Recently my doctor advised me to avoid stress. I think that’s a standard line from doctors, even for people like me with little health issues. Nevertheless, I laughed and told him that would be difficult because I’m buying a house. He said that was good stress. From where I sit, it doesn’t feel good. I think I’m more stressed now than I’ve been at any other point in this one year journey. Here are the five most stressful parts of buying a home, at least from my perspective.

Looking for the Right Home
In a normal market, this might be easy. In this market, looking at endless homes to find the right house is very stressful. You visit house after house until they all blend together. When we were just looking at open houses, it was pretty easy, although the homes we saw when we didn’t have an agent looked nothing like the homes we saw when we did!

Making Your First Offer
Actually, deciding whether to make an offer is pretty stressful, too. We considered making offers on two houses before finally finding the right one. We were exhilarated, but then the stress set in as we waited for an answer. The offer on the next home was easier, but not completely smooth as we waited to find out if the bank had stopped the foreclosure sale after receiving our offer. By the time I got to the third offer, I felt fine. I was excited about the house, but blasé about the process until the day we realized we would probably get this one. That’s when I asked my boss to visit the house to check it out and offer his second opinion.

The Appraisal
This used to be an easy step, but now it’s pretty stressful. It took 8 days to get our appraisal back and we sweated it the whole time. It was possible that the home would appraise low, although we certainly wouldn’t have offered what we did if we didn’t think it would appraise. Still, you never know what will happen under the new system. I practically did cartwheels when the appraisal came in $5,00 above purchase price.

Loan Approval
Once the appraisal is in, the loan goes to underwriting and here comes more stress. We were pre-approved by an experienced loan officer, so he was confident we would be approved, but it’s still stressful. Here’s a tip: once you start the home-shopping process, don’t do anything that affects your credit. No major purchases, no new loans or credit cards. You can, of course, pay off debt if you have extra money after your down-payment and closing costs and reserves are met, but don’t take on new debt. Don’t close any accounts. We also stopped transferring money from our checking to our savings once we went into escrow in order to avoid any questions.

I nearly did a back-flip when our loan was approved, except for the rent verification which still needed to be met. I knew we’d get it and be fine, but it was very stressful while we waited for the bank and the landlord to communicate. I finally went down there and took care of it myself.

We’re not there yet, but this is also stressful. Once you get everything to the lender and the loan is approved, you’re at the mercy of other people getting everything done on time. Escrow has to prepare the HUD-1 form and get it to the lender. If there are corrections to be made, they have to do that quickly. Once the form is done, your lender orders the loan documents. They have to be delivered to escrow, which arranges for you to sign them. Then after you sign them, they have to go back through underwriting.

Your loan could be rejected at this point – which had already happened to me once, when an appraisal issue arose at the last second. I got it ironed out, but it was stressful. Then you wait for the loan to be funded and the deed to record and then finally you get the keys. So even as you sit on third base and the batter hits it into the stands, you might not make it to home plate. That’s stressful! If you’re at this point, don’t make any changes to your credit because it could cause your loan to be rejected. Wait until you have the keys to buy your appliances.

I’m not expecting anything to go wrong with our loan. Everything seems to be in order and our loan officer is very careful about making sure he has everything he needs. However, I’m not yet ready to say I bought a house. I won’t do that until those keys are in my hand. Until then, I’ll do my best to get a good night’s sleep and not take to the bottle. THIS IS CRAZY, all for a house…

Impersonating Happiness

My mother was never a reliable narrator of her own story. Once, she had a heart attack. It was the very best kind of heart attack a person can have. It was the kind that happens when a person self-diagnoses, well actually misdiagnoses, her own panic attacks. She was immediately given a clean bill of health from her cardiologist. The second and third opinions concurred with the first. Out of habit and suspicion, she continued walking around holding her chest for several weeks while,swearing off anything that spiked her blood pressure. Unfortunately although i was born for greatness, I was born into the wrong family, full of eccentrics.
My family communicates through extremes: comedy, silence or drama. Speaking directly, or from the heart, is too "on the money. It would eliminate all the anxiety of a surprise, of nuance. Nuance, it turns out, is very convenient. The perfect scapegoat. You don't necessarily have to mean what you say. You can even pretend to be misunderstood. Often humor impersonates happiness.
When my parents divorces, they joked about it for months. My mother would giggle and make snide remarks about my father's appearance, or his inability to dress himself properly without someone laying out his wardrobe. She once joked about if it wasn't for her he wouldn't be able to find his way home, which I thought would have been fine, since he wasn't welcome to come home anymore, anyways.
My father laughed about how my mother would be afraid to leave the house without him. All dressed up with no where to go, is what he would say. He once joked she would have to live her social life talking on the phone, which I thought would be fine, since she never stopped talking anyways.
Neither one of them were ever kidding, and neither one of them appeared funny to me then. At least not on a topic so close to them or so damaging to me. Their marriage wasn't, as fate may have it, a mistake. They were perfect for each other even if they couldn't manage to be happy. They did fit, in that peculiar way that incomplete people sometimes do. They failed in different areas, and when they felt up to it, they picked up the slack and helped each other out. I always thought I saw them "happy" as a child. Turns out neither of them could tell you the true definition of happy. My parents needed structure, needed to be steered by love. They had no confidence and no self worth. Thus made me realize it is so simple and ignorant to impersonate happiness.