Where Does Buying a Home Rank on the Life Stress Inventory?
You might have heard of the Life Stress Inventory developed by Holmes and Rahe back in the 1960’s. It is an inventory of stressful life events where each life event is given a value. For example, being fired at work is worth 47 “stress points” (my term). You can add up all the stressful events at any given time in your life and them come to a grand tally. If you score over 100 points at one time you are basically at risk of being a serious stress case. Taken by itself buying a home can be stressful. It is ranked twenty eighth on the Holmes-Rahe list of stressful life events with 28 stress points. But home buying is rarely an isolated event. Often times people are buying a home while other stressful life events occur. The first case in point: buying a home usually accompanies taking a mortgage. Getting a home mortgage has its own rating of 31 stress points (my term). If you combine buying a home and getting a mortgage you get 59 stress points. For a little perspective, getting thrown in jail comes in with 63 stress points. Let’s look at other stressful events that commonly occur with buying a home. Your son or daughter leave for college, 29 points. You get divorced, 73 points. You get married, 50 points. You get pregnant, 40 points. Retirement, 45 points. Have a baby, 39 points. You get a promotion, 28 points. You graduate from university, 26 points. Christmas, 12 points. Even Christmas can be stressful. Imagine buying a home with a closing date at the end of December because you just got married (winter wedding!) and got a big promotion. Without blinking an eye you are now dealing with 171 stress points and are likely certifiable. Of course these stress numbers can be somewhat arbitrary, and every person handles stress differently. But the point is: Many stressful events occurring at one time can add up to create one big stress-ball out of life. And buying a home, more often than not, can have a multitude of stressful events all happening at once.
So What Do I Do?
Acknowledge That You Are Under Stress
The first thing to do is to acknowledge that this experience will most likely cause you some frustration, headaches, anxiety, and arguments with spouses, friends, family members, your lender and your real estate agent. If you find yourself wondering if you are going crazy it might help to know: no, this is normal, you are buying a house.
Know Your Buying Style.
Usually there are two types of home buyers: Emotional and Practical. Are you an emotional buyer or a practical buyer? An emotional buyer gets excited about a home. They can visualize themselves living there, fixing things up, hosting parties, having summer BBQ’s and the rest. An emotional buyer puts themselves in their future home and imagines what it will feel like; what kind of experiences they will have there. A practical buyer looks at the layout of the home; will this work for me? They look at how much work needs to be done to make it ideal. They look at price; practical buyers are usually good negotiators. A practical buyer might easily create a ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ checklist in order to decide if the home is a good fit. An emotional buyer just knows it feels right. Neither of these styles is better or worse, but knowing your buying style can help reduce your stress levels. If your style is emotional you must guard against making an impulse purchase where you might have buyer’s remorse soon after moving in. If you are overly practical you might miss the boat and not buy anything at all because nothing ever really grabs you. Ideally you should consult with someone who is opposite your buying style when you buy a home. If you can have another person to balance your tendencies your stress levels will go down. They can keep you in check and help you guard against a bad decision, or no decision at all.
Work With People You Trust
Buying a home can be complicated. Getting a mortgage can be darn complicated too. And let’s face it, there is a lot of money at stake. It’s become a cliché, but it is true: buying a home is one of your biggest investments in life. There is a lot at stake. Also, there is no way for the average person to get up to speed on all the ins and outs of the process. You will need to rely on the professionals you work with to shepherd you home. There will be times you won’t know what to do in a situation and you will need to trust the advice of the professionals you are working with. You can see how important it is to trust your agents; especially your real estate agent and your lender. When you know you can trust your team your stress levels will naturally go down.
Handle The Truth
You may not think you can handle the truth, but you can. And you’ll be much better off in the long run if you face facts rather than running from them. Let me give you an example. Your lender asks you pointed and specific questions about your finances and income. You disclose almost everything, except the fact that you are planning on changing jobs in two weeks (after all, why do they need to know that? It’s in the exact same field, and I make more money!). A day before closing and moving in to your new home the lender calls to do a verification of employment and they learn you no longer have your old job. Closing on hold, moving vans on hold, purchase on hold, earnest money at risk of being lost. Now you need to re-verify your employment and wait for your first paycheck. What a bummer. All of this could have been avoided if you had just told the truth up front. Trust me, they’ll catch everything. Be upfront and honest with your lender and real estate agent and they can help you deal with any uncertainties. There may be a little stress up-front when you are revealing the truth, but then at least you know for certain there will be no surprises in the end.
The surest way to reduce stress is to have fun. Real, genuine fun. Take this as a test of your ability to put things in perspective. Watch Life is Beautiful with Roberto Benigni. He’s a great example of keeping the fun in the most trying of times. You owe it to your friends, you spouse, your kids, and yourself. Take a deep breath, encourage a smile, and enjoy the ride.