When you’re making the biggest purchase of your life (your home), you deserve to be particular.

So, even before you hit the MLS, do yourself a favor and make your very own Three-Column Home Wish List: Gotta Have, Like to Have and Must Not Have.

Gotta Have. First column first. These are the non-negotiables, whatever they might be: two-story, three bedrooms, fenced yard, Japanese koi pond—you name it. This column shouldn’t be overly long; but whatever’s in there, agree that you won’t even look at homes that don’t have all the items. The longer this list is, the fewer homes you’ll have to choose from—but, the less time you’ll waste looking at houses you don’t want.

Must Not Have. You should fill out this column second. These you really want to be picky about, because you’re automatically nixing any house that has any one of these—near a busy street, in a bad school district, stucco siding, what have you. Keep it short and sweet and save it for the things you really hate (and would hate yourself for buying).

Like to Have. This is the fun one—the list you get to put all the stuff on your Christmas/Birthday/Daydream list that you don’t feel right about putting in the Gotta Have column but would really, really like anyway. These are things like a walk-in closet, walk-in shower, in-ground pool, stainless appliances, fifth bedroom or whatever else you could live without but would love to have for the rest of your life.

There you have it. Make the lists. Check them twice. And have fun house-shopping!