Do you ever feel stressed about buying or owning a home?
For most people, owning a home is one of the – if not THE – largest investment in their life. Big ticket items, like a house, can often induce stress, particularly if times get tough. Since April is Stress Awareness month, I’m sharing 3 tips for stress-free (or at least less-stressful) homeownership.
Tip 1: Plan and prepare.
Preparation is the key to reducing stress associated with buying and owning a home. Learn as much as you can from others (family, friends, professionals) about whatever topic you are exploring. Buying a home? Building a pool? Installing a new water heater? Ask questions. Lots of them. But remember, you know your lifestyle better than anyone. What worked for another may not be best for you so keep your priorities in the forefront when making decisions. By carefully planning and educating yourself, you will gain the knowledge and confidence you need to support you and your family’s overall homeownership goals. And, when things feel confusing or overwhelming, take a moment to step back and breathe to regain clarity. (Ommmm…)
Tip 2: Know your finances.
Whether owning a home for the first time or tenth, know your finances. All of them: your available income, your assets, and your debts. Is there anything that needs to be cleaned up that would eliminate some stress? Know your budget for buying a new home or making a large home repair. Are you purchasing with cash or do you need a loan? If you need a loan, get pre-approved early in the process. What is your comfort range each month for all of your obligations, including all the expenses that come along with a home? (Think: change in utility costs, HOA dues, lawn, pool, house cleaning, etc. services.) Consider keeping a safety net in savings for unexpected expenses that may arise throughout the year. A good rule of thumb is to save around 2% of your monthly income (or whatever your budget allows) dedicated to home repairs. If you are buying a new home, you may want some additional money to tackle immediate repairs, decorate, or buy new furniture. When you have a good grip on your finances, it will help you stay on target, set proper expectations, and keep the stress under control when embarking on any new purchases. (Aummm…)
Tip 3: Reassess periodically.
I recommend evaluating your home costs at minimum, if not your entire financial picture, at least once a year. That includes asking some deeper questions: What was the purpose of buying the home in the first place? Was it to build wealth? Be closer to work? Be in a certain neighborhood or school system? Enhance quality of life? Does the home still serve your purpose or have your priorities changed? Evaluate your mortgage, insurance, and all other home related expenses (utilities, home maintenance, and even luxury items such as cable or memberships) to either make sure you still have the best deal or determine if there is anywhere to save if you are feeling pinched. For instance, call your homeowner’s insurance provider annually to review your policy. Major repairs, such as a new roof, could potentially lower your premium. If available and need be, tap into your home’s equity to help establish the safety net and rest easier knowing it’s there when and if you need it. This annual audit can help you be and feel more in control of your housing expenses on an ongoing basis. (Ahhhh…)
There are many things that can add stress to our lives. Our home doesn’t have to be one of them. So, if you are feeling a little stress - or a lot - particularly related to homeownership, take some time to plan & prepare, know your finances, and reassess periodically to remain cool and calm. There are professionals like therapists, financial planners, CPAs and me who can help!
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