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How to Collaborate During Your Home Search, According to Science

Read these necessary do’s and don’ts for successful co-searching, straight from the experts.

While it can be tough enough to find just the right spot to rest your head at night (one that fits both your budget and your needs) on your own, it can be even more difficult when searching with a partner. Choosing where you’ll live, whether you’re renting or buying a home, is one of the most important and personal decisions you’ll ever make.

It’s the definition of complicated: the extra weight of the long-term commitment that sharing a living space brings. Which means good communication is key.

Author and counselor Kerry Cohen puts it this way: “Moving in together is a huge commitment, perhaps more than a marriage itself, because it’s a substantial financial commitment to each other . . . any issues each person has around commitment, both in general and with each other, are surely going to come up.”

She advises couples to be prepared when looking for a place together. “There will likely be arguing or maybe even hurt feelings. A lot of who a person is comes to the surface when buying a house — how detail oriented, how controlling, aesthetics, etc.”

But just because the potential is there for emotions to run high doesn’t mean they have to. Not if you take the time to do a little pre-home-shopping prep. Here are a few do’s and don’ts, straight from the experts.

DO: Expect feelings to be on the surface

Every expert we talked to brought up how emotional the home-selection process can be. And that makes sense, especially for buyers. C’mon: we’re talking about one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make, in both time and money. Things are guaranteed to get heated.

Setting clear expectations and communicating clearly and kindly throughout the process will go a long way toward defusing volatile emotions.

Communicate openly and often

Joan Rogers, a principal broker at Windermere Stellar in Portland, OR, recommends that clients identify their old emotional pulls before starting the home search. “As with most other emotional processes, people carry all kinds of baggage into buying a home.” Use collaborative tools like Trulia’s new boards to share properties that you find in real time.

Understand what you both want in a home and why

Amber Salvador, a clinical psychologist at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital in San Diego, CA, suggests both parties make a list of their top three to five must-haves, comparing their lists and prioritizing for budget and neighborhood before heading out on the search.

When searching for homes, make sure your list reflects who you are now as well as who you think you’ll be in five years, rather than cling to old ideas of who you once were. The key component to success in agreeing on living arrangements is to make sure you truly understand why you want what you think you want.

Be willing to compromise

Be flexible. It’s important to be collaborative and work together versus against one another,” offers Salvador.

As Mick Jagger sings, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime,” with a little compromise and understanding, “you just might get what you need.”

DON’T: Be impulsive

“Impulsive decisions are typically made based on emotions,” says Salvador. “A major financial decision such as buying a home requires thought, preparation, and planning to carefully decide the most appropriate home given the couple’s budget, lifestyle, and needs.”

Spend over your budget

The heightened emotions during the home search can also persuade you to spend more money than your budget may be able to bear. This can lead to long-term consequences in the partnership. Salvador says it’s essential that you choose a new home together based on rational decision making instead of emotional desires.

Manipulate your partner to get what you want

Your home should be a place you both feel comfortable in. Manipulating, lying, or bullying your partner to get more of what you want in a home can lead to resentments down the road when money is needed for repairs or upgrades to features that weren’t jointly agreed upon.

How do you approach collaboration during your home search? Share your thoughts in the comments below!