Coping with the stress of the real estate transaction

Unless you are under the care of a psychiatrist prescribing you Valium, “stress free” is not something that comes to mind when describing real estate. According to the American Institute of Stress (, stress is subjective and can originate from negative and positive experiences.

On the “Holmes-Rahe Social Readjustment Rating Scale” otherwise known as the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale (Holmes & Rahe 1967), having a mortgage over $10,000 rates 31 (just above being foreclosed upon) and moving is rated as 20. This commonly used stress scale (which rates life events to determine risk of illness) is cumulative, so the rating for buying a home is at least 51. Your stress level obviously increases when you add in other life stressors such as (but not limited to): getting divorced (73); getting married (50); having a baby (39); changing careers (36).

The reason why buying a home may rate so high on the Stress Scale is that, unlike other transactions, buying (and selling) a home is a large emotional investment! Gordon Gekko, from Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, was on to something when he said, “don’t get emotional [over stock], it clouds your judgment.” Emotions often become amplified when stress increases and can interfere with judgment.

Although most real estate agents don’t understand stress (what it is or how it’s reduced), it does not stop them from lecturing and blogging about “reducing stress” during the home buying or selling process. Being prepared and dividing the buying/selling process into segments is common advice and makes sense. This guidance often helps buyers and sellers feel a sense of “control” by understanding what to expect. However, the wonderful thing about real estate is that every transaction presents a new set of personalities, conditions, and (sometimes) problems. Reactions among buyers and sellers, as well as real estate agents, vary depending on their personalities and life circumstances. So no matter how much you plan, prepare, and visualize what it may be like, stress can be produced just by going through the process (created by both positive and negative feelings).

For some, being prepared is enough to help them anticipate and deal with most circumstances that may arise; while for others, the act of preparation may actually increase stress. Emotional factors, often based on needs and fears, can play a key role in your stress levels. Sometimes your needs are beyond your control and can increase your stress level, such as the need to stick to stringent timelines. And sometimes your needs can adapt and change which can mitigates your stress, such as finding the “perfect home.”

Fears about the outcome of the transaction can increase your stress, especially if you’re a first time home buyer. Common buyer fears include mortgage approvals and rising interest rates; sometimes buyers fear that the home inspection may reveal problems with the home. Common home seller fears include the home buyer’s qualifications and the ability to consummate the sale.

Good real estate agents know how to address the needs and fears of the real estate transaction to keep stress levels in check. Regardless, some people may turn to self help, “pop” or common stress reduction techniques (such as meditation); and if the stress is overwhelming, it wouldn’t hurt consulting with your physician or a qualified mental health professional – especially if you’re already stressed by your job, family and other life stress.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Permission to use this article is by written consent only.

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2010

%d bloggers like this: