4 Ways to Minimize the Stress of Buying a Home

A famous, and daunting, truism of homebuying is that the process creates stress—a lot of it. The concept that “getting married, getting a divorce and buying a house are three of the most stressful life events anyone can go through” comes from the experiences of real people, who’ve felt real pressure, when trying to become homeowners.

But ZipCode has a mission: With our first-time buyer focus, we aim to inform you, and to help you inform yourself, in ways that make the process less of a stress and more of an adventure. With that goal in mind, here are our…

4 Ways to Minimize the Stress of Buying a Home

1) Get Educated and Get Help

Nothing is scarier than feeling like we’re out of our league in this transaction. If we don’t understand what “escrow” entails, what “pre-approval” means (and doesn’t mean), what the offer process does (and doesn’t do), this terminology can alienate, confuse, and overwhelm us. Note to ourselves: Get educated!

Along with the blogs we’ve created helping buyers understand the home-buying process, ZipRealty also has a Learning Center through which anyone can access helpful information, for free, anytime you want. And, working with a Realtor, anytime you have a question, you can pose it to an expert. Best of all, that Realtor’s time and experience is free too. As a buyer you don’t pay for an agent: that commission comes from the seller’s end of the negotiation. Even in almost every For Sale By Owner (FSBO) situation, the agent’s payment comes from the seller.

Face it, readers: Buying a house is emotional enough, given the amount of money trading hands and level of commitment required. Why not enter into the fray with a seasoned guide whose services cost us nothing?

2) Make Use of the Experts

Even if we get educated, we can’t possibly know everything about buying a home the first time we do it. So, along with Realtors, mortgage brokers and home inspectors are our closest friends and allies in this quest.

  • Home Inspections

The expense we endure on home inspections for a home we don’t yet own may be hard on us, but think how much harder we’d have it if we buy a home with major structural or maintenance issues!

Buyers need to understand too that if they love the home, yet the inspector finds a problem with it, that doesn’t mean the deal is dead. Many homes-- particularly those older, charming versions-- have problems. But our offer can be renegotiated after the home inspection if some major issues come up. We can ask for money back to fix them; or, we can even walk away if that’s what ultimately suits us best.

Consider too if pest inspections and structural engineers are called for. Each house presents a different case. Your Realtor will know what you need to feel confident moving forward.

  • Mortgages

Since loans are trickier than ever, we should meet with a mortgage professional before looking for a home, rather than after. This way our credentials get reviewed, and we learn the amount of money a lender is likely to agree to lend us. Pre-approval does not mean ultimate approval, unfortunately; but certainly, this step goes far in assuring and edifying our course of action.

Alina Aeby , a ZipRealty Realtor in the San Francisco Bay Area who works often with first-time buyers, agrees: “Get pre-approved- this should be your first step! While at it, it would better to get pre-approved and work with a local lender. Every market is different. A lender who is helping home buyers locally knows the nuances of a local market and the types of properties that match a certain loan.”

3) Make Ourselves Flexible

Just as this is good advice for overall health, it’s good advice for our mental state as we work through the stages of home buying. Remember that we have a list of things we need, and those we could compromise on. And then remember to compromise.

Be aware too that the offer process doesn’t just present stress on us: the seller too feels pressure. Issues of price and home repairs and money back at closing can be worked out, and if they aren’t, can end the bargain completely. But if we keep ourselves open to the possibilities, we’re better prepared to deal with them.

Closing a house can also be unpredictable. Over-prepare for this by overestimating the closing costs: interest rates can change, and taxes and fees vary. If we over-compensate for these variables, we can’t be surprised—unless we’re pleasantly surprised to find the process easier and less costly than expected.

4) Proceed in an Organized Fashion

If we create a list of steps, and complete each one, we feel the sense of accomplishment and progress we need for confidence. This means when a loose end comes up, we should deal with it before moving on, lest the many loose ends converge together, tie themselves around our necks, and squeeze.

At the same time, we need patience. The home buying process is not always as quick as we want it to be. Many times we have to wait (anxiously) for decisions we can’t control: mortgage approval; acceptance of an offer or counter-offer; the arrival of our Agreement of Purchase; the date of our escrow’s close. In these stretches of time, to ward off going crazy, we should stay busy doing things non-house related. (Remember those?) Now we can walk our dogs, play with our kids, read books, play music, work out, garden—whatever makes us happy.

Utlimately, we’re adults: We’re all experienced enough with life by now to know the best things are worth fighting for, and the fighting can be fierce indeed in competitive situations like buying a home. But if we keep focused on our goal (our own home!), enlist the help of experts, and approach the process in an educated, organized, and sane manner, we can succeed without the stress…or at least, with a whole lot less of it.