You’ve got big plans to build your dream home, but where do you even start? Between budgets, deadlines, and managing all those different contractors, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed before you even break ground.

The good news is there’s a simple project management technique that can help give you direction: MoSCoW. MoSCoW stands for Must haves, Should haves, Could haves, and Won’t haves.

By identifying what’s critical for your new home, what’s important but not essential, what would be nice to have, and what you can live without, you’ll gain clarity on how to move forward efficiently while still achieving your vision. In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to apply MoSCoW to planning your residential construction project so you can build the home you’ve always wanted without losing your mind in the process.

Introducing the MoSCoW Method for Project Management

The MoSCoW method is a helpful prioritisation technique used in project management to focus your efforts on what really matters. It helps determine essential requirements (Must Haves) versus nice to haves (Could Haves) and ensures critical factors are not overlooked. When building a new home, this method will prove invaluable.

Must-haves are mandatory requirements - without them, your project will fail. For a home, this includes basics like a structural frame, roof, windows, and doors. These form the bare necessities to make a house a habitable space.

Should Haves are important but not critical for success. Things like flooring, cabinets, plumbing and electricals fall into this category. While not essential to get started, they are needed for the house to function fully.

Could Haves are desirable but non-essential parts. For a home, this may include landscaping the garden, a swimming pool or home automation system. These would be great to have but the house would still work fine without them.

Won't Haves are lowest priority items that you have decided to exclude. When resources are limited, deeming certain factors as Won't Haves avoids wasting time on non-critical parts. For a home, high-end fixtures or a lavish master suite could possibly fall into this category.

By applying MoSCoW to prioritise your home requirements, you'll have a clear roadmap of what to focus on first.

Starting with the Must Haves and working your way down ensures you build a functional home step-by-step without missing key elements or overspending on less important features. So get ready to categorise your wish list and make your dream home a reality!

a store front at day
Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante / Unsplash

Must Haves - The Critical Elements of Your Home Project

When it comes to your home construction project, some elements are absolutely essential. These “must haves” form the critical foundation of your new home.

Space for living

You’ll want plenty of space for relaxing, entertaining and activities. An open-concept living area is ideal, with a spacious lounge, dining area and kitchen. Lots of natural light is a must through large windows and skylights.

Private bedrooms

Each bedroom should be a generous size to fit a bed, dresser and other furnishings with room to move around easily. Ensure every bedroom has a closet for storage and consider an en suite or shared bathroom nearby.

Functional kitchen

The heart of any home, your kitchen needs quality appliances, lots of counter space and storage for pots, pans and pantry items. An island or breakfast bar is perfect for casual meals, chatting with friends or doing homework.


No less than two full bathrooms are essential for a comfortable home, preferably with showers and bathtubs. Bathrooms should have ample counter space, mirrors, storage cabinets and natural ventilation.

Outdoor access

Having direct access to the outdoors is a must. A deck, patio, balcony or garden gives you space to relax, entertain or simply enjoy some fresh air. These outdoor “rooms” extend your living area and connect you with nature.

With the must haves well provided for, you'll have a perfectly liveable and enjoyable new home. The rest you can develop over time, but these critical elements form the foundation of a place you'll be happy to call home.

a yellow robot is standing on a white surface
Photo by Vadim Bogulov / Unsplash

Should Haves - Important but Not Essential Parts of the Plan

The ‘should haves’ in your home project refer to things that would be nice to include if time and budget allow but aren’t absolutely essential. These parts of the plan can improve functionality, convenience and comfort in your home without being deal-breakers if left out.

Energy efficient features

Upgrading to double-glazed windows, additional insulation and LED lighting are environmentally friendly choices that can save money in the long run. While not always cheap upfront, incentives and rebates may be available to help offset costs. Every little bit helps when it comes to lowering utility bills and carbon footprint.

Smart home tech

Smart thermostats, security systems, speakers and appliances are popular options nowadays. Though not necessary, ‘smart’ upgrades can add convenience, peace of mind and connectivity. Start with one or two devices you’re most interested in and build from there. Many smart home features can now be controlled through a single app on your phone or tablet.

Extra storage

Adding more cupboard space in bedrooms, an attic conversion or a garden shed gives you room to organise and de-clutter. Storage furniture like drawers, cabinets and shelving units let you make the most of the space you already have. While extra storage may not be at the top of your list, you’ll appreciate having it once everything’s moved in.


