Updated on 05.17.07

The Stress of Buying a Home

Trent Hamm

As we progress through this home-buying experience (we’ve looked at tons of homes, found the right one, and are about to submit an offer), we’ve found out how truly stressful it is. Added into this is the fact that my wife is pregnant and we will be having our second child not long after moving and the recipe is enough to drive us crazy.

Here are the five things we’ve found most stressful:

Not knowing what to do My wife arranged for a friend of ours to be our agent to guide us through the process, but he lives almost 100 miles away, and thus we’ve largely been finding and viewing homes entirely on our own and learning many things that should have been very basic along the way.

Minor cost after minor cost We keep stumbling into more and more expenses along the way. For example, my wife and I had never even heard of the concept of earnest money until last night, so now we are planning for that, too, which means shifting money into our checking account earlier than expected.

Figuring out realistic expectations During this entire process, our concept of what we should be doing and what we should be looking for has changed many, many times, to the point where we now realize we were stumbling around in darkness at the start of the process.

Waiting Waiting on people and paperwork and so on, wondering if/when the phone will ring, repeatedly calling people and so on is a drain.

All on top of normal life All of this is going on while normal life is continuing, with both of us working full time (and me maintaining this blog) and raising an eighteen month old child, too.

Luckily, we’ve found some ways of coping:

We’re taking a short trip next weekend. It’s graduation-related, but we will be able to get away and do something else entirely for a couple of days at least. If the offer is accepted (or at least not rejected), we will probably show off some video of the house (we took some on our digital camera), but other than that, we hope to just forget about it for a few days.

We talk about every feeling we’re having. If one of us is frustrated, it’s voiced; if one of us is happy, it’s voiced. Talking about the mix of emotions in detail has really helped both of us.

We get plenty of sleep. I’ve been sleeping a bit more than usual lately and the end result is I feel better right now. I think with my “normal” hours that I keep, I would get completely worn out.

We make sure to still eat at home. Seriously, for me eating supper at home at the dining room table with my wife and son is the least stressful part of a day, and maintaining that has been very important. It’s been early some nights and late other nights, but we’ve not missed it yet.

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  1. Ted Valentine says:

    The earnest money gets credited to you at closing. Its not an extra expense, it just comes sooner than you thought. Think of it as part of your down payment.

  2. tg says:

    Earnest money was something that was sprung on my wife and I recently as well. Fortunately, it applies towards closing costs so it’s a simple “pay now, or pay a little later” situation.

    My beef w/unexpected costs came from all the inspections that were “highly recommended” (read: nearly required) but not terribly useful. When choosing one, make sure you ask just how into the weeds he/she will get. Ours did a great job w/the interior of the house but “inspected” the roof using high powered binoculars. He gave it a clean bill of health and three days after moving in we find out there’s a hole in the chimney. Lesson learned for next time (“don’t get a chimney” :))

  3. Chris H says:

    I feel for you Trent, the close date on our home is June 15th and we’re still wading through the final details. It’s draining to be waiting on banks to deliver necessary statements, etc., it’s an ‘open loop’ that nags at your consciousness. The worst of it is behind us though, and will be behind you soon.

  4. Tyler says:

    Even though buying a home can be stressful, how exciting at the same time! People in other countries would LOVE to go what you’re going through right now. Here in America we have it so good and we take everything for granted. Buying a home is one of the most important purchases in your lifetime, EVER! So the stress of getting the right home (as you’re going through right now) will compensate for the little stress you’ll have down the road with a house you enjoy with the things you wanted in it (big kitchen, bedrooms etc). It’s the things that you settle for that will cause stress later on. You’re doing the right thing getting what you want now and dealing with the stress NOW as opposed to later. Trust me, I learned with my first house (starter) that I would rather be doing what you’re doing that what I’m dealing with now (wanting something different). Congrats on the house! Any chance we’ll see the pictures of any of it?

  5. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    There will probably be some pictures when we take possession.

  6. snb says:

    Just a quick FYI – if you didn’t know about the earnest money you may not know about the tax escrow. Come closing, the title company (and your lender) will require you to put up an amount to cover the real estate taxes that come due after closing. BUT, because taxes usually increase every year, they have total discretion to require more than the amount of the last paid tax bill. As a result, you could face an escrow requirement of 2.5 TIMES the last tax bill paid. So if your semi-annual taxes are $5k, you may have to write a check for $12k at closing, to be held in escrow for months (depending on when the taxes are paid). This is money you must pay at closing IN ADDITION to your down payment, so beware!

  7. Josh says:

    Don’t forget the home inspection by a third party! It’s worth it. It saved my butt from buying a lemon. We had a lot of radon, some termites, rotting sub floors in the basement, hidden water problems and a deck that was hardly attached to the house. Problems that I wouldn’t be familiar with or be able to spot. Everything else looked brand new with fresh paint. I was almost fooled. I have a feeling that the real estate agent knew all about it too. The inspection was worth every penny.

