First, become unreasonably attached to the first apartment you and your partner have lived in together. The place where you set up your first Christmas tree, brought home your first cat and patiently waited for her to come out from under the couch where she lived for months, and learned about each other’s annoying bathroom habits, like leaving little pieces of food from a good floss job on the mirror.
Expect a call from your landlords one day. They will tell you that they are moving back to town and you’ll have to vacate the perfect, two-bedroom, one-and-a-half baths, three-story, 1920’s row house with the washer and dryer in the basement, the original wide-plank hardwood floors in the kitchen with the sliding glass doors that open on to the private fenced-in garden, five minutes from two subway stops, for $1700 a month that you are unreasonably attached to.
Cry for two weeks. Maybe three. Every time your partner suggests looking for a new place to live, cry again. At this level of unreasonable attachment, this is normal. Although, it may grow grating on your relationship after some time. But you won’t care.
Finally, with red puffy eyes, begin trolling Craigslist obsessively for a new apartment. Make sure to compare every listing with the piece of paradise you are currently renting (for only $1700 a month). This is important. This comparison will ensure that you will never find as perfect an apartment and will cause you to start crying again. Keep trolling Craigslist through your tears.
Become desperate or just exhausted from all the crying and call a realtor. When he introduces himself as “Romeo,” don’t show up for the appointment.
On a Sunday afternoon, you’ll see an ad for an apartment on Craigslist that you are convinced is just what you are looking for. (It won’t be nearly as nice as your current home, but it will be Fine. Wipe away a tear.) Leave a message for the listing agent, and follow up with an email. And another message. Just for good measure. After all, great apartments go like crazy in this area. Finally, he will call you back. Insist on seeing the place as soon as possible. Show up with your partner and spend some time petting the fabulous orange cat that lives there while you quietly agree that it is Fine, but not as Nice As It Was In the Pictures Online. Write a check for the deposit anyway.
On your way to sign the lease, keep thinking about the closet doors that were solid mirrors. Really think about it– is that what you want to be looking at in your bedroom every day? Let those mirrors get uglier and more 1970s at every bus stop, and when you finally get to the listing agent’s office, tell him that you won’t sign the lease and you want your deposit back.
Try to feel some sympathy for your partner as you cry the whole bus ride home about how you will have nowhere to live in two months. Try to remember that not only will he also be homeless, but he has been watching you cry for a month now. When you feel good and sorry for him, agree when he suggests you both “just go look” at some places to buy instead of rent, but demand that said places are within a ten minute walk of Davis Square.
Set a strict budget.
Spend three Saturdays looking at options within your budget and within your newly expanded criteria of a twenty-five minute walk to Davis Square with a realtor who luckily possesses both the most annoying voice and the worst driving skills in the whole world. Resist throwing up your banana from lunch as she slams on the brakes looking for the house you are supposed to see. Realize that her third special skill is that she has absolutely no idea how to get around the cities of Cambridge or Somerville or Arlington. Even though she specializes in their housing markets. And has worked there for five years. She will show you some really disgusting options. But they will be within your budget! (Side note: It might be 90+ degrees on all three of these days, which will make you feel like dying in every un-air-conditioned home you enter, and will also make you feel like a loser for looking at houses on Saturdays in the 90s while all your friends are at the beach. Just remember that your friends are not homeless, and you are about to be.)
Go home. Cry a little.
Break up with your realtor. Cite reasons like “We were looking for someone with better knowledge of the Arlington market” while internally screaming “HOW CAN YOU BE SUCH A BAD DRIVER.” Don’t worry—she won’t hear the internal part.
Realize that you have exactly five and a half weeks to find a home, close on the property, and move out of the paradise that you love that is now full of boxes with no planned destination since you have been unable to find a place to live. Now would be the appropriate time to cry, but since you have run out of tears at this point, put your energy into trolling Craigslist for overpriced rentals while your partner finds a new realtor.
Raise your budget by $50,000.
Aggressively narrow down your choices for places to buy based on the knowledge of tricky realty words that you have learned over the past three Saturdays. See all of them in one day, and over a nervous beer or three at lunch next door to your realtor’s office, agree with your partner about which one to put an offer on. Do this the next day.*
The offer will get accepted. You will feel excited and also like vomiting. This is normal. Set the closing date for three weeks away.
Say yes when your partner suggests going out of town the next weekend. Fall down to both your knees in shock in front of your partner, who has been saying for three and a half years that he never wanted to get married, when he gets down on one knee and proposes at the exact spot where you first said that you loved him. Say yes again.
Two weeks later, walk two blocks from your fully-packed perfect apartment to City Hall with your fiancé and do your best to ignore the incredibly uncomfortable divorce happening at the table next to you as you sign your name 800 times and agree to spend more money than you will ever have in your life. Instead of feeling elation as you are handed the keys to your new home, you might only be able to wonder why they are covered with an incredibly ugly American Flag motif. This is normal. You have other things on your mind anyway.
For further instructions, please see “The Reluctant Homeowner’s Guide To Liking Their First Home As Much As They Liked Their Perfect Apartment In East Cambridge” or “The Anti-DIY Guide to Making Repairs on Your Own House, or, How to Call a Contractor.”
*This story actually omits the fact that we saw almost 100 houses and put offers on three of them before finding our home. If you are also in the midst of this process, don’t despair! It will happen.