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Most home buyers claim they're picky. And why shouldn't they be? The real estate they buy will be home. It needs to provide more than just a roof over their head. It needs to satisfy emotional needs that aren't easily quantifiable. The home is a reflection of the self, which makes the quest for the right place to buy complicated.

Since the home-buying experience is inter-meshed with the psyche of the person in pursuit, there's a psychological component to consider. For example, let's say you have been searching for the right home for years. You haven't seen too many properties that fit the bill, and have only made an offer or two during that time-frame. The property you really loved turned out to be entirely too expensive. You lost out in a multiple-offer competition on a property that was listed too low.

You've come close to making an offer several times, but have backed away after reconsidering. Each property had defects in terms of your ideal wish list. You weren't willing to compromise.

House Hunting Tip:

Buyers who find they've been looking for the right house for more than six months should pause to consider whether their expectations are in line with reality. For instance, if you want a bay view and a level lot, you may find that you'll wait forever. Bay views tend to be available only in homes that are built on hills. Home buying involves making compromises if you're serious about buying.

In order to decide how you will compromise, you need to research the local housing stock to discover what is realistically possible. In other words, you need to do your homework. The perfect house won't just magically appear. To save time, use the Internet to whittle down the list of homes for sale until you find the ones that suit your needs. Then make a point of visiting these in person, either with a real estate agent or at an open house.

Buyers with pressing needs usually have less of a problem finding the right home to buy. For example, if you live in an area with a school district you don't like and you have children who are about to enter school, you need to move if you can't afford private-school tuition. You have an urgent reason to move that preempts the desire for a perfect house. You'll settle for the right number of bedrooms and baths, a yard and a good school district. You may be willing to give up on the Old World charm or character that you were hoping to find.

You may be getting out and seeing the listings that might work for you and still aren't having success. In this case, you could be suffering from approach-avoidance. This syndrome can keep you from making a decision, even when you see the right house to buy. You come close to making an offer but never carry through.

Buying a home can be frightening, particularly if you are doing it on your own. It's a big commitment, perhaps to a lifestyle that you're not used to. It's helpful to consult with advisers when you find that you're getting nowhere. Talk to a trusted financial adviser to see if you're looking in the right price range. If you're over your head financially, scale back to a level that feels comfortable.

The Closing:

It can be useful to reconsider your wish list in terms of what you've learned about your local market and what to expect. By realigning your expectations and readjusting to a comfortable price range, you may feel more comfortable moving ahead.

Dian Hymer is author of "House Hunting, The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers" and "Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer's Guide," Chronicle Books.