When I became a real estate agent, I discovered something about home buyers: A lot of them cry. Right in front of you. After a few times I began to understand. This is a high-pressure, extremely emotional decision. No house will ever fully live up to your dreams, and whatever compromises you make (and you'll have to make some) you'll be stuck with for years.
I've never met anyone who was totally rational about evaluating a home, but the way to get closest, I've found, is to break the process into discrete parts. Just as diamond buyers focus on four competing criteria (carats, clarity, color and cut), home buyers need to consider a home's four Cs: cost, condition, capacity and convenience.
The worksheets on the following pages have helped my clients weigh those factors and make the inevitable tradeoffs with fewer tears; they should work for you too.