How to House Hunt for Your 6th Home Together

Ben and I have been together for ten years this month, and over the last decade we've lived in five different places. We've rented four, purchased one. We've lived in three different cities in two different states. We've had apartments, condos, and townhomes. We've had as few as 725 square feet and as much as 1800. We've shared a bathroom, and we've had our own bathroom with an extra to spare. With each move we've gotten a little better at figuring out what works for us and what doesn't, so by the time we went searching for a new place in DC, it seemed like we had the whole house-hunting thing down pat.

Or so we thought.

Step 1: Refine your search by whether or not pets are allowed. A crucial first step for us, since any place that's not pet-friendly (or just doesn't allow larger dogs) just isn't going to work for us. This one narrows the search quite a bit!

Step 2: Further refine by number of beds (just one, please and thanks). We've been living in a one-bedroom apartment for almost two years now, and it's our favorite size we've ever lived in. We even briefly considered studios in DC but ultimately decided we have too many living beings in our house (see Step 1) and need at least 1 or 2 walls. I don't even know what we'd do with a second bedroom. What would we put in there? Guest bedroom is the obvious choice, and I actually did consider getting a place with a spare bedroom since we'll be living in a cool place and will inevitably have visitors. It was definitely an option at first, and we actually scheduled a couple of bedrooms to look at, but just thinking about having that much space was giving me anxiety.  

Step 3: Make a spreadsheet. How does anyone get anything done without a spreadsheet? Ben and I are both engineers but we are vastly different in our inherent engineering traits. He's got the tinkering thing down, while I've got the spreadsheets. So this step was my domain and it gave me great joy to keep a running list of the address, size, bed/baths, pet policy, rent, distance to work, laundry, parking, etc. of every property I contacted.

Step 4: Schedule as many appointments in a 24-hour period as possible. It just so happened that I'd had a DC trip planned for the first weekend in April well before we ever knew moving there was a possibility. Originally it was going to be a girls trip for the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler, but with the moving thing going on, Ben and Bane crashed the party so that we could do some house-hunting. We couldn't get to DC until Friday afternoon, so we had to schedule as many appointments as possible for that afternoon/evening and for Saturday. We ended up with 5 on Friday and 7 on Saturday.

Step 5: Identify the top 5 or 6 places you're both most excited about. At this point we're pretty much on the same page with what we're looking for in a potential home.

Step 6: Go to your first appointment and be immediately underwhelmed. Our first appointment was a cool, 700 sq ft industrial style loft with big windows, an exposed brick wall, and a really nice kitchen. One of our previous apartments was a loft and we really liked the layout (although that one was a little bigger, and the bedroom was upstairs rather than just slightly elevated from the main living area), and when we bought our condo we had looked at an industrial unit that would have been really cool to live in but not necessarily to buy. So for those reasons, we both thought this one was going to be seriously in the running. We didn't know until we got there that another couple would be viewing the unit the same time that we were (so that was a little awkward), and when we walked in I think the wind immediately left our sails. For one, it was WAY smaller than we were anticipating, which really worried me. I couldn't figure out why it seemed so small, since it's basically the same size as our apartment now (which doesn't feel small), and I was freaking out that all these 600-800 sq ft places we had scheduled to look at were also going to feel the same way. Ben was convinced that it was way less than 700 sq ft, and I was inclined to believe him, but the realtor had sent me the layout and dimensions and I calculated it had to be at least 650 sq ft, so I'm not sure what the deal was. So that was disappointing, and as far as the unit itself, it was just okay. The brick wall and the kitchen and the exposed ductwork was pretty cool, but not as impressive as we thought. We both left that appointment feeling pretty meh and not at all optimistic - if one of our favorites was that underwhelming, how were we going to find the right place?

