Dolores Tropiano, Special for The Republic |

Most of us can picture our dream home.

But eventually, every dreamer wakes up to the reality that, as Mick Jagger said, “You can’t always get what you want.”

A large part of buying a house is the same as any other purchase — pinpointing priorities, sacrificing wants for needs and sticking to a budget.

Sounds like a lot of compromise. But with a little time and thought, you can still find a house with enough of your favorite features.

Set your budget

Unlimited funds would certainly open up possibilities for purchasing a home. But most people are restricted in what they can pay, limiting their choices.

With nearly 27,000 homes on the market in the Valley now, there are still plenty of properties to choose from.

One of the first things that real-estate agent Kimberly Chestone does with clients is send them to a mortgage broker or banker to get qualified for a loan.

“It’s obviously important. It helps me fit them with the home they want and with what they can afford,” said Chestone of Montebello Fine Properties.

Pick five priorities

Figuring out what is important in a house is not only helpful but absolutely necessary. Do you want a modern or historical home? Are you looking for a two-story or a single-level? Is a pool a priority?

Mary Frances Coleman, a Realtor for nearly 20 years, makes her clients put together a Letterman-style top-10 list of priorities. (Husbands and wives, she reports, often have dramatically different lists.) Then, she has them whittle the list to five items. At that point, she is ready to knock on doors.

Coleman said when she shows clients properties with their top five priorities, they recognize what their preferences really are.

“They go back and adjust their list after realizing what they really must have,” the HomeSmart agent said.

All about location

Location makes a difference for many buyers. But here again, buyers need to understand why a particular location has appeal. If it is because the area is near work, that may be a fixed factor.

But if family members think they need to live in a specific school district, they should think again. Arizona’s open-enrollment policy allows students to live outside of a district and still attend the school of their choice.

If buyers like a home’s proximity to fine restaurants and upscale shops, they can get that in Scottsdale or the Arcadia area of Phoenix. But buying in Chandler will give them all of that plus more for their money, and enough left over to spend at the area’s restaurants and shops.

Location was important to Chris Spiekerman, who grew up under the shadow of Camelback Mountain and wanted his three children to do the same. The Spiekermans recently purchased what they hope will be their perfect home (after minor renovations) in Arcadia.

“We have three growing kids, so we needed more living space,” said Tiffany Spiekerman, who upsized from a 2,200- to a 3,200-square-foot home. “We were looking for a family-friendly neighborhood, with close proximity to school, our kids’ sports and social activities. It (our new home) fit all the categories we were looking for.”

Is bigger better?

Coleman has a word of warning for clients who equate size with status.

“I caution clients that they will grow to fit the size of their fish bowl,” said Coleman, an associate broker who also speaks on real-estate matters. “If they have a 4,000-square-foot house, they are going to grow to have 4,000-square-feet worth of stuff. It’s something to take into consideration.”

Buyers should not limit themselves to square footage when thinking about size. A larger house may have a lot of wasted space, while a smaller home with a great floor plan may make very good use of space.

Want vs. need

It’s that same conversation your parents had with you all over again: understanding the difference between a want and a need. Coleman had a client who was a car buff, and for him, extra garages were definitely a need.

If fitness is a priority, being near a green belt or park may be a need. Consider those things essential to everyday life when sorting through wants and needs.

One person’s pleasure (a 1-acre lot) is another’s pain (mowing the lawn), but it is all part of the prioritizing that takes place throughout the homebuying process.

Again, Jagger said it best: “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometime, you find, you get what you need.”

Reach Dolores Tropiano at