Early in my real estate career, I realized that everyone experiences the stress of homebuying in different ways. I had just completed working on a fairly simple all-cash purchase. The client was buying a bank-owned property and the escrow was very short and relatively uneventful. At close of escrow, he told me how stressful the experience had been, and I asked him what in particular had stressed him out. He said, “I really thought it would be like going to CostCo, picking a house off the shelf, giving them money and then be done with it.” I wish it were that easy, but it isn’t. (At least at CostCo you get free samples and great hot dogs for a buck fifty.)
When you buy a house, you are going to experience stress. I guarantee it. I’m not sure what specifically will stress you out—everyone is different—but I wanted to outline some of the stressful points in the timeline of buying a house. It would be easy just to say, “Yeah, be prepared to get stressed out,” but that isn’t very helpful.
Pre-Approval: It isn’t any fun having your financials picked through by a stranger. You know you’re a good person, but that doesn’t matter to a lender who is looking at your life quantified into credit scores and debt-income ratios. You will be asked to provide lots of documents and you might be asked to clear up some issues in your credit history. It isn’t fun, but do as much of the heavy lifting up front and the rest of the process will hopefully be somewhat smoother.
Home Search: It can be stressful to adapt to the reality of which homes are available to you when you start looking. You may start making adjustments and rationalizations, and get stressed that you are compromising your ideals.
Making an Offer: This is a biggie. You’ve looked at so many houses, and now it is time to pick one to bestow your 30-year fixed mortgage to. What if we offer too little? Or too much? And, what if there is competition? The questions just pile up, adding to the stress. I often caution people not to fall in love with a house until I hand you the keys because there are many bumpy miles ahead.
Inspections: Now, you’ve really got some skin in the game. You’ve just spent about $500 on home inspections. You are kind of “dating” the home at this point, and now you are given a list of potential problems with the home. Then we may start negotiating again over the inspection results—more stress!
Appraisal: Okay, the lender has established that you are creditworthy, but is the house itself loanworthy? The appraisal will figure it out. If it comes in high, excellent! If it comes in low, it is time to negotiate. Again!
Underwriting: You think you’re done? Ha! It has probably been over a month since you got that pre-approval. Well, time for the lender to double and triple check that you are still creditworthy. They are going to re-verify everything. You will have to provide updated documents. And, you may have to make last minute adjustments to your credit profile (pay off a loan, close a credit card, get a dispute off your credit report). And, yes, it is very very stressful.
Closing: You know what is really stressful? Signing your name a few hundred times on a foot-high stack of papers pledging to pay back the loan on the house (plus interest, of course). Oh, and then giving them a big fat cashier’s check for your down payment is a little stressful, too.
Home Ownership: Whew, your done! Pop the champagne, have the family and friends over to see the place, have the new appliances delivered! You made it! What? You broke a window when moving in? And, the furnace is making a funny noise? And, then the garage door opener stops working? Welcome to the ongoing stress of home ownership!
Just reading about the stress of buying a home may be stressing you out. But, you know what? Thousands of people buy houses every single day, and they have for decades and decades and decades. And, if home ownership is your goal, this is the process you have to go through.
Sorry. I’m always harshing your mellow. I guess this is why people call me the painfully honest Realtor.