How to make imperfect decisions

There are very few perfect decisions. Every decision has costs, downsides, and unknowns.

Buying a house is an apt example for understanding this dynamic. After all, there is no perfect house. If there was, you couldn’t afford it.

It’s perfect!

House shopping is the process of prioritizing your preferences. Experienced home-buyers make separate lists of wants and “gotta-have’s.” I recommend separate pieces of paper.

Whether you’re looking for a house, investment, date or summer plans – do this first. Sit down and write everything you want. Then, sort the list into three piles:

  • Yes please
  • Won’t distract us

The MUST HAVE! list

Disciplined decision-makers have really small MUST HAVE! lists. For home-buyers, it’s like 2-3 things. The smaller you make the list, the easier the decision will be

Too often people fall in love with homes because of some un-essential thing (the farm sink or ‘cool front door’).

Savvy home buyers are disciplined enough to name their essentials. They won’t even walk into the house without them. They don’t put themselves in a position where emotion might take over.

The “Yes please” list

This is a good list. It’s probably a more fun list than the one above. For the potential home-buyer, these items fall into one of three categories:

  • 1/3 of these can be improved with a few trips to Home Depot (that cool farm sink).
  • Another 1/3 can be managed (the laundry room is in the basement)
  • The final 1/3 will cost you something (the driveway needs repaved)

These homebuyers walked into their imperfect house knowing what mattered to them, what they’ll work on, and what they’re willing to overlook.

The “won’t distract us” list

This is the list of temptations (it may be embarrassing to read out loud). It may help to make this a little playful. We’re not going let ourselves be hoodwinked by these insignificant (but admittedly attractive) features.

  • I love their couch (they aren’t selling their couch).
  • The family looks so nice, they’re our kind of people (they’re moving out when you move in)
  • My parents will finally be proud of us (no, they won’t)
  • Our realtor is pressuring us to make a decision (fire them)

Savvy home buyers rank their values and their distractions. Hiring managers do the same thing.

So do investors.

And people looking for a date.

Naming what is most important is far more helpful than a pro-con list. Knowing yourself enough to name what could distract you from making an emotional decision may be even more important.

When you find a perfect house, investment, date, or decision let me know. In the meantime, name what’s most important.

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