Step 7: Go to your next appointment, which you were expecting to be underwhelming, and actually be wowed. Most of the appointments we made were for condos for rent, but we did decide to take a look at couple apartment buildings, mostly because we knew they'd have more options for availability and move-in dates. We really weren't expecting to like them, but figured they'd be a good fallback option to have if none of the condos worked out. So we went to our first appointment in one of these apartment buildings, and were instantly blown away! It did take a few minutes from the lobby, up the elevator, and down the hall to the unit to remember that we were in an apartment building, not a hotel, but once we got inside the apartment itself we were both shocked at how much we actually liked it. The particular unit we looked at had beautiful hardwood floors and lots of natural light coming through the windows. We really couldn't believe how much we liked it because we were not expecting to at all.

Step 8: Go to another appointment where you're also wowed, but for totally different reasons. Our next stop was in the same neighborhood just a few blocks away, but in a 2-story walkup. I was fully expecting this to be The One. It was really reminiscent of an apartment we'd lived in previously, but with all the upgrades and changes we always wished that one had, namely a washer/dryer and an open concept living room with an unbelievable gourmet kitchen. The only downside was that it was located a bit off the street, so the views from the unit were of the courtyard in front of the building. Not a deal breaker, but a mark in the con column. 

Step 9: Discuss the possibility of merging the two places you really like together? We went to two more appointments the first night, but the second and third places we looked at were really the only ones in the running. We liked both of them, a lot, for really different reasons. We went to dinner to talk it over and left more confused and torn than ever. Which led us to the next step...

Step 10: Sleep on it. We had a long day and had an early wake-up call to do it all again the next day!

Step 11: Wake up the next day for more appointments, expecting to end the day stil between the two you liked from the day before. There were a few exclamation point places on our Saturday list, but they were all in a different neighborhood a little farther north, a little farther away than I'd ideally like to be (closer to work is better, obviously). For that reason alone I just wasn't expecting to find anything we liked as much as the places we liked on Friday.

Step 12: Get to your next appointment early and sit outside in the car for 30 minutes talking about how the neighborhood is just okay and how you're never going to like it as much as where you looked yesterday. Saturday morning was rainy, and our first impression of the second neighborhood wasn't the best. It was fine. Just fine.

Step 13: Get out when it's time for the appointment, and get whacked in the face with a curveball when you walk into the apartment and it's perfect. It was probably the floor-to-ceiling windows that really did it, but we both walked through looking like heart-eye emojis. The windows were definitely a big plus but so were the hardwood floors (okay actually they're laminate but whatever), the granite countertops in the kitchen, the open concept floor plan, the exposed ductwork, and the industrial style lighting. Something about it just felt good and right and it was totally unexpected.

Step 14: Leave because you have another appointment down the street, and promise to com back as soon as that one is over. The whole reason we started looking in this neighborhood at all was because one of the very first places we saw online was a condo there that we really liked the look of. Scheduling all these appointments was hard, but since the condo was only two blocks away from the apartment building and I wasn't expecting the apartment appointment to last that long anyway, I scheduled them only 30 minutes apart.

Step 15: See your next appointment, be underwhelmed (again), then race back to the previous place. A month ago we were basically ready to sign a lease on this condo sight unseen, but when we actually looked at it we just weren't that impressed. It was really beautiful, to be sure, but something about it just wasn't speaking to either one of us. 

Step 16: Finish your tour (after you see the building's rooftop terrace with views of th Washington Monument and Capitol, of course), then sit in the leasing office listening to the agent and telepathically communication with each other about how you should probably just sign a lease right now, right? But don't actually sign one yet, because even though this apartment is amazing, two hours ago you were afraid you didn't like this neighborhood and it was too far away from work.

Step 17: Leave to go think on it and explore the neighborhood and check out your route to work. To really get this step right, it's important to make up your mind within five minutes and frantically call the leasing office to tell them to run your application, only to be told the agent is on a tour (and potentially leasing the very apartment you want).

Step 18: Run back to the leasing office and tell the agent you're in. Cancel all other appointments for the day and then figure out how many times you can bother the leasing agent with excuses about why you need to go back up to see the apartment. 

And that, friends, is how you can end up with a great apartment you didn't think you'd like in a city you didn't think you'd want to live in in just 18 easy steps! Happy house hunting!


