House Shopping: Reflect, Research, Rejoice

Deciding what really matters to you and figuring out how to get it is critical to accomplishing your key life goals: Finding the perfect partner, planning your dream vacation, taping three shows while watching a fourth. So it only stands to reason that house shopping will benefit from the same approach.

In seeking your ideal home, where you buy is equally important as what you buy. And as it happens, choosing a location has a lot in common with selecting a spouse. To truly meet your match, you must be clear on who you are and what you value.

Get Real (Estate)

When you first met Mr. or Ms. Right, you may have thought they could do no wrong. But after a few years of morning breath and ill-advised karaoke performances, you realize that the perfect mate is rarer than the drama-free Christmas dinner. Fortunately, all that matters is whether they’re perfect for you, and the same applies to house shopping. So start by taking stock of who you are.

Swinging single?

If connecting with others is a priority, look for an area that gives you ample opportunity. Maybe it’s near a university or college, a health club or some notable nightlife. Sure, there’s something to be said for getting away from it all. But like skinny-dipping and scrabble, it’s more fun when you have someone to share it with.

Couple with kids?

When house shopping, it’s just common sense to make sure there are schools nearby if you won’t have time to drive your kids and don’t want them taking the bus. Beyond that though, you’ll want to approach it like you did the dating game (hopefully): Quality over quantity.

Do the local schools have a good reputation? What are the class sizes and teacher turnover rates? You wouldn’t let a son or daughter skip their homework, so make sure you do yours before closing the deal.

On the other hand, if you’re retired or close to it, proximity to schools won’t be top of your list when house shopping. In fact, if hundreds of squealing kids at recess isn’t your idea of R & R, you may wish to give them a wide berth. Instead, look for restaurants, theaters, public libraries and community centers. If they’re all within walking distance, you’ll be more likely to leave the car at home and combine fitness with fun.

Be Mindful of what Matters

Just as your spouse is considerate of your preferences and passions, the neighborhood in which you settle should support your priorities. Like many others, you may put a premium on peace and quiet, so scope out the area for highways, railway tracks, bars and shopping centers. They may add convenience, but if they subtract from your sanity, it may be time to re-do the math.

Also think about how you spend your spare time. If you love to golf, being hours away from the nearest course may really tee you off. Should religion be part of your life, having a place of worship in the area could be a godsend. Ultimately, house shopping is all about honoring your values and finding a neighborhood that does the same.

So before you leap into the first great home you see, look around and make sure it’s somewhere that supports who you are and what you value. In other words, don’t rush the home hunting process. Like meeting your match, the search is half the fun. And in both cases, if you don’t get it right the first time, it could be costly.