Remember when you first started dating? Looking for a place to live is a lot like that. You've got to look beyond the things that might initially dazzle you and dig below the surface to discover the things that will really make the difference in your happiness in the long run. Interestingly enough, some of the qualities to look for are similar.
Dealing with pressure: After a rough day, there's nothing quite so satisfying as jumping in to a hot shower and letting the water pound down on your muscles to make you feel renewed and refreshed. When checking out a new space, turn on the taps in the sinks, shower and bath. Does it take a minute for the hot water to come up? Does the shower barely trickle out or is it needle sharp? In dating, you'll want to take notice of how someone behaves when things get challenging. How they are when your order's messed up, you're lost, that flight you're taking together on your first vacation has been delayed or you can't remember where you put the car can give you a lot of information about how good they'll be when life gets rough.
Electricity: Are there enough outlets in every room? Where are they? Yes, you can use extension cords but if you're envisioning a lamp by door and the nearest outlet is on the other side of the room, that can be an issue. In the same way, while the electricity between two people can ebb and flow, you have to at least find the person attractive.
First impressions count: I took my first apartment in New York sight unseen; I only got to peek into my apartment in LA before taking it. But, in both cases, I can't explain why, I just knew I was making the right choice. In the case of dating, don't discount your first instinct. And, while most of the time, you're hoping for a good vibe, pay attention to any strong reaction. I've had plenty of friends whose first impression on meeting their now spouse was abject hate.
Look beyong the superficial: I remember walking into an apartment a friend was considering buying. Ugh, it's ugly, they said and turned to walk out. While I couldn't disagree with them because it was — the walls were painted a dingy brown, there was peeling linoleum in the bathroom, the windows were dirty, the kitchen had awful appliances — the bones of the place — it had great light, an amazing layout, a spacious bathroom with a big shower head — were great. We painted, we ripped up that linoleum, we shined the windows, he got new appliances for the kitchen and the place was dazzling. In the same way, when dating someone, try not to be swayed by a fancy car or ugly shoes. Remember, a makeover is key in almost every romantic story, from Cinderella to Pretty Woman to Crazy Stupid Love.
People: My current apartment is great but my neighbors haven't always been stellar. When I first moved in, I used to refer to the guys upstairs as Clompy and Stompy. They were the in-demand doormen at the two hottest hangouts in LA which was great for my social life but for my sleeping? Not so much. They'd come home at 3 or 4 in the morning and make tons of noise. I got earplugs and they learned to take off their boots at the door but that took a bit of negotiating. While neighbors might not impact whether you take an apartment, they will be something to deal with so ask what they're like and find out who's a problem and how you'll deal with it. In the same way, while someones friends may not make or break how you feel about them, you will have to deal with them from time to time.
Quality of life: If something's broken in my house, my landlord fixes it right away. He's also been agreeable about the changes I've made to the apartment and he works with me if something more major is done to the house (I got to choose the paint color for the front doors of the building and he's learned that I will want to have a say on the style if he decides to replace the faucets). Find out, either from the broker or asking neighbors, how responsive the landlord is to getting things done and whether he'll balk if you change out the light fixtures or paint the walls navy. When dating, while it's certainly nice if you both have similar taste in music and movies or you're both early risers, those things are less important than if your differences can be negotiated.
The Neighborhood: Are the things you need nearby? Do you feel safe? Maybe things are a little sketch but there's a bodega on the corner where the owners keep watch on what's going on. My first apartment in New York was on the wrong side of the park but I saw that that was changing, the subway stop I was near meant I was only a few stops from anywhere I wanted to go and the rent was cheap enough that I could budget in a taxi to take me home every night. In the same way, it's good to observe the things about your date — manners, family, background, upbringing, schooling — that are part of their landscape. Do they get along with their relatives or are their skeletons in the closet no one speaks about? Do you feel safe and comfortable with them? Are they a good balance for you? Maybe their careful, introverted observation of situations balances out your introverted enthusiasm.
Image: Leah Moss from Meredith's Historic Farmhouse Dream