing the following:


  • Carefully reviewing the online listing, its pictures, description and noted history
  • Researching the neighborhood and school district, including school reports and reviews, area crime statistics and satellite views of the area on Google Maps
  • Drive around the neighborhood to see what the location has to offer
  • Attend a walk-through or open house to see the home in person and test it out for yourself
  • Bring a friend to walk through the home with you to provide an objective opinion
  • Read the disclosures, which are provided by the seller and reveal any problems with the home they’re aware of
  • Get a home inspection and appraisal
  • Ask the homeowner or their agent specific questions about the home or any issues you have

Nonnegotiables When Working With A Real Estate Agent

When it comes to your home buying experience, one thing you don’t want to negotiate is having a great real estate agent who is knowledgeable about the process and will work for you with your best interest in mind. Rocket HomesSM can match you with a knowledgeable agent who’ll offer expert advice and provide high-touch service. Find an agent and get started today.

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    Lauren Nowacki

    Lauren Nowacki is a staff writer specializing in personal finance, homeownership and the mortgage industry. She has a B.A. in Communications and has worked as a writer and editor for various publications in Philadelphia, Chicago and Metro Detroit.