You've been searching for the perfect one for a long time.

You have a list of qualities you're looking for in the ideal match. There's no need to settle for the first one that comes along. After all, if all goes well, you'll be committing to a long-term relationship.

We're talking about finding your dream home.

Many of those gut reactions we feel when we meet that special someone are the same ones that make us respond positively to a particular house.

The Realtor: 'Meet online first'

These days, if you can find a date on the Web, why not a house? In fact, Mary Alice Ruppert, associate broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Huntington, says you should do some online research before you actually go out looking.

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"The Internet is a vehicle to look at properties so you know whether or not to spend your time looking at them in real time," she says. "There are virtual tours, property photos, Google Earth, even Facebook, so you can take the time to figure out what you want in a house, all from a safe distance. It's like match.com when looking for a date. It gives you a chance to see what's out there with a veil of privacy, so you can talk to people without making a commitment. And it gives you space you need for when you're ready to meet that house face-to-face."

The Mortgage Banker: 'Don't be blind to flaws'

At the same time, keep in mind that puppy love can blind you to a home's flaws, says Mira Dick of Roslyn, a private mortgage banker with Stamford, Conn.-based Luxury Mortgage.

"You need to investigate it thoroughly and not assume that those first feelings of love are the real thing. Think with your head and heart," she says. "You may have love at first sight. But take a step back and make sure you love it for the right reasons."

Also, come into the search from a position of assurance by getting preapproved for a mortgage. "Get a commitment from a bank before searching for a house. A preapproval gives you confidence that you can shop around for the right match," Dick says. "As in a relationship, you should try to be prepared, and that means having self-awareness about how far you're willing to go to make this work - or in this case, how much you're willing to spend."

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The Architect: 'Don't lose your head'

Try to be realistic, advises Jim Thomas, a senior associate with Giambertone Architects in Cold Spring Harbor. "A house is probably the biggest purchase of your life, yet most people respond with their emotions. You wouldn't buy a car that way, but with homes, often it's an emotional buy - an expensive emotional buy."

Thomas says that many have an image of the perfect house from childhood - it has to be two stories, have a white picket fence - and then they take those images with them on the house hunt. It's much like a romantic notion some people have of the kind of relationship they want, he says.

"We put aside the rational and instead focus on things we love like the fireplace or den," he says. "People think of this big purchase in small details, and that's how we think of relationships with a significant other. When you walk into a house, you start to ask, Can we imagine ourselves living here, raising children here?"

But it's important to remember that this is a big-ticket commitment, so you have to put the emotional aside at some point and let practicality take center stage as well.

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The Interior Designer: 'Don't get seduced'

Take that first on-site look at the house with your eyes wide open, says designer Genevieve Gorder, who has redecorated many homes on Long Island and is the host of HGTV's "Dear Genevieve."

"Don't get seduced by the details," she says. "The beautiful boy at the party doesn't always have a lot of substance underneath. Don't try to convince yourself a house will work just because you like the homey finishing touches. If you only pay attention to the icing, you can quickly get weary of the house when you move in."

Gorder recommends coming back a second or third time before making a commitment.

"If you're interested, start dating this house," she says. "Go back to it at all times of the day. How does the light filter into the rooms at different times of the day? Maybe it's quiet in the morning, but it's on a delivery route at dinner time. You have to love it all day long."

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The Home Inspector: 'Get an unbiased opinion'

Even if it seems just right, you should let someone else take a look, especially an objective party, says Matt Kaplan, who owns HouseMaster in Commack. "You need someone who is trained to point out the pros and cons of the home, the structural and mechanical aspects," he says. "You may have based your dream house on style and location, but you don't want to find out later that you have to spend money on a new roof, electrical issues and repairing water damage in the basement."

Kaplan recommends that all potential buyers get a home inspection by a licensed inspector. "You might love the cosmetics, but the inspection points out the flaws. And make sure you read the report."

The Love Coach: 'Be willing to compromise'

Robin Gorman Newman remembers all too well, after a search of nearly four years in three states, when she met the one.

"My husband and I knew exactly what we wanted - a ranch, a neighborhood within walking distance to a town - and when we pulled up in front of the house we own now, I just knew," says the love coach and dating book author from Great Neck. "I said, 'If it looks anything like the outside on the inside, this is it.' When we went inside, everything clicked."

Though she was smitten, she says the ranch wasn't perfect. It wasn't within walking distance of town, and Newman says she really wanted one more bedroom.

"But the rooms were large, and I loved the way it looked," she says. "I think we do use almost the same thought process when we search for a mate as we do with a house - this whole notion of judging initially by someone's looks. There's a level of attraction, but then sometimes the right one turns out to have qualities you didn't expect to like. And then you compromise, like you thought you'd want someone taller, but the guy is shorter, and it no longer matters to you. It's when you get to know the inside that counts."

Nine years later, though, Newman says that what helped in her decision was that she took her time and waited for the right house to come along. "In that way, by the time I did find it, I was comfortable enough with my decision," she says.

The Psychologist: 'Learn when to let go'

If that report indicates the house really isn't the best purchase for you - you'll need all new windows within a year, for instance - learn when it's time to let go.

Elizabeth Carll, a clinical psychologist in Centerport, says there are no perfect houses, like there are no perfect relationships. "So you have to be flexible, and you should get another opinion from a friend or relative, especially if you feel smitten," she says. "Very often, we don't want to hear what someone close to us has to say about our choice. You don't have to do what they say, but hear them out. If everyone is giving you similar feedback, at least take their recommendations into consideration."

And if you decide they're right, and you have to give up this house in search of one that's a better match, you'll probably go through a mourning stage. But, she says, the right one will come along when you least expect it.

Housetrology

Check out this fun way to find your dream house at coldwellbanker.com/housetrology. Coldwell Banker Real Estate's Housetrology online quiz asks, "What's Your House Sign?" to encourage consumers to think beyond such standard home-buying variables as square footage or school districts. Housetrology examines how emotional instincts can factor into the type of house you might want to live in. Answers to such questions as, "Which TV show's house would best suit you?" or "What would you see out of your dream home window?" include images and descriptions and lead to your ideal home style.