Q: I have been house-hunting for months, making lots of offers and getting outbid by all-cash investors. Finally, I found a house I really liked, and the seller accepted my offer. Right before my inspections, the seller got sued by a former owner of the property, and it tied the house up in litigation.
About a month later, the matter was cleared up and my transaction was back on. During that time, I drove by the place once or twice, and a little side window had been broken, and someone had dumped some debris in the backyard (the house is vacant).
Now I’m very nervous about moving forward with the deal. I still like the house a lot, but I’m going to have to put $20,000 down on it, and that’s almost every cent I have. I’m very afraid of making a bad decision. What should I do?
A: My friend, your feelings are extremely normal, natural and even healthy, though they don’t feel so good to you right now. The reality is that you are making a very big financial decision: two of the most mature commitments most of us ever make (the commitments to your home and your mortgage), and a very momentous lifestyle change, all in one fell swoop.
In my experience working with homebuyers, freaking out at some point before the deal is finalized is so natural that I actually sit my brand-new clients down and walk them through my flowchart of the transaction, pointing out all the common freak-out points during our very first meeting.
In fact, every once in awhile I’ll have a client who sails through a purchase — with no second-guessing, no qualms, no nerves — and I almost wonder whether those folks are taking this thing as seriously as they should. It is a big deal, and so to feel like it is a big deal means that you recognize the significance of this decision as a life event. And that’s a mature recognition to have.
I say all the time to my clients, "You are not buying a pair of shoes here." What I mean is that (a) it’s OK to take some days or weeks, even, to make your final decision; (b) it’s going to cost you a lot of money to close the deal — but you’re going to get a home, in exchange, not a pair of shoes or a purse; and (c) the nerves you feel are par for the course.
In your situation, the anticlimax of the one-month lawsuit pause, during which you might have started to detach from the home emotionally, thinking you might not be able to buy it, only makes your wondering about whether or not you want the house more of a normal, expected emotion.
Understanding that your feelings are a natural, healthy manifestation, and that you are taking your homebuying decisions every bit as seriously as they need to be taken — now you can move to managing your freak-out so it doesn’t get in the way of wise and well-reasoned decisions.
Real estate freak-outs, when they are not dealt with properly, typically end up either being repressed until they burst out into uncontrollable panic and impulsive decision-making (e.g., backing out of the deal or removing contingencies without appropriate consideration of the facts) or end up slowly taking over all of your emotions and thoughts about the home, causing a slow drip or procrastination and paralysis. …CONTINUED