How to find the perfect home

It isn't the one that has everything. It's the one with more of what you want and less of what you don't. This system can guide you to it.

Consider capacity
Consider capacity
To squeeze into a budget, you might have to get a smaller - wait, I'm a real estate agent: cozier - house than you'd like. So forget about square footage, often a misleading number. More important is how that space is allocated. These questions will help you evaluate whether the space in a house fits you.

Does it have enough closet space? Rather than look at the number of closets, measure the length of them (for instance, six feet in the hall, two in the kids' rooms and so on). Compare the total with that of your current home. Also, take along a hanger to make sure the closets really are deep enough for clothes.

Are there enough bedrooms? One of the most awkward moments for a real estate agent is when the husband counts the bedrooms and says "We'll all fit," then the wife gets a gleam in her eye. Ideally, you'll know your family's expansion plans before shopping. Since that's not always possible, consider whether there's room for surprise long-term guests, be they kids or in-laws. If you can't afford extra bedrooms, is there an area that could be converted, like an attic or a basement?

Does the kitchen suit my needs? Think about whether there's space for you, your family and your guests - as well as your cooking gear. (I've seen kitchens with cabinets too shallow for a microwave.) Don't forget about the fridge, which can be costly to replace: A family of four needs at least 22 cubic feet.

Is there a spot to work from home? Is there room for a desk, a computer and files? Even if you don't need an office, your next buyer might: A work space can add an average of $12,000 to resale value, according to a study done by Remodeling magazine.
Alison Rogers is the author of "Diary of a Real Estate Rookie."
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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.