Yes, my husband and I are buying a house. Oh, the excitement! A house of our very own. A house where we’ll raise kids and grow old together.
We’re buying a house!
(Well, we’re trying to.)
It’s a buyer’s market in many areas of the country, but I’m lucky enough to live in the 7th-fastest growing metro area in the US. Translation: seller’s market.
Having an anxiety disorder affects my life quite enough the way it is. Throw something as big as house hunting into the mix and it’s very easy to become overwhelmed — with the process, with the decisions, and with the somewhat-manic fear of missing out on the perfect home.
Here are my tips to help you get through the house hunting process with as little additional anxiety and stress as possible:
1. Allow yourself some time. Don’t rush. If you can, start looking for a house well in advance of your lease running out. It might be a pain to pay a few bucks to break the lease early, yes — but what’s a month’s rent compared to a 30-year mortgage on a deadline-driven compromise house?
Giving yourself time will allow you to stretch out the process a bit without a lease renewal date looming over your head. It will also help you to make more logical decisions and avoid the dreaded FOMO (see #5 below).
2. Get yourself a buyer’s agent. A buyer’s agent is a real estate agent who represents you, the buyer. (The agent’s name displayed on the real estate company placard outside of the home represents the seller, and might not have your best interests in mind.)
A good buyer’s agent will help you conduct the search, send you new properties as they come on the market, take you around to do walk-throughs, and manage the bidding process and any negotiation.
Typically, the buyer doesn’t spent any money out of pocket to work with a buyer’s agent — the money paid to the buyer’s agent is drawn out of the selling price of the home (and ultimately, then, is paid by the seller).
In sum, a good buyer’s agent will create order out of chaos.
3. Make a priority list before you even begin looking at homes online. Sit down (with your partner, if you’re buying jointly) and decide what your minimum requirements are. How many bedrooms will you need? (Think ahead — any kids in your future? How many? Will you have frequent guests?)
How many bathrooms? How many square feet? What are you most willing to compromise on — location? Size? Condition? What are your “must-have” features?
Make this list, give it to your buyer’s agent, and begin searching online for homes that match your priority list (and your budget).
4. Don’t get attached. Once you start looking at houses in person — especially if they’re not occupied — you’ll find that it’s very easy to daydream your way into occupying the space. (My couch would go here, my desk would go there — oh, imagine sitting in that corner and watching television! Oh, I could see myself waking up in this bedroom. Oh, that window is perfect for my plants! And my curtains! And my cat!)
It’s difficult to resist the urge to fall in love, but remember — checking out a house for the first time is like a first date. Falling in love too soon can set you up for a huge disappointment if the seller doesn’t accept your offer.
Try to maintain a “yeah, I could live here” attitude that doesn’t tie too deeply into your psyche with an umbilical cord.
5. Don’t get trapped by FOMO — the Fear of Missing Out. We often hear about FOMO and the internet, but it’s perfectly applicable to the house hunting process.
If you’re living in a seller’s market (like I am), you’ll have to get used to looking at a house at 9 a.m. and then finding out at noon that someone else has put in an offer, and if you want the house, you’ll have to put in an offer that same day, too.
Maintain a clear head here — don’t jump in unless you’re absolutely sure you want the house. Things can get pretty competitive. Don’t fall prey to the game.
If you truly do love a house, put in an offer — but don’t put in any offers simply because you think there won’t be anything else worthwhile coming on the market soon.
There will be. There always will be.
That whole “there’s always more fish in the sea” thing is a trite platitude when it comes to romance, but in the house hunt, it’s practically the golden rule.