Few life events are as stressful as buying and selling your home: The process not only involves uprooting your family and belongings but also typically means making a financial commitment that could last for decades.
Throw in a rigid timeline and cranky kids and it’s no wonder that more than half of parents recently polled by Zillow and Care.com said that they had cried at some point during the process, and half said that it had caused frequent fights with their partner.
“Purchasing a house is one of the biggest, if not the biggest investment any buyer will make,” says Tim Nelson, a realtor with San Diego-based firm Willis Allen. “With that comes a lot of emotional stress, whether you’re moving from one neighborhood to another or moving from state to state.”
If you’re making a move, these steps can help make the process as stress-free as possible.
1. Start decluttering now.
You may need to declutter in order to stage your home for sale. Even if you’re not selling, ridding yourself of accumulated junk now will make packing easier down the road. Plus, clutter has been shown to increase stress, depression and anxiety.
Give away or toss as much as you can, and pack any non-essentials into storage until after you’ve moved. Aim to be able to see the floor of your closets and clear out half your furniture.
2. Don’t stretch your budget too far. Knowing that you can truly afford the home you’re purchasing will go a long way toward reducing the stress of the transaction. Before you even look at homes, come up with a realistic budget that works for your family.
Some rules of thumb advise buyers to spend no more than two and a half times their annual income, and payments shouldn’t make up more than third of your monthly income. Then tweak the numbers based on your job security and other expenses.
3. Hire the right team. Given the high emotions associated with moving, you’ll want to be sure you’re hiring the right professionals, including your Realtor and lawyer. Ask friends for references and look for a realtor who communicates in a way that works for you, whether that means daily text messages or weekly phone calls. “Communication means different things for different personalities,” says Ashley Ditcharo, a Realtor with Keller Williams in Gulfport, Miss.
4. Expect mortgage hiccups. From application to close can typically take 45-60 days, and while lenders have loosened up their credit, they’re still going to ask for mounds of documentation. Go into the process knowing you’ll likely have to jump through some hoops to satisfy the underwriters and try to take additional requests in stride.
5. Negotiate move dates. Realtors say that getting the timing right is one of the biggest sources of stress for movers. Close on the sale of your home before closing on a purchase, and you could be briefly homeless. But if you close on the purchase first, you may end up juggling two mortgage payments. Even if you get the timing just right, there’s the stress of making sure that both closes go smoothly while you’re moving all your things.
Give yourself some breathing room by negotiating some overlap into the timeline. See if your buyers will let you rent the house for a week after closing or if buyers can push back their move date.
6. Pack an overnight bag. The first few weeks in your home are going to be chaotic as you unpack bags and try to reorganize your life in your new digs. Keep your sanity by packing an overnight bag with essentials like clean clothes, a toothbrush and medications, says Emilee Schumer, lifestyle editor at Design District. That way you don’t have to worry about finding those items right away in a sea of cardboard boxes.
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