Preparing for Homeownership

Coping with the Stress of Buying a Home

Alie Kelley | 3 Jul 2019

I believe educators have some of the most developed coping strategies to deal with stress. To survive as a teacher, you pretty much need to have go-to strategies that help you pause, breathe, and take care of yourself. Even the strongest and most self-aware of us are not immune to stress. As a former middle and high school special education teacher, I know what it is like. For me, yoga became my go-to coping strategy, my moment of quiet, a forcing factor to slow down my breath and a physical reminder of the strength within me.

As many can imagine, finding housing and beginning the homebuying journey can be full of stressors. One of the best ways to reduce the impact of this stress is to prepare. Just like in a classroom, the more you think about the ways the journey (or your lesson plan) could go wrong and plan for it, the less likely it is to happen. Elizabeth Blackburn, a biological researcher who won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine, writes: “It’s not about avoiding stress, it’s about coping with stress in a way that doesn’t amplify the stress in our mind in a prolonged way.”

Read on to learn more about some of the moments in the homebuying journey that can cause the most stress and ways you can plan for and best mitigate its amplified impact. These tips follow Landed’s framework we created to think about the homebuying journey. To view more educational resources, visit our Homebuying Education section.

Preparing for Homeownership

When you’re able to see your dream – a particular type of home, the perfect neighborhood, and your future life playing out there – but your finances do not match up, this mismatch between desire and reality can cause a lot of stress. It is sometimes enough to make you want to give up before you even begin. As Eckhart Tolle writes, “Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there.’” Especially in expensive housing markets, this is a normal feeling in the homebuying journey, and you are not alone. Here’s what we recommend.

  • Face your finances: One way to help work with this stress is to face your finances head-on and make a plan. My co-worker, Kelley Nayo-Jahi, talks all the time about intentionally shifting the relationship each of us has to our money in order to shift the way we view the scary unknown or seemingly impossible. You can learn more from Kelley here: How to Take the First Step Toward Financial Wellness.
  • Prioritize what you want: For most of us, buying a home requires some sort of sacrifice. In the markets where we support educators, it’s often impossible to get every item on your dream list – instead, it is helpful to break down your initial home wishlist by asking “why” to each bullet point. For example, do you want a big yard? Why? Is it because you really need your own private yard – or do you want to be able to grow a garden and have a grassy area where you can take your kids to run around and play? Is it possible to shift your desire to a small outdoor space for a potted garden and proximity to a neighborhood park? Once you have your list (our co-founder calls it a buy box), talk about it with your agent to see what is possible. The more you can explain to them the why behind your wants, the more they can help get creative to find solutions that meet your needs.

Making an Offer

Once you’ve narrowed down what you want (and what is possible), you’ve visited homes, and you have your mortgage pre-approval, you are now ready to make an offer. The moment before you make your first offer can feel like standing on the edge of a cliff: either getting ready to jump, or feeling like you might be pushed over. In our experience helping hundreds of educators – many of whom were first-time homebuyers – the more that you have learned about the process in advance (the steps, the what-ifs, and your plan for different potential scenarios), the more that moment will feel like a swan-diving into a pool instead of falling off a cliff.

  • Learn the process + ask your worst case scenario fear questions: As an educator, you know how much power knowledge gives you. Studying for a test makes it less scary when you sit down to take it. Similarly, learning about the homebuying process before you fully dive in can help relieve some of the stress. Here at Landed, providing diverse opportunities for our homebuyers to learn is one of our top priorities. We have created organized guides and infographics for you to process at your own pace, and we are available for 1:1 homebuying coaching calls whenever you need us. We love to answer your questions so you feel more prepared for the journey ahead. One of the best ways to mitigate anxiety is to face what it is you are scared of (even if it’s irrational or unlikely) and make a plan for what you would do in the very unlikely event that it happens. We are here to help you make those plans.
  • Prepare + play pretend: One of the reasons that making your first offer is so daunting is because you are likely facing one of the largest financial decisions of your life thus far. Decisions about money can be frightening. The first thing that will help you feel better is to get a fully underwritten mortgage pre-approval. This document from the bank lets you know that they are confident lending you a specific amount of money for a home. If that number still seems overwhelming, you may want to take a month or two to play pretend and prove to yourself that it will be okay. Create a budget to think through what the expenses of homeownership will be, and pocket away that money for a month or two. How do your budget and your wallet feel?

    If you’re more stressed about another component of the purchase, like moving to a new neighborhood, try the commute for a day or two! And if buying will mean that you’re downsizing square footage, try only using a portion of your apartment for the next few days to test how that change will impact your day-to-day life. All of these pretend scenarios will give you a good sense of what it can feel like when you actually make the decision to buy.

Closing on Your Home

Having your offer accepted is a monumental moment in the homebuying experience. It is definitely worth taking the time to celebrate, but it’s also a time to mentally prepare for the journey ahead. The journey to closing on your home is as varied as the weather and is different for each person. For some, it’s easy sunshine and sailing, but for many others, it is a thunderstorm followed by a rainbow. Whatever it is, remember that your homebuying team is here to support – you are not alone!

  • Be flexible + communicate: During closing, there are a lot of different players and a lot of different moving pieces. It’s impossible for you to control it all or to predict everything that is going to happen. This is often a big source of fear. As Kahlil Gibran explains, “Our anxiety doesn’t come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.” During this time, your mitigation strategy should be to have a checklist of your closing milestones and planned check-in times with your agent and your Landed point person. This can help you picture the time and place for each step, as well as anticipate questions you’ll have and problem-solving that may be needed.

 

The best way to help mitigate your homebuying stress is to be prepared. Know what you want, know what you can afford, and know what to expect. You may want to talk to a fellow educator who has already successfully accomplished their goal of purchasing a home. Explore some of our homebuyers' stories here, and if you’re interested in personally connecting with a local homebuyer who’s gone through the process, your Landed point person will be happy to make an introduction after you have started the process with us.

Remember, we’re in this together.


 

Homebuying Education

Explore more guides and tips for the homebuying process, or reach out to us if you'd like to learn more about Landed. We're on a mission to help essential professionals build financial security near the communities they serve.

Preparing for Homeownership

About the Author

Alie Kelley

Alie Kelley is a former educator who is driven to find innovative solutions that remove barriers and open doors for greater social mobility and equity. She works with Landed's customer account management team.

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