    I later found a well maintained place that was bigger and in a better neighborhood. The only thing I had to deal with was all the pink. Pink wallpaper, pink shutters, pink carpet, pink countertop, pink, pink, pink.

  8. I own three properties – I know what the buying process is all about! Stressful times

  9. Ted Valentine says:

    Your mortgage company should give you a good faith estimate listing line by line all of your closing costs. This includes all your taxes, escrow, etc. If you don’t get this you might yet be in for some big surprises.

  10. Lynn says:

    I guess I was lucky. My late husband and I were offered our home when the landlord decided to sell. He gave us first shot and since we had lived in it for over a year (as a rental) we already knew what was good/bad about it. That and the sale was done as an Owner Carry Contract made the transition from renter to owner much smoother and cheaper in the long run.

    Your coping skills are right on target. You have to remember to take care of you in all the madness or you’ll of no good to anyone. Congrats!

  11. Joy says:

    Buying our house was the MOST stressful time of our lives, but now it is great!! hope you get through it OK, look forward to the future when you’re all settled in. I’m loving your blog, reading it from Australia. :)

  12. donna jean says:

    I feel your pain, especially just a few weeks from closing on our first house. Those fees do add up and can cause some high stress situation when you feel a slight wavering from the sellers. We’ve already put out more than $1,500 on inspections and the appraisal (required, not recommended). We’ve got a seller’s agent fighting everything we do, including the contract-required repairs for the failed septic and well tests. The thought of losing a house after spending this much is even more nerve-wracking. But, they can’t legally get out of the contract and we’ll happily pursue them for all fees spent if they try. But really, I just want to be done with all of this.

  13. tabletoo says:

    Don’t forget transfer fees and other expenses when you write your offer. Make sure you understand what is expected about who will pay for what fees and other expenses. Of course it is all negotiable but it helps to understand the local norms before you write the offer. In most places this is now written into the boilerplate contracts that are provided by the local board of realtors. Don’t forget to specify any personal property (like the freezer that you see in the garage) that you want included as part of the deal. Treatment of window coverings varies by locality so make sure you understand whether or not the window coverings are included and if not consider writing them into the contract or think about how you will cover your windows for the first week. My experience is that what is the norm varies by county and often by city so make sure your real estate agent knows the very local norms and informs you. Take some time to study the blank contract before you write the offer so you understand what’s included and so on. When you do write the contract, make up a timeline of what happens when and see if you can meet the timeline. No use asking to close on a weekend for example since the recorder’s office cannot record then. Also make sure you understand exactly when you will take possession and when the prior residents will leave. My parents ran into a situation where the prior owner expected to stay in the house for a couple days after COE because that was the norm in that city and my parents were taken by surprise because they were from out of state.

    It might make things more difficult to have an agent so far away. The agent should be educating you on the process in advance. How could earnest money possibly come as a surprise when you are working with a full-service agent? Maybe the agent thinks you all are more experienced than you are because of this website.

  14. Paula says:

    In order to save your wife some stress (I also moved while I was pregnant), start packing now. Put all her temporarily too small clothes in boxes. Put the new baby things in boxes, and mark the boxes clearly. It will save her lots of hassles when you move, even if you have to put the boxes in storage until then.

  15. Pam says:

    I taught a first time homebuyer class for 5 years. Please do take time to find a resource on the Internet that provides this for free, if it is not available in your area. Then standard costs will not be a surprise.

    A home inspection is a MUST! If you can’t afford a home inspection, then you can’t afford a house.

    I agree with Paula – it is the responsibility of the agent to educate and inform you well ahead of each step!

    I’ve been through this twice, and even with the basic knowledge I have, it was still stressful. Hang in there!

  16. Pam says:

    “I agree with Paula – it is the responsibility of the agent to educate and inform you well ahead of each step!”

    Oops – I meant tabletoo. sorry.

  17. Dan says:

    A couple other things you might want to keep in mind…

    1. There was something to do with interest and your closing date, I can’t remember the details, but it made a several hundred dollar difference if I closed on the last day of the month or the first day, I can’t recall which way was cheaper though.
    2. There are some miscellaneous expenses that I didn’t think about that you need compared to living in a apartment, hoses and sprinklers, curtains/blinds, lawn mower, snow shovels, light bulbs, weather striping, rake, new locks, additional garage door remote, paint, rugs, lamps, etc. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but I think I had about $1000 in these misc expenses in the first few months of owning my home.

  18. Angel says:

    Thanks for the post! good to know we are not alone in the stressful waiting period of first time home buying! I am almost 8 months pregnant (the first) and our closing date was set for this friday, however, still waiting for the appraisal report and if they are going to make us fix things before closing (home is a foreclosure so that idea is not fun)! I have about everything all packed though at least…if we ever get to move…

    Anyhow, thanks for the blog! Good luck on the house buying and congrats on the lil one!

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