Buying a house can be mentally exhausting, especially in today's crazy market. Experts share six ways to handle homebuying stress.
Buying a house can be mentally taxing at the best of times. But the past couple of years have been unprecedented, to say the least. The combination of a competitive housing market plus rising interest rates is exacerbating normal homebuying stress, creating challenging situations for first-time homebuyers in particular.
While there’s not a lot you can do about what’s happening in the market, there are ways to maintain your mental health while searching for a home. We rounded up expert tips for how to stay well and combat homebuying stress.
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Vicky Noufal, owner and associate broker at Platinum Real Estate Group in Leesburg, Virginia, recommends setting boundaries during your home search – especially when it comes to checking new listings.
“More than half of homebuyers look at the listings seven times or more each day, which often leads to anxiety,” Noufal says. “You should instead go through the listings once or twice a day only.”
Noufal also suggests prioritizing self-care during your home search and making time for stress-releasing activities.
Kris Lippi, owner of ISoldMyHouse.com, offers similar advice.
“Refreshing the listings every so often will not increase your chances of landing your dream home,” he says. “But it can increase your stress and anxiety. It may be better for you to set a fixed number of hours for your house-hunting and have other activities to help you stay mentally healthy throughout the ordeal.”
Create rituals or go-to activities to help you break the scrolling cycle. You might set a 15-minute timer for checking listings, and once it’s up, go for a quick walk or put on your favorite show. Maybe you check listings right after work or before you eat dinner. Then put your phone away while you cook or grab a meal with your partner or a friend.
Giving yourself something fun or stimulating to do may motivate you to stop scrolling, and it’ll take your mind off the house hunt for a little while.
There’s a lot about the homebuying process that’s out of your control. Interest rates, housing prices, how many homes are on the market – there’s not a lot you can do about those things.
But there are things you can control, and focusing on those can help you manage your homebuying stress and feel less overwhelmed. That’s particularly true once you’ve gone under contract on a home and are waiting for the appraisal report and final loan approval.
“Focus on the parts of the process you can control: communication and paperwork,” says William Dawes, a branch manager with Fairway in Salem, Ohio. “If you provide the paperwork requested by your lender quickly and stay in good communication with your lender and real estate professional, your stress level will be reduced.”
You can also focus on your budget – decide at the outset what you want to spend in a monthly mortgage payment, and stick to that number. If you start looking at properties that are beyond what’s comfortable for your income and budget, you may find yourself feeling stressed and anxious even before you close on the home.
Plus, money struggles are a leading cause of stress in the U.S. Taking on a larger house payment than you’re comfortable with – even if you’ve been preapproved* for that amount – can create long-term financial and health issues.
Decide on your budget before you start looking at houses, and stick to that number, regardless of what’s going on in the market. Knowing that you’re sticking to your boundaries will also give you a sense of empowerment amid so many changing variables.
“Go into the process knowing that you will fall in love with many houses and not be able to purchase them for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with you,” says Melissa S. Kaekel, a licensed counselor with the Morgan Hill Institute. “You could be outbid, the seller could change their mind, the house may not pass inspection, legal disputes over the property borders may come up. Trust that you will find the right house at the right price at the right time, but likely not as quickly as you'd like.”
Recognizing at the outset that not finding a house right away isn’t a reflection on you or how deserving you are can help you maintain perspective.
Kaekel also recommends practicing a few daily affirmations to lower homebuying stress and keep a positive mindset:
- Finding the right home will take time, but will be worth it.
- I remain optimistic about finding my future home.
- I trust that the perfect house is waiting for me.
- I am making good financial decisions every day to support moving.
- I am working to reduce clutter and unneeded items before moving.
- I trust that my realtor is working in my best interest.
- I am willing to wait to find the right house.
- I will not rush into buying a house without getting the necessary inspections to protect myself and my family's future
The homebuying process can take a long time, especially if you’re having a hard time finding the right home. It’s important to make space for the emotional ups and downs of this experience.
“Give yourself enough time to recover from feeling down after losing a bid on a home,” Lippi says.
He suggests reading a book, gardening, or doing other uplifting activities “that will help you maintain a balanced lifestyle outside your house search.”
Finding a house is an important investment in your long-term financial well-being, and it can create a sense of stability that enhances your mental health. But you have to take the long view and recognize that this is just one aspect of your life, so take care of yourself throughout the process.
Stay hydrated, exercise, and make sure you’re nourishing your mind and body. Once you find a house and begin your due diligence phase, life can feel chaotic, and you may find yourself gravitating toward fast food or unhealthy habits to cope with all the demands. But neglecting your well-being can make you feel burned out and overwhelmed – and you’re going to need your energy for your upcoming move.
Even if you’re buying a home on your own, you’ll still likely need some kind of support. For some people, a trusted friend or family member can serve as their confidante and second opinion on tough decisions.
But others may need more structured help. If you know you’re prone to anxiety and depression, particularly during stressful periods, you may want to work with a therapist.
You can talk to your insurance provider about which therapists or counselors are available in your area, or you might consider an online service such as BetterHelp or Talkspace. If you can’t afford regular sessions, your town or county may offer free or low-cost counseling options.
“Having a good agent can help to reduce your homebuying stress,” Noufal says. “They can help you to understand and interpret the market better, and thus they help you to set the right expectations as well as the most effective strategies.”
Plus, she adds, “when things get tough for you, they can act as a sounding board.”
Choosing the right mortgage lender also makes a difference. You want to work with a company, and a loan officer, that is experienced in the type of loan you’re using and in working with buyers similar to you.
The bottom line: Homebuying stress is real
Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll ever make, and all big decisions come with some homebuying stress. But taking care of your well-being throughout the process will allow you to make smart choices and feel confident as you search for your home.
*Pre-approval is based on a preliminary review of credit information provided to Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation, which has not been reviewed by underwriting. If you have submitted verifying documentation, you have done so voluntarily. Final loan approval is subject to a full underwriting review of support documentation including, but not limited to, applicants’ creditworthiness, assets, income information, and a satisfactory appraisal.