When my partner and I were looking for a place to live together, we physically got into the neighborhoods and felt the vibe there (I wish we'd biked or walked instead of the driving experience.) Equipped with our list of things that our ideal place had, we dealt with awareness of our optimism as well as our ability to welcome upgrades into our life. We used our intuitions to select places (and landlords' voice mails) that felt like "all green lights" and interviewed for an understated place that was surprisingly Out Of This World. The things that made it affordable were things that we could do something about (clean the carpet ourselves, replace the electrical outlets, get some curtains, accept the color scheme) and our structural and feng-shui desires were fundamentally met.
We knew we were lucky, because we knew what to focus on, and what wouldn't phase us. We knew the hard as well as the soft goals we shared, and what was basic and what was frills. We were becoming neighbors ...on purpose.