by Ken Braly
A year ago I was single and alone, living in a rental unit, with no prospects for change. Conversations with my single friends had two themes: how hard it is to find a good relationship, and how hard it is to purchase a home.
So this year I tackled what seemed the easier problem, and after a 5-month adventure bought a house. Then I realized that for both quests — relationships and homes — you can use the same strategy.
That strategy has five steps: planning, market research, inspection and appraisal, making the offer, and living happily ever after.
In planning, first envision your dream home or mate. Then forget it — you aren’t going to get the one of your dreams. Decide what features and amenities you simply must have and what compromises you’re willing to make.
Consider age, for example. Do you want a brand new one, one that’s never been lived in? Youth may be nice, but an older model may have more character. And unless you have lots of patience, beware of the fixer-upper.
Once you’ve done some planning, take a look at what’s on the market.
The tactics differ a little. At least houses have signs in front telling whether they’re available. People sometimes have small “not for sale” signs on their fingers, though these days, you can’t always tell.
You can get help. There are dating services, and the multiple listing service. Both give you a preview of available properties. There are friends who try to fix you up, and realtors who do the same.
Watch out for false advertising. The listing calls the house “charming and rustic;” your friends describe the blind date as “good-looking.” Sure.
Finally comes that first meeting: the date, the open house. Your hopes rise — maybe this will be the one! If you’re nervous, take along a friend, or your realtor, and double date.
The third step is inspecting and appraising what you find.
Don’t be taken in by superficial appearances. Curb appeal is nice, but not if it hides major flaws. Check for a solid foundation, something upstairs, and plumbing that works. Sometimes you just know without ever going inside, this one’s not for you.
How has it been treated by the previous owner? Some models have obviously been cared for, others just given fresh paint for the open house. You can sure spot the rentals.
You might hire a professional inspector, though friends and family will certainly have opinions. Some will understand what attracted you; others will insist you’re making a serious mistake.
Plan to spend weekend after weekend looking, and thinking, “Not this one. No way.” Eventually you’ll see one that looks promising, and that leads to the offer.
With a house, you make a formal offer right away. With a relationship, you make visits for weeks, months, even years before making an offer. In either case, the idea is to take the property off the market until the inspection is complete.
Making an offer involves a frightening word — commitment. Your heart pounds: “What if I choose now, and find a better one next week?” Well, once you make the offer, stop going to open houses!
For a house, you usually make an offer after only one brief look, rather like proposing after the first date. But then the seller has to give you a complete disclosure statement, listing all the known problems. Wouldn’t that be handy in relationships?
But finally you make the offer and it’s accepted. Then begins life together, or “happily ever after.”
Once you’ve been together for a while, you’ll know the good and the bad about your decision. People used to stay with the same one for life; today, especially in California, many think about trading up. They often want a newer one (though only with houses do they want a bigger one). So some folks get a new model. Others keep the old one but make cosmetic changes — give it a facelift. Still others stay with the old and find another for weekend getaways.
So I offer this advice to any of you looking for a home, a relationship, or both. Plan, look at what’s on the market, and be thorough in your inspection. Both dating and attending open houses take lots of time and can be very frustrating. But just smile and tell your friends on Monday morning,
“you won’t believe the turkey I saw this weekend.”
When you find the right one, make a good offer. Then live happily ever after, and remember that both homes and relationships need lots of TLC, or they’ll fall apart.
This strategy works. It found me a home. Now, does anyone know any available women?