Let’s face it; the stress of buying a home can be enough to push the happiest couple to their edge. This stress compounds when you’re already working through the most raw, sensitive areas of your life with your partner.
That doesn’t mean you can’t take the next step in your life together. It just means you will need to be cautious of what the stress triggers are and how to avoid them. While these will differ from couple to couple, there are a few that will be challenging no matter what.
Use these tips to mitigate most of the stress during the home buying process. Who knows, you may come out stronger and happier than ever before.
1. Find Out What You Can Afford—Together
Before you even step inside an open house, sit down with your significant other and set a realistic budget for home buying. It’s easy to want to keep up the Jones’s—buy the nicest house, in the best neighborhood, with the highest rated school systems. But that’s not always possible, nor is it necessary.
Instead, focus on what’s right for you two and your family. Use BankRate’s helpful calculator: How Much House Can I Afford? You’ll input household income, investments and monthly expenses, in addition to information about the new home. The calculator will then give you two numbers: available mortgage payment and an affordable home amount.
Use this as your guide. When you both see the numbers in front of you—and do the math together—there’s less to argue about.
2. Put Down Less Up Front
One of the biggest challenges of purchasing a home is saving for a down payment. If you’re like many people and have trouble saving, consider private mortgage insurance (PMI) to ease this strain. A PMI allows you to put down a down payment of less than 20 percent. In many cases, you can put down as low as 3 or 5 percent.
The catch is that this comes with a monthly cost. Unison, PMI experts, explain how it works:
“Let’s say you take out a mortgage with a lender. They decide to approve your request and agree to originate a loan for you. But you don’t have enough or a full 20 percent down payment on the home. To protect themselves in case you stop paying your mortgage or default entirely on your mortgage, the lender requires you to pay monthly for private mortgage insurance (PMI) on your loan. This insurance policy will pay out to the lender if you default on your loan.”
In most cases, that fee ranges from just .5 to 1 percent of the total cost of your home, making it an affordable monthly payment. When you have 20 percent equity in the home, from making payments or getting reappraised after a renovation, you no longer have to make those payments.
3. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage Loan Sooner Than Later
Get ahead of the game by getting pre-approved for a mortgage loan at least 6 months before you start the house hunting process. You’ll quickly realize it’s a paperwork-intensive process, and doing it well ahead of time alleviates some of the house-hunting stress.
Not only will doing this early eliminate the guesswork and doubts about where you stand financially. It will also help you strategize more effectively, and avoid the homes you know you can’t afford—rather than seeing them and then arguing about the cost.
4. Consider Downsizing
Moving into a smaller home might feel like you’re taking a step back, but downsizing can have a lot of financial benefits. You’ll likely have smaller mortgage payments and fewer household expenses, like heat or electricity, thanks to less square footage.
While this isn’t an option for everyone, it’s especially wise for empty nesters. With no children at home, you can eliminate the housework that comes with maintaining a large home, in addition to spending less.
“What many people don’t realize is that downsizing and decluttering can really save you a lot of money. In addition, downsizing and decluttering can make your life considerably more stress-free,” suggest experts at Money Crashers. And what you’re looking for right now is exactly that: less stress.
5. Find a Great Agent
The right real estate agent makes all the difference when buying a house. If they’re someone who brings drama and stress, or are overworked and can’t dedicate themselves to you, you’ll feel that. As you interview agents, keep this in mind. Do you feel relaxed with them? Do you feel they understand your current situation and the delicacy of this home buying experience?
If not, keep looking. The right agent will shepherd you through the process, and take on the hard stuff, like negotiations, paperwork. Great agents will also work with the inspectors, contractors and financial specialists to make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible.
Reduce That Financial Strain
Keep these tips in mind when going through the home buying process during a challenging time. There are many ways to eliminate some of the stress that comes along with it, whether you put down less money, downsize to a smaller home, or simply spend time finding the best real estate agent for your needs. Take away the stress, and you may come out feeling even more ready for this new chapter of your life.
About the Author: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than ten years and is currently a full-time writer and content marketing consultant. She’s written for Reader’s Digest, AARP, Lifehack and more. Follow her on Twitter at @Jlsander07 for money-saving ideas, health tips, and more.