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How Apartment Hunting and Online Dating Are Alike

Similar mindsets and skills serve both goals


Maybe you’ve come uncoupled, or you’re downsizing. Maybe you’re moving across town for an easier commute or across the country to be closer to your grown kids. Real estate brokers help people looking to buy, but the skills you need when apartment hunting are remarkably similar to those needed for successful online dating.

Just as on dating sites, apartment rental sites allow you to narrow the field by using filters to describe exactly what you seek. Ironically, the similarities continue, right up through that first crucial meeting.

Here’s proof of my theory, along with some great tips to help you find the right apartment:

Apartment Hunting and Online Dating: You Know What You Want

The options vary widely, whether we’re talking  potential partners or apartments.

When it comes to housing, you may be looking for one bedroom or two, a yard or a concrete patio, a small building with few units or the instant community of a larger building. Some people require a generous living space, room to spread out. Micro apartments — even smaller than typical 450-square-foot studios — appeal to minimalists. People who enjoy glorious vistas from their current lodgings can’t cope with views of brick walls or the neighbor’s house across the way, so they look for more drama. Secure parking may be a must-have, or maybe you’re giving up the car for Uber or Lyft apps or you’re turning to public transit. Regardless, it pays to be picky.

Long-distance relationships can be difficult to sustain, and location also matters when you look for a new place to live. Maybe you have a particular neighborhood in mind or maybe you want to be closer to work, family or friends. Some like to be part of the pulse of a city; others favor quieter suburban areas.

I’d like to live across the street from the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco, but family members and friends caution against it, citing the frequent fog and the tsunami evacuation route signs. Blowing sand, they say, eats the paint off a car and messes with the engine. Another hazard of living by the sea is that much of the housing has been built on reclaimed land. Can you say “liquefaction?” What if during an earthquake the ocean wants that land back?

Money Can Matter For Both Searches

Just as you may seek a mate in an economic strata similar to your own, money also matters to people looking to move. You have a magic number, one over which you will not go, an amount determined after a serious budget meeting with yourself. Looking at apartment listings with rents way above your budget is just depressing, so plug in your ideal price range.

Finding a good deal would be great, of course, but as in online dating, beware if it looks too good to be true. A listing way below market value may be a scam or it may have been posted by people looking for a roommate, hoping to fill a third bedroom in a large shared space. Read every listing carefully.

Pets Or No Pets?

Ask any cat owner who broke up with a lover who had allergies,  animal companions can adversely affect relationships, including those with landlords. Even in towns considered pet-friendly, many apartment owners just say “no” to pets. Those who say “yes” often require an extra deposit and may restrict the size or breed of dogs. Some do welcome cats.

I’ve owned dogs and I’ve owned cats, and I love all animals. But scrolling through reviews about an upscale, pet-friendly apartment building, I read this: “The dogs pee in the hall on every floor, and flies gather.” I closed that listing and moved on.

Two things to keep in mind: responsible dog owners come and go more frequently than cat owners and a pet-free building is likely to be quieter than one with pets.

Either Way, You Make Compromises

If your preferred dating site returns no matches, you must modify your search. (Okay, he doesn’t have to have red hair. Or maybe any hair.) Right now, I want a place with no stairs. Also, I must have a parking place, ideally a garage or carport. Inside, I want enough space to bring along my dining room table and my grandmother’s cedar chest. But I could dump the guest futon and the cheap bookshelf.

Decades ago, I did without a dishwasher, but once I got one, I realized my dishes had never been cleaner. Many older apartments don’t have a dishwasher, and just when I gave up on having one, I discovered you can buy a portable dishwasher. Some fit right on the kitchen counter —  if you can afford a place big enough to have a kitchen counter.

You Flirt Online

The initial contact with a potential mate or a leasing agent often is online. I start my apartment-hunting emails with a breezy “Hi” and then get to the nitty-gritty. “Is there an elevator?” “Is there much turnover in the building?” “How often does the landlord raise the rent?” “What is the square footage?”

Sometimes, that conversation takes place on the phone. Because I sound like I am 12, I often make a point of saying that I’m a mature adult, a quiet person who works at home — and then I casually mention my outstanding FICO score. Even agents with no places to show me have offered to stay in touch.

The First Meeting Matters

Will (s)he like me? What should I wear? Whether it’s a first date or an open house, first impressions do matter. You want to be on time and you want to look presentable, but not overly deliberate about your wardrobe choice.

In San Francisco, “presentable” can mean a Giants baseball T-shirt with no tears or stains and your best jeans. But I usually go with a sweater and my best jeans.

And remember, you don’t want to appear over-eager, much less desperate. Friendly and authentic will win the day — both in dating and in apartment hunting.

Patricia Corrigan
By Patricia Corrigan
Patricia Corrigan is a journalist and the author of numerous books, including a guide to San Francisco that expresses her great joy in her adopted city. Visit her blog here.

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