If it were only about the numbers.
Instead, buying a house tends to be an emotionally stressful time, as home buyers seek to fit two lists of wants and needs into a single property.
Even if you and your spouse tend to like the same things, you may prefer different locations, have different commutes to work, and different ideas on what you’d be willing to compromise. All those differences can translate into some heavy-duty emotional baggage to cart around during showings.
What can you do? For starters, try to avoid making these five common emotional mistakes:
- Falling in love with a house. Buying a home requires more thought and feelings than buying stocks or bonds simply because you’re choosing the place you’re going to call home. It should be safe and secure and in some way touch our emotional core. But because dream homes rarely fall within the budget that’s been set, you’ve got to retain your ability to compromise.
When you fall in love with a house, you take away your ability to be objective about the purchase. Always remember this: House love fades. After awhile, you’ll start to see the flaws every home (including newly-built homes) has. So try concentrate on what you need, then on what you want, and leave the love out of it.
- Losing control of your purchase. If you hire an agent who is overly assertive, who puts you where she thinks you should be rather than in a neighborhood that you like, you’ve lost control of your purchase. Or, perhaps your parents step in with a check and their two cents. Or, your children require more of the time you set aside as home-buying time.
Whichever way it happens, losing control can result in a number of errors that can damage the end result. You might end up in the wrong school district, or miss the start of a semester. Or, you might have a personality clash with the agent and wind up miserably choosing the wrong house quickly just to get out of the relationship.
- Being indecisive. Do you want to buy a house? Or, do you want to start your own business? Or, do you want to take a six-month sabbatical and travel the world?
Buying a home means prioritizing your life and making plenty of tough decisions about budgets, mortgages, neighborhoods, and what you want and need in a house.
If you’re indecisive about the big issues, it could indicate that you’re not ready to make the emotional commitment to homeownership. If you’re simply worried that the minute after you make your offer a better house at a better price will come along, remember this: there’s more than one right house for you. If you miss one, the next one will probably be better.
Most of the time, indecisiveness is self-correcting: miss a few homes and suddenly you’ll be ready to jump the next time a “right” house comes along.
- Underestimating the responsibilities of homeownership. I’ve lived in my house for 10 years, and there are still weeks where I’m overwhelmed by all the things I need to do to keep the house running.
Renting is easy: you write one check a month, transfer funds for your utility bills, and you’re done. But owning a house is more complicated: you’ve got to pay your mortgages, taxes, insurance, and assessments. In addition, you’ve got to keep up with the maintenance the property requires, or risk causing serious long-term damage. (If you don’t fix that leak, you might have to pay for a new roof down the line.)
Buying a house does mean you get to decorate any way you like. But it also means you’ve got to shell out regularly to get your lawn mowed, walk plowed, and gutters cleaned — or learn to do these things yourself.
- Buying a home before you’re ready. Not everyone is cut out for homeownership. In some cases, renting is the better choice: if you’re unsure where you want to live, how long you’ll have your job, where your live life is going, or don’t have the time to invest in maintaining the property, you might want to rent.
Buying a home before you’re ready almost always leads to buyer’s remorse. That’s when you stay awake all night wondering how the heck you got yourself into all this. Taking the time to think through your purchase, and staying as objective as possible, helps keep the emotions at bay.