A well-designed garden adds curb appeal and creates an inviting space for relaxing or entertaining. Things like trees, shrubs, patios or water features transform an ordinary yard into an outdoor oasis. Landscaping is often best done in stages, starting with a plan to determine priorities and budget. Even simple changes can make a big difference.

The ‘should haves’ in your project essentially come down to available resources and personal preferences. Think about what’s most important for your needs and lifestyle, then decide how much you can reasonably take on for your new home. Every item crossed off the list, whether must have or would be nice to have, gets you one step closer to moving in and enjoying the results of your efforts.

turned on LED projector on table
Photo by Alex Litvin / Unsplash

Could Haves - Nice to Have Items if Time and Budget Allow

The ‘Could Haves’ in your home project are the nice-to-have items you’d like to include if time and budget allow. These are features that would be good to have but aren’t essential. Some examples for a residential home construction include:

  • Solar panels. Installing solar panels can help reduce your energy bills and environmental footprint. However, they require a significant upfront cost and may not provide a quick return on investment. If you can afford to instal them and plan to stay in the home long-term, solar panels fall into the ‘Could Have’ category.
  • Home automation system. A smart home system that controls lighting, thermostats, security cameras and more can add convenience but is not an absolute must-have, especially if you're on a tight budget. You could start with a basic system and build on it over time.
  • Double oven. For those who love to cook and entertain, a double wall oven is a dream. But for smaller families or casual cooks, a single, full-size oven will work just fine and costs less. If space and budget allow, a double oven could be a ‘Could Have’.
  • Walk-in pantry. A spacious walk-in pantry is ideal for maximising storage space and keeping your kitchen organised. However, a well-designed kitchen with ample cupboard space can also function perfectly well without a walk-in pantry. It comes down to your needs, preferences and what you can afford.
  • Home theatre. A dedicated home theatre with a big screen, surround sound and comfortable seating can be an entertainment mecca. But for most households, a nice TV and sound system in the living room works great too. A home theatre system is ideal but not essential, so classify it as a ‘Could Have’ if resources allow for it.

The key is to determine what features are really important for your needs and priorities. Focus on the ‘Must Haves’ and ‘Should Haves’ first before considering the ‘Could Haves’ and ‘Won’t Haves’. That way you can achieve a well-designed home that meets your essential requirements within budget.

woman in white bathtub holding clear drinking glass
Photo by Roberto Nickson / Unsplash

Won't Haves - Out of Scope Elements to Park for Later

The “Won’t Haves” refer to items you decide to leave out of the initial scope of your home construction project. These are elements you park for later to avoid overcomplicating the planning and build. Some things you may choose to exclude:


While a beautifully landscaped yard would be ideal, the actual construction of your home is complicated enough without adding in extensive landscaping requirements. Leave the yard bare for now and focus on the house. You can always add landscaping in stages over the coming years as your budget allows.

Luxury fixtures

High-end plumbing fixtures, lighting fixtures, appliances, and the like can significantly increase costs. Opt for more standard, budget-friendly options for now. You’ll still end up with a functional, comfortable home you can upgrade over time.

Additional floors

If your budget only allows for a single-level home at this point, exclude any additional floors from the initial build. Adding another level is much easier to do later on. Focus on getting the foundation and framework in place for the main floor.


A garage is convenient but not essential. If funds are tight, leave the garage out of the initial planning. You can still park vehicles on a driveway or carport temporarily. Adding a garage down the road, whether attached or detached, will be more affordable once the major costs of the home construction have been covered.

Media rooms

Dedicated media rooms, game rooms, theatre rooms, and so on are nice-to-haves that can be put on the back burner. Your main living spaces will suit entertainment needs for now. Convert an extra bedroom or basement space into one of these luxury rooms when budget allows.

Defining the “Won’t Haves” upfront helps provide realistic constraints for your project so you can focus resources on the absolute must-haves. You'll end up with a finished home that meets your basic needs, with opportunities to enhance and build on it over the coming years as time and money permit. Staying disciplined in your exclusions will serve you well through the planning and construction process.


MoSCoW is a simple but effective framework to help prioritise what really matters in your home building project. Using MoSCoW to categorise each decision into must haves, should haves, could haves or won't haves provides clarity and ensures you stay focused on the essentials.

It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new build and make unrealistic demands on your budget, timelines and relationships. MoSCoW helps avoid costly mistakes, reduces arguments with your partner or builder, and maximises the likelihood of ending up with a home you're thrilled with.

Give it a go - you've got nothing to lose and a whole lot of sanity and money to gain. Good luck with your project!