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When you are looking for a new home, it's easy to get carried away. That formal dining room that you never thought about before is suddenly a must -- but the next house you looked at had a wide fireplace that stole your heart. How about that master bedroom with the balcony? Or that spiral staircase that had you at hello?

Unfortunately, you can't have it all. That's why it pays to choose wisely from the wide array of home features that have the ability to turn you from an eagle-eyed real estate guru to a ball of mush. Consider your day-to-day life, your lifestyle, your family members, and your history when it comes to choosing the right features for your dream house.

If you really love to cook...
There's no doubt that the perfect kitchen can be a huge selling point. But before you give in to the power of that enormous counterspace and expensive range, consider your cooking and entertaining style. Are you into cooking for just your lucky family, or do you turn out mini quiches and pies with the speed and skill of a professional caterer? That can mean the difference between needing a typical kitchen and one that can house an entire crew of sous chefs.

What about a place to consume all that wonderful food? If your dinner parties are legendary, then a huge formal dining room is probably exactly what you need. But if you mostly have you family and small groups of friends over, that dining room could quickly become home to dust-covered boxes and other storage odds and ends. For the home cook who likes to keep things quiet, consider nixing the dining room for a much larger kitchen -- especially one with plenty of space for a kitchen table.

If quiet nights in are your thing...
Not big on entertaining? Do you prefer to lock yourself away from the world and simply enjoy family time? A huge family room or entertainment area might be the perfect feature to allow you to get away from it all, right there in the comfort of home. Jazz the family room up with a big television and a nice surround sound system to turn the ordinary movie night into a true experience.

Not quiet enough? Look for a home with features such as a bay window with a seat for quiet reading or a small "bonus" room that can be turned into a meditation area. Remember location, too -- a house deep in the woods is likely to provide you with all the quiet nights you could ever want.

If the great outdoors is calling your name...
Sometimes even the most luxurious house can become stifling. That's when it's time to move to the backyard -- to the huge patio or deck that comes complete with all the trappings that can turn an afternoon into an adventure. Imagine a hammock strung between two trees, a comfortable seating area with a grill standing by, or even an outdoor kitchen that allows you to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner under the open sky. Even if the space is simple and bare, great outdoor space is a feature that allows your imagination to run wild.

Not big on spending time outside? Never even thought of owning a grill? Then while a house with a great backyard could look fabulous and tempting, you might consider if your money would be better spent on a home with features that will get day-to-day use.

If you might expand the family soon...
Before family members start picking out bedrooms, take a deep breath and consider how much bigger your family might get. Are there plans for a little one in the future? If so, a nursery that can eventually convert into a bedroom is a definite must. If there are no extra rooms but the house is a dream come true in every other way, look at the structure. Would it be easy to build an addition onto the house when the time comes?

But it's not just about the perfect nursery. If you have elderly parents, there might come a time when the best thing for everyone is to move them into your home. Will there be enough room to make that happen? Consider things like wide doorways, the possibility of a lift or elevator, and other amenities that can make life easier.

If you want to live there in your golden years...
Many people choose a home that they believe they could enjoy forever. But then they get a few decades older and reality hits -- those stairs are just too tough to climb, that yard is way too much work, and the kitchen isn't conducive to someone who can't move around well anymore. All of that can combine to the heartbreaking decision to leave a home that has meant everything to you over the years.

When choosing your dream home, consider what your needs might be in ten, twenty, thirty years or more. Does the house have the flexibility to accommodate things like wheelchair ramps, walk-in tubs, universal design in a remodeled kitchen, and other elements that can keep you at home longer?

Remember, a dream house should suit every aspect of your life, as well as every time of your life. When looking for a new house, don't be seduced by the little things -- be prepared to make tough choices. A decade from now, you will be glad you did.

This article Do you really need that in your new house? originally appeared on

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