Have you had an affair this year?  Open any newspaper or online news source and the odds are pretty good that you’ll be reading about someone else’s.

There are foreign affairs and domestic affairs, love affairs and extramarital affairs, current affairs and political affairs and let’s not forget our country’s financial affairs, which nobody in Congress seems to be able to straighten out.

I’ve had many affairs of the heart, but at the end of the year I always think back on my affairs of the hearth: my real estate relationships with buyers and sellers.

The purchase of a home is probably one of the largest and most important business affairs you will ever be involved in. It’s an emotionally charged process, where you share the intimate details of your life — your wants, needs, finances and insecurities — with relative strangers.  Your own story may be a romantic comedy, a farce or a thriller with lots of twists and turns, but each time you buy or sell a home, you can be sure it will be An Affair to Remember.

The Meet Cute

Selecting your agent is the first step in beginning your affair with real estate. You may spy him across a crowded room at an open house or be attracted to his online photo. You may be introduced to her by friends or family, or share a smile in the checkout line at Whole Foods.

However you meet, your relationship begins with a hint of desire. You’re excited about the prospect of finding a new home. Your sleep schedule suffers as you stay up late looking at listings on the Internet. You draw little hearts around your favorites and tell all your friends about them.

The Dating Game

On your first “date” with your agent you are a bit tentative about the information you share.  Unlike a personal relationship, however, there is no such thing as too much information. Sharing personal data early helps to enhance communication and establish mutual respect and trust, which is a critical part of a successful future together.

Slowly, you introduce your agent to your circle of friends and family who want to meet this new person who is currently playing such a large role in your life. After all, these people care about your interests and you want them to like each other and work well together.

The Romantic Journey

During your next series of dates, your agent takes you to new heights, Columbia Heights, District Heights and places you have never been before. Boy meets condo. Girl meets house.  You feel euphoric as you are being introduced to an entirely new world of light-filled spaces.  Your eyes sparkle like granite countertops.

Your agent takes on the roles of educator, counselor, mentor and sometimes inquisitor to make sure you are informed and at ease, and when the time and place are right he asks if you are ready to make a commitment.  Like Sally who met Harry, you shout, “Yes!  Yes!  Yes!”

The Rules of Engagement

Before you “put a ring on it,” your agent negotiates your pre-nuptial agreement. This document, also known as a contract offer, outlines the terms and conditions of your upcoming marriage.

You use the ensuing engagement period to conduct a review of your financial obligations, obtain a health check-up, see that you are properly insured and decide whether you are still in love. Soon you are ready for the wedding ceremony, where you signify your commitment to everlasting joy and debt.

Back to the Future

Will you outgrow your first love, divorce and move on or stay with your beloved forever as you grow old together? Will this be The End of the Affair? I doubt it.

Just as Thomas Crown had two affairs, one with Faye Dunaway and the other with Rene Russo, most of us will have more than one affair of the hearth in our lifetime. Look for the sequel in 2013.

Valerie M. Blake can be reached at 202-246-8602 or Valerie@DCHomeQuest.com. Prudential PenFed Realty is an independently owned and operated broker member of BRER Affiliates, Inc. Prudential, the Prudential logo and the Rock symbol are registered service marks of Prudential Financial, Inc. and its related entities, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide.  Used under license with no other affiliation with Prudential. Equal Housing Opportunity.