  1. Ha, I love this post! It always seems like you know exactly what you want/don't want when you're going in and you end up with something that totally surprises you. At least, that's how it always works for me ;)

  2. "How does anyone get anything done without a spreadsheet?" Seriously though, how??? I think the fact that I saw you the day most of these steps happened makes this post even better, hah. Congrats again on this next big step. Can't wait to see the INSIDE of your new place and enjoy that rooftop with you!
    Side note, I would looooove and industrial-style place. There's one building around here that has them, but it's in the next town over and it's a no-go for me because it's not on a good street to run from. I'm at a point in my life where that's a deal-breaker.

  3. Hahaha isn't it funny that the one you think is going to be it never really is?! Sounds like at the end of the day you got an amazing apartment though!!! I used to lease apartments, and it was always funny to see people come back in several times to look at the unit before they moved in. To "measure windows" or walls or whatever other excuse they had. :)

  4. LOL when we bought our house, we used to visit the land where it was going to be built just to see the land...they hadn't even broken ground yet and although we weren't allowed, we'd beg the folks in the security trailer with all kinds of lame excuses as to why we had to go and see the dirt hahah

    congrats on the new place!

  5. haha I loved reading this! I think I would have major FOMO if I were trying to pick a place to live because I'm not good at making a decision and then being happy with it. But so glad the decision ended up coming somewhat easy for you and you ended up in such a nice location-- especially being able to bike to work!

  6. Congratulations!!! That is something how my choices usually go. I start off super organized (usually a combination of google docs, a map, and a spreadsheet or table), and then the final decision is a lot more spontaneous that I would ever have expected. When we bought our house, I was all about finding articles to tell me what to even do (because it was kind of overwhelming!) and they had steps like "get preapproved" etc, etc, and while we were working on that we went to look at a house just to get started and help us build our list of must haves and must nots. First house we looked at almost won us over. Then we decided to look at a couple more just to make sure we weren't being crazy and bought something else, but we seriously only looked at 6 places. I don't consider myself to be spontaneous but there's really no other word for what we did. :P 6 months in we still love it so so far so good!

  7. My goodness this sounds so nerve-wracking, especially once you decided and couldn't reach the leasing agent! I love industrial-styled spaces, but definitely not if it feels too small. I don't know how anyone does things without spreadsheets either haha. I'm so happy you waited it out and shopped around before landing your dream apartment! Congrats!

  8. oh i love this post! isn't it funny that you think you're going to love something online/on paper but then in real life you don't - or vice versa. i loved reading this and i am so happy you found one that works, those windows sound and look amazing, i think i saw them on snapchat. oh and laminate floors are great for pets ;)

  9. Hahaha! You two are house hunting pros. Man it is not that easy for us. I think I need to lower my expectations. I've said I will never live in an apartment again... and I just don't know how feasible that is for our next move (helllllo most-expensive-city-ive-ever-visited-and-now-you-might-be-my-next-home).

    Also - I laughed at the spreadsheet comment. As you know, my husband is an engineer and he's a TOTAL spreadsheet man. I'm a list girl. Give me a list over a spreadsheet any day, although I'm trying to learn the ways, because they are rather handy. ;)

    Glad you got an apartment you love!

  10. Hahaha! You two are house hunting pros. Man it is not that easy for us. I think I need to lower my expectations. I've said I will never live in an apartment again... and I just don't know how feasible that is for our next move (helllllo most-expensive-city-ive-ever-visited-and-now-you-might-be-my-next-home).

    Also - I laughed at the spreadsheet comment. As you know, my husband is an engineer and he's a TOTAL spreadsheet man. I'm a list girl. Give me a list over a spreadsheet any day, although I'm trying to learn the ways, because they are rather handy. ;)

    Glad you got an apartment you love!

  11. House hunting can be exhausting but if done right it doesn't have to be. Consider using this house hunting checklist the next time you go house hunting. Allow for the time it takes to view each house. You don't want to book too many houses in one day. Doing so is an assembly line approach to house hunting and not the best way to view a house.


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