Do you prefer them long and narrow? Clean and well-maintained? With heavenly hardscapes and a nice backyard? Most women don't know what they want in a home until they have explored their options. Sound familiar? Shopping for a home isn't so different from dating, as I learned firsthand while trolling New York City for the perfect match. I ogled and objectified my way through Wall Street's condominiums for one year, lacking a real sense for what I wanted, or rather, what I needed. Increasingly, the two concepts became distinct, pulled apart like taffy until they'd hardened into resolute towers of adjectives and declarative statements. I'm not even picking up the phone if it doesn't have two bedrooms. No view? Don't waste my time. These kinds of deal-breaker absolutisms eventually gave way to softer, more seasoned requirements, like, give me good fixtures and I can forego the tub, and if the association fees are fixed for five years, I can go higher on my monthly mortgage.
With the forming of this second list (my needs list), I was becoming savvier and more sophisticated -- a woman of the real estate world. But damn! Early on in the process, I wish I'd had a fairy godmother, or better yet, an app to guide me. The entire home-buying journey was a soul-baring process that required unprecedented confidence and perseverance to prevail against scrutiny, disappointment, deception and, of course, rejection.
If dating and finding an apartment in New York City has taught me anything, it's this: It doesn't just happen. It takes knowing yourself and knowing what makes you happy, and knowing that no house will satisfy all of your hopes and dreams. And that's OK. Like a great partner, the right home will likely fulfill needs you didn't even know you had. The biggest challenge is being able to identify this match. Sometimes it is right under your nose, buried between the old haunts, the turnoffs and the plain lanes. Somewhere out there sits your house, and finding it will make all of those past heartaches worthwhile.
Here are some pointers on how to not miss your match:
See what's out there.
Find as many on-ramps to the real estate market as possible, and then explore your options. Search online, scan from the sidewalk, do drive-bys, go to open houses -- get a sense for what's available by actively looking and assessing the market. After my own experience, we decided to design an iOS app that offered would-be homebuyers a fun and lightweight way to explore listings from their mobile phones. Doorsteps Swipe, like so many of those hot dating apps currently callusing our thumbs, uses swipe-and-like functionality to help users learn what they are looking for in a home so that they can close the deal when they are ready to commit.
Look in the right places.
As you travel through your home-buying journey, narrow your search to those forums that align with who you are and how you operate. Whether it's a realtor recommended by a friend or a website that has an accessible tone, you'll be more engaged if you like where you look.
Get clear on your priorities.
Consider your "wants" and your "needs" when it comes to your home. Think about the life you want to lead, not just the qualities of the home you want to have. Listing these out will help you make the right decisions and the necessary tradeoffs. After all, you are not just looking for your dream home but the home that's perfect for your dream life.
Trust your instincts.
Don't ignore your gut, even if you can't quite put your finger on what is bothering you. Acknowledge any red flags you see. This is a big commitment; you'll be living in your home for a while, and chances are that the things that didn't feel right in the beginning won't go away. Exercising a little caution is always a good idea when searching for a home.
Get over past hurts.
Nobody likes baggage. Maybe you had a bad realtor in the past. Maybe you were outbid on the last home you wanted. No matter what, start fresh every time you look at a new home, and don't let bad past experiences ruin your current search.
Don't want what you can't have.
Be practical about what you can afford. That's why getting clear on your priorities is so important. Checking off all of your "wants" is less important than checking off all of your "needs." Getting stuck on one fancy house that's way out of your league will prevent you from finding an even better fit that makes financial sense for you.
But don't settle either.
Just because you don't want to overreach doesn't mean you should settle. If inventory is low and you see a home that doesn't thrill you but maybe could work, take a moment to consider before moving forward. Maybe it's not the right time to buy right now, or maybe you should reassess your needs.
Finding a home should be fun. It doesn't need to be stressful, complex, or overanalyzed. Once you realize this, you won't only feel fulfilled; you'll be outrageously attractive to sellers, and maybe to dating prospects as well. Just remember to pace yourself and enjoy the journey!
Choosing the house you want to commit to is serious business, and it demands a lot of forethought, responsibility and honesty. But once you've found that special home, all of your hard work will be worth it, and you can start putting down roots and building a life.
Remember: Look for a good house, not a perfect one, because the house won't be perfect until you're in it.