Choosing a new house can be a difficult proposition, when you consider all the myriad factors that make a house a true home; the house is only one part of a larger whole, a whole encompassing the neighborhood, the community, schools, and more. That’s where keeping a home search checklist handy comes in. By keeping a stack of printouts with the vitals of each house on them, you can easily compare and contrast what different homes have to offer your family—and make the perfect decision. Here are a few tips for making your checklist work:

The House

Your checklist should include plenty of details about the house itself, as small details will matter quite a bit after years of close contact. Consider not only raw numbers such as square footage, bedrooms, and bathrooms, but how practical the layout is for your family, whether the building will be energy efficient in winter and summer, whether your children or pets will be safe in the yard, how comfortably you can store cars, clothes, etc. If it is likely to impact your life in the house, add it to the list—you don’t want to miss out on a major dealbreaker (or overlook a truly nice detail).

The Neighborhood

Of course, the neighborhood greatly effects your life in any home. Make sure your list includes concerns such as the view from your house, the noise level, the roads and traffic, crime rates, and emergency response times. A lovely house in a miserable neighborhood isn’t going to be fun to live in, no matter how good the deal or how amazing the home. Ask the seller or the agent lots of questions, and make sure your list has room for the questions that matter to you.

What’s Nearby

Finally, add various establishments you’re interested in living near to your checklist. Consider the qualities of local schools if you have children, local pubs and eateries, parks and playgrounds, grocery stores, churches, public transit access, etc. Convenience from your home to the other places you need and enjoy going to should be a major consideration when buying a home, so make sure nothing important slips off your checklist—if you’re going to be living in a house for years to come, do you want to be a long drive away from your favorite restaurant, or your favorite recreation center?