My husband and I just bought our first home. It’s just right for us, but it took a lot of… well, discussions to figure out what “just right” looked like to us. We had different priorities and different styles. We couldn’t agree on whether we were looking for the “right” neighborhood, needed a big kitchen, or could manage all the work involved with a fixer-upper.
Even if you’re not looking to buy, agreeing with a partner, friend, or roommate on the “just right” space can take some serious negotiation. So, it’s important to get on the same page before going to see properties.
Here are some tips for finding a space that works for both of you.
Start With the Feel
It’s easy to dive right into the specifics—like number of bedrooms or bathrooms, kitchen layouts, or neighborhood preferences. Put those aside for just a few minutes and get to the touchy-feely stuff.
Chances are you both have an idea of what you’d like your home to feel like. Do you envision a calm haven? Party central? A space that’s open to a revolving door of friends and guests? A safe and cozy space for your family?
Talk about what the ideal home will feel like for each of you. If your ideas are wildly different, you might need to talk about having different spaces or different times to achieve both of your visions. Understanding each other’s needs will help with the immediate gut-feeling assessment you’ll have in the first minutes of walking into any potential property.
Discuss the Deal-breakers
Everyone has a few deal-breakers. Maybe you have an expensive commuter bike you’ll need to store inside— fifth floor walk-up with no elevator? No way. Or you know that dishwashing is the least-favorite chore for both of you, and stacks of dirty dishes could result in a war. No dishwasher? Walk away.
Each partner should make a list of must-haves and/or can’t-haves. Be reasonable; a good list should really only have a few true deal-breakers. If your lists get too long, or if the combination of desires make a home search really tough, work together to whittle your lists down to just a couple items each. And of course, work together to come to an understanding of what low-priority ideas you can compromise on.
Pick Your Priorities
(This is somewhat of a repeat, but bear with me because it is still an important step.)
Maybe it’s important to you to be close to your best friends, have exactly 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, have an open concept layout, modern appliances, french doors to a balcony, a jacuzzi tub, and space for your 80-inch television. But, you know as well as I do that the chances of finding every item on your wish list in your area or price range are slim.
Instead, work on making a prioritized list with the most critical items at the top. Have your partner or roommates do the same. Then compare your lists. If there are overlaps, great! Those can be key search features. Additionally, each person should be able to add in at least one or two other top priorities, but know that lower items on the list might have to be post-move-in projects or negotiation points.
Be Realistic About the Work
Sure it sounds idyllic to have a big balcony, or 4 bathrooms, or 2 extra bedrooms in your new space. But, remember that unless you have a landlord or association tasked with upkeep, one of you will need to maintain or clean the space you choose. If you’d rather spend weekends having adventures away than mowing a yard, maybe the big lawn isn’t as important. If you and your housemates both hate cleaning, it’s worth looking for smaller spaces that will take less work to keep clean and organized.
Don’t Forget to Set a Budget
Take time to talk about the hard stuff, like the reality of your respective financial situations. What are you prepared to spend on your monthly rent? If you are looking at a space with significantly different-sized rooms, will one person pay more than the other?
Be sure to include space for utility costs too. Getting a solid sense of your finances before you begin looking makes financial fights much less likely later on.
No matter how much you discuss things in advance, some things will come as a surprise. Being together and talking about what you like and dislike about each place will help you see what’s really important to you and your new roommate. After seeing a few places, you might even need to go back and re-prioritize your wish lists based on what you’re seeing and feeling.
Choosing a home with a friend or partner should hopefully be fun. By working together through these ideas, the search can stay positive and work well for both of you.