The home-buying process is euphoric in some ways, but it’s also nerve-racking. It’s exciting to walk into a home and instantly know exactly where you’ll put certain things and how you’ll arrange your furniture. But when you take a step back, it’s scary to see how emotional mistakes can creep in and drive such a major financial decision.
We’ve been house hunting for almost two months now. We were under contract with one home and ended up getting out of it (more on that later). The whole process has given me an opportunity to think about the emotional pitfalls we’ve come across along the way.
1. Don’t fall in love at first sight
The house we signed a contract on was a love-at-first-sight home. We loved everything about it. In the backyard, I could picture exactly where we’d start our vegetable garden and where we’d build a playground for the kids. I knew where I was going to put a basketball hoop in the driveway and how we were going to utilize the space in and around the house.
But when the inspection report came with some major problems, that feeling made me almost ignore them. There were issues with the roof, the windows, the plumbing and several other things. I won’t get into the details, but I estimate it would have cost us at least $20,000 to repair the urgent issues in the report. The sellers refused to do anything about them.
Fortunately, we took a step back and reviewed the facts against our emotions, and ultimately decided to back out.
Takeaway: If you notice you’re ignoring certain things because you love the house so much, take a step back. They may end up being small issues that you can still overlook, but they may also be major ones that could keep you financially strained for years.
2. Don’t go overboard for perfection
Regardless of your price range, the homes that have everything you want may be just outside it. Like me, you may be tempted to stretch yourself a little to get the “perfect home,” but you’ll likely regret it in the end.
Just last week, we toured a couple new housing developments. We walked through one home that had all the space we wanted. The home was at the high end of our price range, which made us feel like we could make it work. We set an appointment to walk through how we would want to design the home and also to possibly sign a contract.
On the way home, though, reality hit again. Sure, the monthly payment would likely be doable. But as with most new homes, the base cost of the home is just the beginning. We’d have to put in a sprinkler system, a lawn, and a fence to get the yard how we want it. There would be other upgrades we’d probably want that would make it too much to handle. We ended up canceling the appointment.
Takeaway: If you’re going to end up overpaying to buy a house that you’ll love, it’s probably not worth it. This “perfect” home would require almost as much of an investment as the first one after closing. We’d probably be able to do it, but not without significant stress and debt.
3. Don’t allow your fear to become unhealthy
Whether you’re house hunting or doing something else, a little fear is good. It’s the fear that makes you step back and think, “Can we really make this happen?” In a way, it spurs the rational side of yourself into action. But too much fear can paralyze you. After we backed out of the contract, I started thinking that we should just wait another year and a half until our next lease ended. My fear over not being able to make the contract work made me feel that there’s no way we could afford a house.
In reality, we really can afford a home now, just not the one we were in the process of buying. Since then we found another new housing development that offered a better deal. The price was right and the builder offered sales incentives to take care of most of the things we wanted. Days later and after a lot of healthy fear and rational thinking, we still feel good about it.
Takeaway: Don’t let your fears drive your decision-making process. Be honest with yourself about them. Are they just enough to keep you from making a bad decision or are they taking over? Talk with your spouse or a family member to do a sanity check. It’s always better to hold off if you’re not ready, but if you are you may regret waiting, especially if home prices and interest rates go up.
Avoid those emotional mistakes
I knew going into this process how important it is to not let emotional mistakes get the best of you. But despite that knowledge, I didn’t realize just how strong those emotions could be. The more time we spend doing it, though, the easier it is to spot the pitfalls and to avoid them entirely. It’s also important we don’t beat ourselves up over our emotional mistakes. We’ve made a few already, but it’s all a learning process and we know won’t make them again.