When you’re a busy professional, dating sucks. After enough first dates, you realize the process can be boiled down to something similar to a real estate transaction: Long, complicated and riddled with counter offers, deal breakers, inspections, third-parties, surprises and unforeseen expenses. Not to mention bidding wars on hot properties.
With toxic asset scrutiny all the rage these days, how can fledgling lawyers protect themselves from the mixed bag of toxic assets trolling the streets? Let’s break it down into semi-relatable terms. To avoid a dating cul-de-sac, follow this real estate checklist.
1. Be Pre-Approved
It makes no sense to be running to open houses and scanning the classifieds if you don’t even have loan approval. If you’re not honestly ready to start dating, why waste your time looking? You’re not seeking an investment property—you’re going to live in that relationship. So be serious.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to look at places over your budget– you never know what you can afford.
2. Beware of Preliminary Search and Realtor Syndrome
When you start telling people you’re single and “in the market,” suddenly everyone is your dating realtor. Mothers, cousins, co-workers, personal trainers, manicurists, store cashiers.Everyone is willing to comb through the current listings and analyze the comps. After all, big-ticket shopping for others is fun, and the possible commission of lifelong indebted gratitude for selling a property is empowering (until you break up with the person).
Tip: Avoid the short sale being offered by the firm secretary who works for the recently divorced junior partner. Even though she’s trying to sell him off as move-in ready, he’s really a total rehab project who’s just pissing her off by moping around and spending lots of extra hours in the office with no place to go. Trust me.
3. Location, Location, Location: AKA Feng Shui Your Dating Mo-Jo
Location is the fundamental tenet of real estate, as it should be of your dating life. When you’re home on your couch watching reruns of Murder She Wrote and George Lopez, you’re sitting on the wrong side of town. In fact, anywhere but there has better potential for finding your soul mate. I don’t care if you’re tired and stressed out. Get your ass to a happy hour, cocktail party, networking event, AA meeting or anyplace where groups of people exist. At least once a week. And look like an interested buyer while you’re there, for the love of cats.
Tip: It’s all about supply and demand, and regardless of market conditions, it can always feel like a seller’s market. However, when you look like you belong in the neighborhood and are wearing your “let’s make a deal” face (i.e. good hygiene, decent posture, confidence, no whiff of desperation), the tables can quickly turn and your prospects are far more motivated to sell.
4. Have a Wish List of Amenities & Deal Breakers, But Don’t be Wed to It
You’re a lawyer, so of course you pay attention to detail. And you know exactly what you want. That’s great. It’s important to be honest about what amenities or features you’re willing to live with—and what you’re absolutely not willing to accept. But keep an open mind. Often times the perfect place (or, in this case, mate) can feel so right even though it doesn’t include everything on your list. Follow your gut and accept compromise. Remember: No place has everything.
Obviously, all of this depends on the type of relationship you’re seeking. Only interested in a casual relationship? Think of suitors as a starter home that you know you’ll soon outgrow. A few perks like crown molding or a decent hairline will be enough to get you by. You’re just looking for someone who meets your needs in the short term—and will maybe even appreciate enough to turn a slight profit.
In the market for marriage material? Then you’ll need to find a place that you can see yourself retiring in. A place with a solid foundation in an established area that your agent would call “a smart buy.” It won’t be perfect, but you can make it your own and grow into it. Check the property’s history and inspect it carefully before taking the plunge. Make sure the title is free of liens and encumbrances—anything that “affects or limits” the viability of the relationship. And please be realistic about what you can and cannot change. Some new paint is one thing, but moving the garage to the other side of the house is another.
Tip: If what you’re looking at is too close to your future mother-in-law, you’ll want to consider that too.
5. Don’t be Fooled by Curb Appeal
Sometimes the properties that look incredibly charming from the street are ramshackle huts inside. Sometimes the ones that look lackluster from afar have the best bones (in more ways than one). Bottom line: Don’t dismiss or fall in love with anything too quickly. Give yourself a chance to really find out how the place is wired and how structurally sound it is.
Tip: Properties to avoid altogether:
- Money Pits who will suck up all your assets (e.g. men who wear anything bedazzled and call you “Babe” a lot; women who are vajazzled and say things like “OMG, I love Dom Perignon, White Star has too many bubbles!”).
- Boilerplate Beaus who will quickly coerce you into a long and complicated adhesion contract (e.g. dull, formulaic people like CPAs and school teachers whose idea of commitment is shriveling up and dying together).
- “Caveat Emptor” Companions who are listed “as is.” Dating these people usually involves some kind of bogus disclaimer to absolve them of any lingering guarantees or warranties. Just as in real estate contracts, these statements attempt to minimize the responsibilities of the party once his or her “good looking enough” veneer rubs off and devaluing defects are detected. “I am who I am” is their mantra.
- Staging Stooges who disguise and arrange themselves to be exactly who you’re looking for. Just like realtors “stage” houses with furniture so you can envision the house as your own, these people have learned how to accentuate their best selling features too well.
6. Dating the ARM vs. the Traditional Mortgage
Dating an ARM, like its mortgage-based counterpart, involves risky, unpredictable people. Their behavior is erratic, but that’s what makes them so exciting. Even though you know it will end badly and foreclosure is imminent, you’re too emotionally wrapped up in the moment and proceed full steam ahead.
On the flip side, there’s the “nice guy,” or the traditional 30-year fixed, who’s the safe choice—consistent and steady over the long haul.
Tip: This doesn’t mean I’m suggesting you settle for “safe,” so simmer. Just avoid what’s unpredictable enough to potentially bankrupt you.
7. Avoid the Quicksand Effect
When you’re on a downward dating spiral, it feels like you’re in foreclosure and only sinking further and further in the abyss. You try quick fixes, like “pay day loans” and desperate make-up sex, but it’s a Band-Aid on a bullet hole.
If it’s really bad, you trigger an acceleration clause—the unspoken dating provision that presents the “shit or get off the pot” ultimatum. At that point you must decide: Go all in, or walk away losing everything.
After a while, delinquency sucks you under, and before you know it, you’re single, alone and without a home to keep your heart. You forgot to realize that the right time to get out was early.
Tip: If this last one seems depressing, it’s because IT IS! So steer clear.
Stick with me, and you’ll be well on your way to closing. Good luck!