It was my cousin’s wife who said it: Finding a house is like finding a partner. You see a few and then you just make a decision.
I laughed and could see the sense in it. But thinking it through, there really are some uncanny parallels. House-hunting is a lot like dating.
I write often about the idea of Home, and how living abroad complicates that. I’ll get to that – but I’m going to start by telling you about my experience looking for a house in Sydney.
Not that I’m an expert at all on either topic, but here are five reasons finding a house is like finding a partner.
1. Online is where it’s at and there are apps/websites to help you
I’ve never tried online dating. I’ve only been out with guys I happen to meet, or meet through friends or acquaintances.
This has been my first foray into online house-hunting. Previously I’d just “met” the right places, or been introduced by a friend or acquaintance.
I was directed to flatmatefinders.com.au. It’s like Tinder for housemates. Quite literally.
You fill in your profile with your interests, ideally upload a photo, specify the range of options you’re willing to consider (price, location, personality preferences, pets, whether you smoke) and then the site matches your profile with others, giving you a list of users who are compatible with you.
You can take one look at a picture, location and asking price, then swipe to eliminate that option. You can express interest, which allows you to make contact via email.
And then, of course, you can arrange to meet.
2. You meet some weirdos
Like the lady who rents out all her rooms and camps out in the middle of the living room.
Like the senior woman who describes herself as “middle-aged” and lives with four twentysomething/thirtysomething men.
Like the absent housemate that none of the other housemates get on with but they’re super reluctant to tell you because they want you to move in.
Okay, so I exaggerate their weirdness – but you get my point.
3. You get your hopes up, and then …
When I ask “Has there been much interest in this place?”, quite a few responded “Yes, but – “. Basically a lot of people will message and never show up for an inspection, or seem keen and then you never hear from them again.
I’m trying not to be that person.
4. There’s competition!
All the good guys/places get snapped up quickly. Or so they say.
One place I found two days before moving to Sydney looked great, was reasonably priced, had seemingly cool housemates, was close to work. We set up an inspection date. The next day it was already taken and they wrote to say sorry.
5. You may think you know what you want … but you don’t
Moving to Sydney, I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted in a house: within walking distance of work, fairly close to public transport and supermarkets, internet access, sociable housemates in my demographic.
But over the course of 10 viewings, I’ve found my expectations have shifted. Or rather my criteria have crystallised and the picture they paint is different from the one I envisaged when I had a nebulous idea of what house-hunting in Sydney would look like.
I’ve realised I want a physically comfortable place to stay. I’m used to roughing it, and preferred not to be the rich foreigner in the big house when I lived and worked in developing countries. But now that I’m back in Australia it seems senseless to live in shoddy digs – after work, you need a place you can come back to and unwind in.
I’ve realised I don’t need to be that close to work – I’d rather be well-connected in terms of public transport.
I’m not sure yet if I want my future housemates to be family to me. And this is a question which takes me back to my pet topic: the idea of Home.
What do I expect of or want from my home? A refuge, a place to unwind? Or a place to have fun, have friends over? What role will this place have in my routine and in my life more generally? What will it mean to me?
And perhaps that is the point at which finding a house and finding a partner overlap. Both are searches for home – for a place and a person which we can call home, at least temporarily, until Heaven calls us home.