5 Ways House-Hunting Is Exactly Like Going on a Bunch of First Dates

published Feb 23, 2021
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The first love. The one that got away. The rebound. The fixer upper. The charmer. The One. For me, none of these describe my soccer-playing high school boyfriend, the free spirit who crashed on my couch for three months, or the country-singing burnout convinced he was our generation’s John Prine. Rather, they describe the California-style corner lot; the too-small condo with great views; the mid-century modern ranch that slipped through my fingers. 

If you think about it, house hunting is a whole lot like dating. And while home buying is often stressful, and dating — I can confirm — is a living nightmare, applying the dating approach to house hunting might just be the smartest way to shop. Below, I break down the five reasons you should use your dating experience to inform your house hunting.

You’re thrilled when someone can pair you with a good match.

There’s a big difference between the setups your great-aunt arranges and the ones your friends think would be a fit. Often, the key to finding a fantastic partner involves the help of an expert in all things you. Sarah Georger-Clark, Seattle-based realtor with Metropolist, says, “Meeting with a realtor is like meeting with a matchmaker or a love coach. You sit down and you describe exactly what you’re looking for — your dream partner.”  

When identifying a realtor to help with your house search, seek out someone with experience, and ask around for referrals. If your closest friends all found their partners through the same matchmaker, you’d get that matchmaker’s number! Similarly, if someone in your circle had an excellent experience with their realtor, lock them in.

There’s also the option of leaving your matchmaking up to an algorithm. Hannah Bomze is the CEO and co-founder of an app called Casa Blanca, which acts as a digital matchmaker for prospective homebuyers. “We show people a lot of images and different styles and then based on which ones you like, we learn, ‘Hey, you like high ceilings, you like fireplaces,’” Bomze says. “There’s actually a ton of different data points we’re looking for in how you answer… ” It’s almost like Match.com for homes — and Match.com has resulted in more marriages than any other dating site!

You’ve had luck using apps during your search.

“How’d you two meet?” you’re asked. “Late-night scrolling on the Zillow app,” you reply. This could be your fairytale love story! Whether seriously scrolling or casually browsing when you’re bored, real estate apps expose users to all types of listings and resources that make finding the right home so much easier. “Going on the websites like Redfin or Zillow is almost like going on Tinder where you’re swiping left or swiping right and kind of obsessing over good matches or something that aligns with what you’re looking for,” Georger-Clark says.

Keep in mind what you see online isn’t always what you get. Courtney Poulos, owner of ACME Real Estate and author of Break Up! With Your Rental, shares, “MLS photos are completely like online dating profiles — sometimes the houses that look the best in photos are kind of disappointing in person, and sometimes the ones that have terrible photos have incredible character and bones and you just can’t tell.” Keep an open mind for those listings that have potential but fall just a little short of perfection. You never know what sparks will fly in person!

You know what you want, but realize you can’t be too picky.

Once you settle on a realtor, it’s critical to convey what you’re looking for in a home. Some home features might be obvious — in-unit washer and dryer, parking, green space — but it’s helpful to take an inventory of what you actually need from the house. Dating someone for their looks might be fun at first, but without substance, the relationship will fall apart. Georger-Clark recommends self-reflection, and asks her clients, “How do you want to live your life in this home… do you want to entertain, do you want to have a sanctuary, how do you visualize yourself living your life with this partner, or this house?” 

With that said, it’s unwise to hold out for perfection. “No house is perfect, just like no partner is perfect, but if you’re strategic about the way that you hunt, you can get a lot of items on your checklist for your budget,” Poulos says. If a listing boasts, say, 85 percent of your “must-have” list, move forward and don’t worry about finding a 100 percent match — those just don’t exist. 

You always watch out for red flags.

The first thing I do after connecting with a potential match? Get into some hardcore online research! (What, like you don’t?) Poulos puts it simply: “You’ve got to do your background check when you’re dating online, you’ve got to do your background check when you’re buying a house.” 

Committing to a property before analyzing inspection results and other reporting is a recipe for disaster. Talk to neighbors, explore the neighborhood, learn about the school district. If something seems off, follow that instinct and back out before you’ve invested years of your precious life in the wrong home, wondering where it all went wrong and dreading starting over again.

You know it’s important to take it slow.

Unless your house hunt requires urgency, it’s ill-advised to rush such a big decision. Georger-Clark recommends homebuyers start out casually, as anyone might on a first few dates, saying, “Open houses are similar to going on a casual coffee date with someone… there’s no pressure, you’re just going to kind of look around, try things on, you can leave if you don’t like it.”

The housing market takes twists and turns, and homes can be snatched up before the listing’s even updated online. As such, it’s important not to get too invested too quickly, leading to house hunting heartbreak. Just as there are plenty of fish in the sea, there are plenty of bungalows in the cul-de-sac. 

Poulos recommends house hunters view homebuying as long-term dating, adding, “If you’re obsessively trying to find ‘the one,’ you’re going to be constantly disappointed by what’s out there…. The one will make itself known once the time is right.” Trust the process, follow your instincts, and live happily ever after.