Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions most Americans ever make, so it’s no wonder that it comes with a sizeable dose of anxiety.
Nearly three-quarters of potential homebuyers recently polled by Owners.com said that they expected stress with the buying process, with many citing financial aspects as the most concerning. Another recent survey by NerdWallet found that 42 percent of homebuyers found the process stressful, 32 percent called it complicated and 21 percent said it was intimidating.
With a transaction that involves so many moving parts and so many people, it’s impossible to control the entire process, and things rarely go exactly as you’ve planned. Still, some headaches in the homebuying process are more typical than others, and it can help to prepare yourself for them in advance.
It’s a seller’s market in most parts of the country right now, so buyers may already be feeling some pressure. Still, it’s possible to buy a house without losing your mind. Read on to get prepared for 15 common issues that crop up throughout the homebuying process — and for tips on how to prevent them or to make sure they remain speed bumps on your journey rather than barriers.
1. Your credit score is lower than you expected.
While it’s getting easier to get a mortgage, you’ll still need a credit score of at least 760 for the very best rates.
How to handle it: If your score comes in far lower, there may be a mistake on your credit report. Pull yours at annualcreditreport.com to look for errors or evidence of ID theft.
2. Your mortgage application gets rejected.
Even with a good credit score, if lenders don’t see the right debt-to-income ratio or documentation of your accounts, they may say no.
How to handle it: Prepare the necessary documentation ahead of time and shop around with a few lenders. If you’re still hearing “no,” you may need to spend some time repairing your credit or start looking for a lower-priced house.
3. You get into a fight with your partner.
The stress involved with buying a home can be tough on a relationship. Six in 10 Millennial and Gen X couples disagreed during the home buying process, according to a recent LendingHome survey.
How to handle it: Hash out the sticking points before you start looking at homes, and remember that you’re in it together. Half of couples who argued said that after purchasing the home their relationship was stronger.
4. You can’t find any houses you like.
Inventory is extremely tight right now, and homes are selling really quickly, especially if you’re looking for a starter home or one that’s move-in ready.
How to handle it: Make it a priority to see homes as quickly as possible, and have your pre-approval ready so you can make an offer as soon as you see a home you like. Don’t panic, though. It may be better to wait for the right home than to buy something you’ll regret.
5. You end up in a bidding war.
With tight inventory, it’s not uncommon that the best homes will draw multiple offers.
How to handle it: Try not to let your emotions push you into spending more than is wise. Figure out a realistic budget ahead of time, and just how much wiggle room you might have. Then stick to your numbers.
6. Your mortgage paperwork is out of control.
Even if you’ve been pre-approved, it’s common for your lender to ask for more documentation and other items throughout the closing process.
How to handle it: Organize your finances ahead of time, so that it’s easy for you to quickly pull the requested documents. And no matter how organized you are, be emotionally prepared for another curveball from your lender and don’t let it scuttle your deal.
7. The home appraises below your offer.
This is becoming increasingly common, particularly in pricey housing markets where bidding wars lead to offers in excess of both the list price and comparable sales.
How to handle it: Request a local appraiser and inform him of what went into your offer. If the appraisal remains low, however, consider carefully whether you should revise your offer because the home isn’t worth as much as you think.
8. Something pops up during the inspection.
Every inspection is going to find something wrong with a home, but it can be disconcerting when a costly, previously unknown issue pops up, such as a problem with the foundation or the roof.
How to handle it: Renegotiate with the seller. Consider whether you’d rather they lower the price so that you can have improvements done to your specifications, or if it’s easier for them to just fix the problems on their end. If you can’t reach a compromise on a pricey problem, you may need to walk away.
9. The title’s not clear.
If there are existing liens on a property, or someone other than seller has a claim on ownership, you won’t be able to complete the purchase.
How to handle it: Speak directly with the title agent to see how to address problems that arise. Purchase title insurance to cover you for issues that the title agent misses.
10. The seller wants to back out.
People get emotionally attached to their homes — or decide to look for more money — and it’s possible that your seller could change his mind halfway through the process.
How to handle: In most states, you don’t have too much recourse as a buyer (sellers get to keep the earnest money in a broken contract). However, the seller should typically reimburse you for any fees or other expenses you’ve incurred related to the deal. Make sure that kind of language is in your contract before you sign.
11. Your mortgage rate went up.
If rates rise between your approval and your close, your monthly payment could be affected.
How to handle it: If you’re offered a good rate, lock it in to prevent any surprises. Most lenders will extend a free, 30-day rate lock to borrowers.
12. Your bank changes its mind.
Your mortgage approval is based on the information you supplied at the time of your application. If there’s a change in your credit score or job situation after you’ve submitted your application but before closing, banks are allowed to rescind the offer.
How to handle: Don’t open any new credit accounts after you’ve been pre-approved, and discuss any potential job changes with your lender.
13. Closing costs.
As if moving and buying a home weren’t expensive enough, closing costs — fees to the lender and others that help you get through the purchase — run around 3 percent of the purchase price.
How to handle it: Keep those costs in mind, and set aside cash to cover them.
14. Your final walk-through doesn’t go smoothly.
In theory, the final walk-through is just a formality to make sure the home is still in the same condition as when you made your offer, and that any issues uncovered during the inspection were disclosed. Sometimes, however, you’ll discover new problems or find that agreed-upon fixes were not made to your standards.
How to handle it: Schedule your walk-through early enough to make sure you have time to deal with any potential surprises before the scheduled closing.
15. You move in and find new issues.
Welcome to home ownership! Unless the seller willingly deceived you (and you can prove it in court), any problems with the home are yours to deal with now. Most states have laws saying that the buyer accepts the property “as is.”
How to handle it: Read carefully through your inspection documents. Consider purchasing a home warranty, which will cover some repairs in the first year or two that you live there. Set aside money in an emergency fund to cover unexpected maintenance issues that need to be addressed.