5 Ways to Reduce the Stress of Buying a Home

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  • Buying a home in today's housing market can be stressful.
  • Deciding when you list your house, what home features you can do without, and other steps can help alleviate that stress.

You can take control, even if it doesn't feel like it.

After months of writing about the red-hot housing market, I find myself in the middle of the fray. Some months back, my husband stopped working for a certain billionaire, determined to find a place that made him happy and celebrated his habit of treating people with the respect they deserve.

He has since started a job in a new state while I stay here to hold down the fort. As I write this article, he's on his way to view four houses. But because I know what the market is like, I'm not holding my breath.

I can write about real estate all day long, and man, do I have some great advice to offer. But now that I'm smack dab in the middle of trying to buy a house, I have a new appreciation for the overriding anxiety that comes along with trying to find a place to call home in the midst of a buying frenzy.

I haven't made it out to the other side yet, but I can share some of the techniques I'm employing to hold it all together until this house hunting torture is over.

1. Taking control of when we list our house

I've moved with my husband more times than I care to count. There's no regret, just an immediate urge to take a nap when I think of doing it again. What I've been most stressed about has been the idea of selling our house, moving to the new state with our two spoiled pups, and staying in a 330-square-feet hotel room until we land a new home.

I know this is on me, but because we travel so often with our dogs, I know they lose their ever-lovin' minds whenever I leave them in a hotel room alone. It cannot be done.

And so, after consulting with the loan officer in the new state, I was able to come up with a plan. We're buying a new home before we put our current home on the market. If all goes well, we can move directly from one house to another. Hopefully, we won't have two mortgages at one time.

Allow me to make a quick personal finance point here: The reason we can own two homes at one time is because we keep our debt-to-income (DTI) ratio low. As part of the pre-approval process, the mortgage lender checked our credit report and made a quick calculation of how much we owe compared to how much we earn each month. I'm not sure I've ever been as grateful for a low DTI than I am right now.

2. Letting go of the notion I can predict the next rate hike

Not gonna lie, I was stressed on May 4 when I heard the Federal Reserve raised its federal funds rate. It took me a minute to remember that we can refinance whenever rates drop, meaning the current rate will not impact our lives forever.

3. Accepting it will take time to find a gem among the gravel

While my husband is on the ground house hunting, I'm coaching from home. I cannot tell you how many hours I've spent poring over home listings online. I've studied everything, from how much carpeting is in a house to whether the stove is gas or electric. And I've been shocked by some of the prices slapped on houses that need a massive overhaul.

After a couple of weeks, I finally accepted that it's going to take time. And since we're not listing our current house until we find the right thing, I need to calm down. We will find the right house. It's just going to take time.

4. Letting go of the idea we'll find the ‘perfect’ house

I consider the home we currently own darn near perfect, and that's a problem. When we first started looking, I was discouraged because I compared every house we came across to this one.

Perhaps the one thing that has alleviated my stress the most is letting go of the idea that the "perfect" house is out there somewhere. The truth is, we'll buy something and slowly make it perfect for us. The things we like in a house, like hardwood floors and a great outdoor area, are things we can add once we're settled.

5. Imagining the worst possible scenario

I love budgets more than anyone I know. I don't think there's a 12-step program for people who are addicted to efficient budgeting, but maybe there should be.

Years ago, I read a book by Dale Carnegie, a writer and motivational speaker who was a big deal in the mid-20th century. Carnegie's advice to people who worry too much is to consider the worst thing that could happen, and then to create a plan for dealing with it.

For me, the worst thing would be not finding a reasonably priced home this year and having to live apart from my husband indefinitely. However, because we've had to live apart several times over the course of our marriage, I know we can handle it.

The second worst thing would be getting stuck with an interest rate that pushes our monthly mortgage payment uncomfortably high. That's where my love of budgets comes into play. I've worked and reworked each financial scenario to determine what we can comfortably manage.

If you're a first-time buyer, I want to personally apologize for the market you've waded into. I can assure you, it's not normally this bad. If it helps (and it probably doesn't), just know that there are a whole lot of us in this boat with you.

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