Buying and selling real estate – especially in pricey, overheated Silicon Valley – can make a wreck of anyone. Sometimes clients turn to me and say “how can you do this for a living?” They are bewildered that I can take so much stress. (The short answer is that helping someone to buy or sell is not the same thing as buying or selling one’s own property!)
Having worked with many home buyers and sellers, and having bought and sold real estate myself, I can verify that even the easiest, smoothest transactions are still very stressful. Some are worse: sales after a divorce, death, forced relocation, bankruptcy, illness (and medical bills) all pile on the emotions and in many cases, worry. Several times I’ve had clients battle or get diagnosed with cancer while in the middle of a home sale. Happy reasons for buying or selling do make it easier, but the sheer volume of things to do and manage can be overwhelming even so.
I am not a counselor, but I can offer some suggestions that I think may help most home buyers and sellers based on my experiences. I hope that these will help. If you tend to be a worrier, or have a lot of other big things going on in your life, it may not be a bad idea to get help via a therapist for these weeks / months to manage the stress.
Home buyers and mitigating stress
Taking on that big, new mortgage can be terror-inducing. I know, I’ve bought homes twice! Everything looks and feels worse when you awake at 2am, by the way. Just know that it can happen, and remind yourself that it will look and feel better at 10am than it does when you awaken in the middle of the night with too much on your mind.
Here are a few home buyer stress reduction tips:
- Lending worries – this tends to be The Big One. The best defense against stress here is good information. Know that the banks may qualify you for more than you are comfortable borrowing. Don’t be pushed. Before deciding what’s a good or bad loan and purchase amount, consult with a CPA or other tax professional to get a sense of the “net impact” of your loan. Once you have that info, you should be in a better position to decide, and that will ease your mind. Ditto with the various loan products – get lots of info on the options (30 year fixed, 10-1 arm or?), and then when you decide you will feel better because you are better informed.
- Other money worries – future costs count too – remember that homes need ongoing maintenance. For older homes, you may want to budget and save about 1% of the value of the home for repairs / replacement per year unless your new abode is brand new. (You will not use this much per year, but do save that much. If you can put that away, then it will not be scary or horrible when you need a new roof, sewer line, kitchen, or whatever. People get into trouble when they find that replacing things over time is a shock to the budget. Plan for it and you will feel less stress because you are ready. (That goes for insurance too: if you make sure that you have a strong policy, you will sleep better at night).
- Categorize under “obvious”, but get enough sleep, be careful about having too much caffeine, alcohol, etc. Take care of your health because even the most unavoidable stress can run you down. Try to get to bed at the same time each night. Try not to look at computers or your cell phone for a half hour or more before going to bed (that blue light tells your brain to stay awake.) Get exercise, even if it’s walking 20 minutes a day. Eat right (veggies and fruits). You will feel better and you will handle stress better if you are better rested and nourished.
- While you’re minding sleep and what you ingest, also mind what you listen to. Some buyers and sellers find that everyone has advice – even if it’s not any good! Beware the poor “over the cubicle wall” advice, or people from out of the area telling you how to negotiate here. Nothing good can come of getting bad advice.
- Related to all that: hire a good Realtor. Please. There are gobs of Realtors in this area. My local MLS has 16,000 members. The top 1/3 or top 1/4 are probably really good and they don’t charge more than the rest. A good Realtor will help you to ID red flags, find a good lender, navigate you through the process of writing an offer and the acceptance and the escrow. The seller pays the fee so there is NO reason to be stuck with a bad agent. If you have help from a strong, ethical agent whom you can trust, it will help your stress level!
- Many people swear by meditation. I wouldn’t vote against it!
Home sellers: worry reduction tips
- The stress of too much stuff and what to do with it – Begin the thinning out process well in advance, as this is frequently the biggest stresser, and it’s more true the longer you’ve been in your home. If you think you’ll be moving in 5 years, decide to break down the work and start now with the sorting: items to keep, items to give to family members or friends, items to donate, items to sell, items to toss. Maybe do one room per month, or one set of boxes in the garage per month. I suggest doing it one chunk at a time because you can feel a sense of accomplishment as you go, and that helps!
- Being rushed and having to deal with too much stuff – Sometimes it’s not possible to start this process ahead of time – sometimes there’s a forced relocation due to a job transfer, a change in health, etc. If you have a lot of “stuff”, and you are rushed, ask family and friends to help you (if you will allow them to do so). Or pay a professional organizer to assist you. Either way, when the worry about all those things is lifted, you will feel better. If all else fails, and truly this is a last resort, haul it to storage and deal with it later – but do get it out of there.
- Hire well – The point listed above for buyers about hiring a good Realtor is just as true here, if not more so, since your listing agent will give you guidance on what to do to get ready for the market that will give you the best bang for your buck. If you feel confident that you are getting good guidance with everything, you will feel a relief of stress.
- Have a contingency plan – often when selling, the biggest fear is not having another place to go to. It can help if you just plan to put your belongings in storage and get them when the nex transaction is done. This is equally true wither doing a move up or move down or lateral transaction. Please also read “How to Sell One Home and Buy Another Without Losing Your Mind“
- “This too shall pass” – when having to keep the house clean for showings and inspections starts to get to you, know that it’s temporary. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that it’s only for a little while.
- As with home buyers: get enough sleep (stress is draining), get enough exercise, and try to eat healthfully. It does all help.
If you feel that you are experiencing more than the normal Silicon Valley real estate stress, do not hesitate to call on professional help. This is big stuff and there’s no shame in getting assistance.