Why real estate is like dating, according to TV host and broker Courtney Poulos

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If splitting with another person is hard, try breaking up with an entire city. It’s a huge decision, but today more and more people are hiring that U-Haul and starting over, sometimes across the country. In the new TV series “My City’s Just Not That Into Me,” L.A. real estate agent Courtney Poulos helps would-be movers zero in on the right city for them based on a specially designed questionnaire and their real estate wish list.

Here, Poulos, named Curbed’s “hottest broker in L.A.” in 2012, explains how buying property is like a relationship, what you need to research before moving, and how long it takes to settle into a new town:

Why do people break up with their city?

Everyone moves for a different reason, but most importantly they move for budget and quality of life. Most of us are petrified of change, so we fight within our cities to make our budgets work. It’s important to note that a lot of people [on the show] could take their jobs with them. This is a new thing, which makes moving possible.

What's the fantasy we have about making a move?

It depends what stage of life you’re in. First-time homebuyers are nesting, so they want a family home. Second-time homebuyers are looking for lifestyle, they sacrificed everything the  first time. I think people once had a fantasy of a “forever” house, the  home  on a cul de sac you will live in forever, but this makes it so that nothing satisfies you. I encourage people to think [about buying within their budget] and ask how you will enjoy this for the next five to seven instead of the next 40 years.

How do you decide what cities were right for those looking to move?

We used the “My City  Personality Test” [personality-based questions created from data collected by Cambridge University] which helped us determine which two states were the best fit, and I picked cities based on real estate prices. You need to ask yourself what is important to you. Some people were looking for great coffee, some wanted to hike and jog nearby. But you need an open mind.

The show uses a questionnaire to figure out which town is right. (Photo credit: FYI Network)

Did anyone want to leave or move to NYC in the show?

We had cousins in Chicago who were considering New York. I think their hunt was about men. They saw the rents here and experienced a bit of sticker shock! People need to understand real estate is all about tradeoffs. If you want to live in New York City, are you willing to live in a smaller apartment?

Can you just  buy a great home off the Internet or must you check out the city first?

I love the inventory online, but once you see something that excites you, absolutely visit the city. One of the great things about the show is that it isn’t only about real estate. It’s about finding your spot that might be a better fit for you. You must live there for a couple days as if it’s your  home, and talk to people in that neighborhood.  

What do people need to understand about life in a new city?

I tell people it takes at least two years to settle into a city before you start making friends, feel like you are in the right job, and have a Super Bowl party to go to. Transition is hard for everyone, but the wonderful thing is you get a fresh start. And if it doesn’t work out, you rent out [the property you bought] and move back. I say real estate is like dating: we are looking for a long-term relationship, but if it’s a fling, there’s no downside.

How long have you lived in Los Angeles and why did you choose it?

I moved to L.A. in 1997. It’s the best city for me in leaps and bounds. If you want the beach or mountains or to live in the heart of the city, there is something for everyone. I live in West Hollywood in my own home.

Did filming the show change the way you feel about real estate?

Most eye opening for me was seeing how far $400,000 would get you in different parts of the country. Also, I saw we have a very educated buying and renting public. They were looking at spaces and thinking beyond sales price. It’s was really cool, seeing people being creatively inspired by real estate.


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