Every home buyer has their dream home pictured in their mind. Maybe it's an historic bungalow with original hardwoods throughout or maybe a mid-century modern tucked in a quiet neighborhood. No matter what your dream looks like in your head, that exact home probably isn't waiting for you on the market right now.
What may be on the market is your dream home with just a few "freckles" on it. It's possible that a previous owner laid some "gorgeous" gold shag carpet on your dream hardwoods. They may have "lovely" floral wallpaper all over the formal living and dining areas in your dream colonial two-story. Unless you buy a brand new home built to your specifications, you'll probably need to make a compromise or two to end up with your dream home.
You may be saying to yourself "I can deal with that, it's just cosmetic." Remember that thought, because YOU'RE RIGHT!! Almost every client I work with makes this statement when they begin their home search, but I estimate that about 75% completely forget about it once they view homes. Try to keep focused on the fact that you'll give yourself an advantage in the market if you prepare yourself to accept a few "freckles."
You can make the biggest impact by saving extra money for planned updates on your new home. Most buyers that arent' willing to accept cosmetic changes to a home do so because of money. Because many buyers come to the closing table spending almost all of their savings, they have no money after to update a home. Therefore, they prefer to buy the most move-in ready home they can, ruling out homes that need updating. In general, this reduces the demand on homes that need updated, effectively lowering the price you are likely to pay.
In short, try hard to keep your vision of a dream home pure in your mind, but realize that a few changes to an existing home may get you your dream at a better price.