The best approach is this: even before starting to inspect properties, prepare a catalogue of requirements in the form of a checklist (see the checklist «The 10 most important points»). On the right there's a further helpful checklist to print out.
Identify what you expect from a home
This includes information concerning the desired style of living, location, price expectations, etc. When doing so, it's important to be as frank and honest with yourself as possible - independent of what's currently trendy among your friends, independent of the prestige of outward appearances or of those beautiful photos in glossy lifestyle magazines.
Private area: In condominium design, floor plans with generously laid out living-eating areas are still fashionable. While that might impress your guests, when it comes to everyday living you might have completely different requirements for your living spaces, or perhaps you'd like to be able to close the door to a room and enjoy a bit of peace and privacy every now and then.
Flexibility: In the course of the years, the luxury of plenty of floor space is less important than factors such as the adaptability of the floor plan, the house's flexibility and the ability to use each room as required for living, sleeping, a hobby room, guest room or an office.
And, by the way, clear guidelines and knowledge in this regard form a solid basis for working with an architect. Because once the requirements are determined, it's possible to work out clear consequences for a house layout and the initial specifications.
A lifestyle diary gives added help
A useful tool for helping to clarify your individual lifestyle requirements is to keep a journal in which you record the typical daily routine of all members of the household and note the uses of various rooms. With it you can answer such questions as:
How many rooms do you need and how large must they be?
How many bathrooms and toilet rooms does the home need?
How important are exterior spaces (balcony, terrace)?
Who must be able to store which materials or sports equipment?
Such a tool sharpens your senses for the most important aspects and should certainly lead to a few «aha!» moments.