It’s all part of the emotional roller coaster of online dating – a part of my life I thought I had left behind when I met my boyfriend on Hinge a year and a half ago. But now that I’m embarking on a new chapter of becoming a homeowner, the experience of searching for a home online is starting to feel oddly like my days using dating apps – but sadly, with fewer happy hours mixed in.
A few of the similarities I’ve picked up on:
I can tell only so much from photosAnyone who has ever created an online dating profile is guilty of posting at least one picture that’s a half-truth. (I literally have one stamp in my passport, but that didn’t stop me from posting a photo from Mexico with the caption “Travel Lover.”)
In the same way, you never get the full picture from listing photos. I’ve walked into homes that I thought would feel cramped, only to find vaulted ceilings and plenty of windows that helped make the space feel bigger. I’ve planned entire barbecues in my head based on a single photo of a backyard, before visiting the home and realizing the patio was overshadowed most of the day. One home had photos that showcased plenty of vintage charm, but in person I realized the place actually needed several updates.
Virtual tours have been huge in helping me narrow down the properties I want to see in person. They help me get a better idea of the layout so I can picture where I could put my WFH desk, and how easy it would be to host game night (when social distancing ends). Still, just like a first date, you’ll never really know if you and a home click until you meet IRL.
I’m dusting off my internet-stalking skillsI never really Googled a date beyond making sure the law firm they claimed to work for actually existed and maybe to clarify a pop culture reference they made in their profile.
But when it comes to house hunting, I’m taking internet research to the next level. I look up the address on Google maps, make a list of nearby restaurants and map how long it would take me to walk or drive to my favorite coffee shop. I look at the street view to see if the nearby park is somewhere I would enjoy going for a run or if it’s mostly dominated by playgrounds. For one property where I wasn’t sure if there was a backyard, my real estate agent suggested finding a way to get a satellite view of the home (I applaud her internet sleuthing skills). The RE/MAX app also lets me plug in important places such as my office or yoga studio and automatically calculates the drive time in each listing.
Sometimes it seems I spend more time measuring the walkability of a home than actually reading the listing, which brings me to my next point…
I’m reading between the lines of creative profilesJust as it’s never a good idea to set up a date based solely on profile photos, it’s also not a good idea to set up a showing based solely on online images. I’ve found that the listing descriptions are not only helpful, but important. Many descriptions offer hints and tips about the property that you might not be able to glean from the photos. One I saw pointed out that the restaurant around the corner was recently rated the best in my city, and others have listed local farmers markets or music festivals that are within walking distance in the summer (something you might not pick up on in the middle of winter).
Plus, not everything you see is what you get – for example, the homeowners may be taking the washer/dryer set in the pictures with them when they move out. That will be clarified in the listing description. This listing description may also mention if a condo doesn’t include pets (similar to my dates, my future home needs to be cat-friendly). Hidden in one description was the fact the owner was willing to sell their home-brewing equipment currently set up in the basement, which would have been a nice bonus.
One description I especially loved promised a “farm-to-table experience” from the backyard that came complete with a fruit tree and herb garden – useful to know since the garden wasn’t in bloom when I toured the property in January.
I’m overanalyzing everything (but I think my agent appreciates it!)“Should I text him first?” “Will he think meeting at a brewery is too informal?” “Did I talk too much about astrology?”
I consider myself and my friends a group of fairly confident, accomplished people. But there’s nothing like an internet date to get us to question everything (and I have the group text chains to prove it).
Now that I’m on the house hunt, the overthinking has returned. After all, it’s a huge investment that I’ve worked for and planned on for years. Before, I’ve been able to simply move when my lease was up if I decided I didn’t like my apartment. It’s not that easy with a house.
Thankfully, my RE/MAX real estate agent not only appreciates my detailed questions about a home, she also has a wealth of knowledge that has offered reassurance at all points of my real estate journey.
Whether I’m asking how much it will cost to upgrade a shower, the impact on resale value of sharing a wall with a ramen restaurant, or if a firepit is allowed by the HOA, she has the inside scoop that helps me confidently evaluate if a home meets my needs.
Although I haven’t put an offer in on a home yet, my agent has taught me a lot about contract negotiations. I’ve learned that sometimes a seller needs more time to find their own new home, so offering a leaseback can be more competitive than an offer over the asking price. If I love a home but truly feel something needs to be repaired, I now know it can sometimes be negotiated as well (though it can be tricky in a seller’s market).
I used to think dating was complex and confusing, but that was nothing compared to buying a home. I can’t imagine finding the right home or negotiating a contract without having a trusted guide by my side.
I’ll know when I’ve found the oneRecently I toured a home that seemed to have it all – a remodeled bathroom, a sizable yard and an adorable kitchen backsplash – all in a highly walkable neighborhood. But I just couldn’t get over the layout that had most of the living space in the basement.
In a market as heated as mine, it’s easy to feel pressure from the competition. After bumping into the people waiting for the next showing on the way out and watching other potential buyers circle the property to get a peek at the backyard, I was ready to put in a high bid just to feel like I had won something.
So, after hours of agonizing, I called my agent and asked if I was crazy for passing on an obviously desirable property. After all, with our current low inventory, there aren’t as many fish in the sea as I would like. Was I being too picky waiting for a feeling of butterflies?
She assured me it was okay to take my time finding my dream home. The last thing I want is to put in an offer and still wonder what else is out there (kind of like all of those internet dates that were fine, but still left me scrolling through Bumble on the Lyft ride home).
Time and again, my RE/MAX agent says she’s seen clients walk through the door and have an instant feeling of “this is it.”
I never settled for anything less when searching for a partner, and I don’t plan to with my hunt for the right home either.
(Written by Stephanie Visscher)
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