12 Reasons Buying a House is More Stressful Than You Think

Spoiler alert: Higher listing prices are just the tip of the iceberg.
Updated April 11, 2024
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Buying a home has always been a trek through hills and valleys, but the dips seem to be deeper these days. According to a recent Zillow survey, 50% of recent homebuyers said they cried at least once during their home search.

If you’re thinking about buying a home, brace yourself. One (or some) of these 12 homebuying woes can make buying a home more stressful than you think.

Just knowing what to look for, however, can help reduce this type of financial stress.

Higher mortgage rates can trump falling prices

Elnur/Adobe young family disappointed at high interest mortgage rate in bank

The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates several times this year, all in an attempt to quell inflation. But while such rate hikes ultimately might put a lid on real estate prices, it doesn’t necessarily mean buyers will pay less for a new home.

In fact, your mortgage might end up being more expensive than you anticipated, thanks to rising mortgage rates. A mortgage rate increase of even two percentage points can cost you hundreds of dollars more each month — and many thousands more over the lifetime of your mortgage.

Coming up with a down payment is getting more difficult

stciel/Adobe cash in the hand

If your monthly mortgage payments are too high, theoretically you could always make a higher down payment. The median price of a home is just over $400,000, according to the National Association of Realtors. And 20% of that is $80,000.

Since most of us don’t have an entire extra salary we’re not using, you’ll have to carefully balance minimizing upfront costs while maximizing long-term affordability. 

This is easier said than done in some markets, and you might spend weeks or months looking for a home that fits your budget.

Getting financing can be a challenge

Minerva Studio/Adobe man talking to a couple in his office

Even with good credit and a stable income, you might struggle to get approved for the mortgage amount you’re hoping for. That is especially true now that housing prices have risen so much faster than incomes.

And if your credit or employment history is on the shaky side, you might have a hard time getting approved at all.

Overlooked costs can put a home out of reach

fizkes/Adobe annoyed young lady look on pc screen

Even if you can afford the mortgage, it still doesn’t mean you can necessarily afford the home. After tacking on HOA fees, private mortgage insurance, and homeowners insurance, the house you thought you could buy might still exceed your budget.

When this happens, you have to decide how badly you want the home. Are you willing and able to stretch your budget, or would you be stretched too thin?

Competition remains fierce

BullRun/Adobe couple looking at house with realtor

Despite elevated interest rates and high asking prices, housing inventory still lags behind demand in many places. A slew of aspiring homeowners are clamoring for a limited number of eligible properties, and only the best buyer can win.

If you’re hoping to purchase in a hot market, you’ll need to move fast to beat your competition to the finish line. Be prepared to view properties and make an offer at a moment’s notice — or risk losing out to another buyer.

Pro tip: When you’re unable to see a property in person, ask your agent to go for you and video call you while they do a walkthrough.

You might not have enough time to find a good home

Krakenimages.com/Adobe middle-aged couple looking at the watch time worried

As we mentioned, inventory levels remain low in many markets. That means you have to move quickly when a home comes up for sale that meets your criteria.

However, not everyone can ditch work to catch a last-minute showing, and even fewer people can be offer-ready at the drop of a hat. If you don’t have a ton of extra time or money at your disposal, your home search could prove more difficult than anticipated.

You might have to compromise

Studio Romantic/Adobe real estate agent giving house tour to future buyers

Finding a home that doesn’t have a roster of more qualified buyers lined up and that checks all of your boxes has become a bit of a pipedream recently. If you’re determined to buy a home this year, you'll likely need to make a few concessions.

That said, you still need to be smart with your sacrifices. It’s one thing to buy a house in a neighborhood that will lengthen your commute a bit. It’s another thing entirely to buy a money pit two towns over just to say you bought a home. Remember: Compromise, don’t settle.

Negotiations remain a big part of many purchases

ASDF/Adobe business partners shaking hands after a successful transaction

How nice would it be if you could get approved for a mortgage, put in an offer, and receive the keys without any further to-do? Sadly, that’s not the reality for many homebuyers.

Because the real estate market hasn’t quite found its equilibrium, you’ll likely need to do some negotiating before you sign on the dotted line. 

Expect other buyers to make competing offers, and accept that sellers are likely to hold out for the highest bidder. Prepare for a little give and take before you can convince a seller to accept your offer.

Sellers can be slow to respond

Asier/Adobe man holding a phone with doubtful expression

Over the last year or so, sellers have undoubtedly had the upper hand. Some are still riding that wave, ignoring or blowing off buyers while they hold out for better offers. Others aren’t great communicators, taking ages to reply to offers and leaving your home search in limbo.

Pro tip: While you wait to hear back from different sellers, keep looking for and visiting other properties so you don’t lose momentum.

Bad agents can drag out the shopping process

fizkes/Adobe angry millennial couple argue with realtor

With the housing stakes as high as they are right now, the real estate agent you work with can be the difference between becoming a homeowner and staying a renter.

A disorganized agent might take ages to schedule showings, while a meek or untrustworthy agent might not represent you well at the negotiating table. Either way, their subpar performance could delay your home search — or derail it entirely.

Pro tip: If you do end up renting for a bit longer, be sure to check out the overlooked ways you can pay your rent.

The home might need extensive repairs

WONG SZE FEI/Adobe house renovation

Picture it: You’ve found the perfect home, it’s in your budget, but the home inspection just revealed why it’s still on the market.

Even if the repairs are financially feasible, your move-in date might get pushed back while the work is completed. If the repairs are too expensive, however, your home search will be right back at square one.

The process itself is exhausting

fizkes/Adobe Woman falling asleep at desk

Not all prospective homeowners are prepared for how taxing homebuying can be. The process isn’t always linear, and it can often feel like you’re spinning your wheels without making headway.

Each stage of buying a house, from pre-approval to closing, requires you to be both strategic and tenacious. Disappointments and dead ends are inevitable, and if you don’t build up the mental fortitude needed to push on, they can be incredibly difficult to endure.

Bottom line

Kzenon/Adobe family planning their kitchen with experienced expert in the shop

When it comes to buying a home, window shopping on Zillow is the easy part. Navigating higher mortgage rates, a volatile housing market, and competing buyers are where things get tricky.

But with a little planning, you can put such stress to rest and avoid mistakes so you can pay off your debt faster.

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Author Details

Sarah Sheehan Sarah Sheehan is a writer, educator, and analyst who focuses on the impact of health, gender, and geography on financial equity. Her ultimate goal? To live beyond the confines of chasing the next dollar — and to teach everyone else how to do the same.

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