Buying a home is ridiculously stressful. I know, because I used to work in the mortgage industry back when they were screwing everything up. I was that lone, quiet voice that no one listed to that said “hey! It doesn’t seem like adjustable rate mortgages are a good idea. What am I missing?” And the reply would be something to the effect of “bah! foolish little girl! Adjustable rate mortgages make us lots of money!” I still didn’t get it. Then the mortgage collapse occurred. We don’t need to go over who was actually correct in that last scenario. But, it’s symptomatic of my life: maybe it’s because I’m blonde, probably because I’m petite, it is rare to have a moment in general conversation where a stranger takes me seriously. But usually around the time that I get to the final portion of a presentation to some board of directors they perk up and actually begin to think “hey, maybe this girl knows what she’s talking about?”. Yes, it takes that long and it takes that much effort. I’m just thankful for the opportunity. But I digress.
Buying a house is ridiculously stressful, especially now. Everything you never thought of shows up in your credit review. Things that you never thought that could possibly impact your credit suddenly creep in out of nowhere and you find yourself questioning your choices and who you are as a person, wondering why you thought you could get the loan in the first place.
Without getting into details, this has been a point of incredible stress for my husband and I. We also have a stupid amount of things going on in our personal lives that could best be described as a series of unfortunate events that you wouldn’t ever believe could all happen at the same time: major car accidents, months of home purchase delays, major career upsets. You know, the usual life stuff that happens, just usually not all at the same time.
I like to include some kind of lesson at the end of each of my posts. So for the sake of saving too much complaint, here is what I would recommend for first time home buyers:
1. Never NEVER fall in love with a property. It’s just a house. If you love it that much, you haven’t seen enough of them. The second you put your heart into a financial transaction, you lose. Never do that.
2. Buying a home is a financial transaction. I know we Americans love to put home ownership on a pedastal, but buying a home doesn’t always make sense. Make sure this is the best decision for you and your partner (or whoever you are purchasing with) before you go through this process.
3. Get the fair price, even if it’s hard. If you have never bartered or negotiated for anything before, this is going to be hard for you. Bring in someone in your life that doesn’t have the same emotional investment that you do. Make sure they advocate for you and make sure you get the correct price for this new home. This will take time. This will require going back and forth with the seller. But you have to do it. $1 today is $1.50 or $2 over the life of the loan. That adds up quickly when you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars.
4. No one has your best interest in mind except you. Your mortgage broker and your real estate broker are not your friends. Make sure you can find someone that will be honest with you. Ask a lot of questions. And never take advice solely on face value.
5. Have a backup plan. Before you start picking out paint colors and curtain fabric, pause. Getting an offer accepted is just one of many things that must happen in order to actually get the house. You might not get it. Keep reminding yourself of that.
6. This is not fun. Just accept it now. Yes, this will suck. Yes, you will probably need to make accommodations you said you would never make. Accept and move on.
7. Find ways to de-stress. Seriously, take care of yourself! My husband and I find ourselves hugging a lot lately. Whether we’re happy or sad, stressed or outraged (all things we have experienced in the last 24 hours), you need to find a way to let that bad crap pass through you. Address it – whether that means a pint of ice cream, treadmill time at the gym, or maybe packing a few boxes. Just do what you need to do to maintain your sanity.
8. All things are temporary. Years from now you’ll look back on this situation and reflect. I like to remind myself to live up to future self’s expectations. With all decisions – especially big ones – I like the “eyes wide open” approach. That way I can at least say that I did the best with the information I had at the time.
9. Don’t EVER be afraid to ask for help (use a lifeline! phone a friend!). Even game shows have the option to ask a friend for help. We had to and it was honestly the best decision for us – financially and emotionally. Hopefully you have people in your life that can help you as well. Put your pride aside: all you have to do is ask. People LOVE to help!
10. Celebrate successes and failures. Grab your best buds and go dancing, get a drink, enjoy a wonderful meal. I refuse to let one point of stress get me down. You should have the same bar for yourself.
In summary: keep perspective – this is a financial transaction, not a public attack on who you are. Don’t let the stress get you down. Navigate through it. Believe that you can do it. And make sure to give yourself some time and attention to de-stress when you need it.