Buying a house? Prepare yourself for possible heartache…

Often seen as one of the main events ushering one into full “adulthood”, buying a house is not as glamorous as it seems. Depending on what age you’re looking to hunker down and buy that first home, it can actually hold a lot more drama, suspense and heartbreak than you could have imagined.

I know I wasn’t quite prepared for the emotional rollercoaster that accompanied my journey. For me personally, what started as a fun, regimented and research-laden task quickly spiraled downhill.

I am a user experience design researcher at a tech company and I revel in conducting a fair amount of research into anything I’m looking to do, buy or invest in. I didn’t enter the house-buying fray with the delusional mindset that I would find the perfect house without any setbacks — nor did I jump into buying a house when I felt I wasn’t ready to settle down. I felt I had control of my ability to find the house that met my requirements and that was within my preferred budget. I also knew that the house market in the city I live in was a “hot” market, and that homes in sought-after neighborhoods could be taken by other buyers very quickly. To summarize, I approached house buying with a calculated plan and tempered expectations.

However, all that research and preparation could not prepare me for the sadness, nervousness, regret and heartache I would experience in my search for my first home. Oh yea, and did I mention a scraped knee?

Much like how trying to find love and that “perfect soulmate” can often seem like a fruitless and maddening task, house buying also throws your emotions into a ferocious blender that blends your hope and dreams into a pitiful pulp.

I equate this feeling to how I felt a few years ago, when I was still single and trying to find that person with whom I could spend the rest of my life. Every new home you see pop up on Redfin or Zillow is like a new candidate with whom you hope to meet to see if he/she could be the one. Houses that looked so good in pictures that ended up being underwhelming upon your first visit are like the casual first dates/meetings that didn’t end up going anywhere because your requirements weren’t met. These are easily shrugged off.

It hurts a little more to see a house you like in person that is taken out from under you before you could even make a decision on whether or not you want to try to secure it. This is kind of like when you meet a person 1–2 times casually and the other person then decides you aren’t the one for them, even though you felt otherwise. Though it hurts, it’s usually not the end of the world.

What really, really hurts is when the house you’ve put a lot of time and energy fighting for what turns out to not be the “right” one. You end up having to come to terms with accepting that reality doesn’t match your hopes and dreams, and then working up the courage to cut ties. Essentially, this is like breaking up with someone whom you still care about because you know the relationship wouldn’t work out in the long run.

This happened a couple weeks ago to me and my fiancé. Though I am OK now, I didn’t feel like myself for a while.

We had found a house we both liked, and after initial concerns about the high price and potential foundation/drainage issues on the property, we had (maybe against our better judgment) put down an offer that was more than what we had wanted to spend on a house. Our offer was eventually accepted in a multiple offer situation, but not without a bit of countering back and forth (and even then, the price was above our comfortable budget).

Things happened in the blink of an eye and before we knew it, everything seemed to be falling into place way too quickly and way too easily. We were elated and maybe weren’t thinking straight because of the rush of positive emotion we experienced from winning the contract for the house. We thought we had did it! We thought we had found and secured our first house! We thought this house was the one. Happy though I was, I couldn’t help but feel a small voice in my head saying that it couldn’t be that easy — that something would happen.

And happen it did.

My mantra (for better or worse) is that whenever life gives you something that seems too good to be true, it usually is. I am a firm believer that most things you really want require you to overcome certain obstacles to get it — often unforeseen obstacles. House buying is no exception. Even though our offer was accepted and the home inspection technically went without a hitch, we ended up discovering something that didn’t seem right: dark water stains on the new engineered oak floors.

Uh oh.

Long story short, due to the drama that ensued around the possibility that this newly remodeled house contained a possible plumbing leak or foundation issue (which ended up not being anything serious), my fiancé and I decided to terminate the contract. There were too many uncertainties; and because the house was at the top of our budget, we decided it was unwise for us to continue pursuing it. We would already be paying much more than our current rent, and the financial strain could potentially put additional strains on our lives. After some discussion and debate, we decided that it was time to let it go.

I mentally prepared myself to be strong and to sign the termination papers when they arrived in my email inbox.

Easier said than done.

The kicker was that I still loved the house. A lot. So much so that when it came time for me to sign the termination papers, I couldn’t do it without my mind revisiting my pleasant daydreams. I often pictured myself cooking in that big, bright, open kitchen and smiling at my fiancé as he sat at the counter reading an article on his phone. I could also go into details about imagining myself dancing around and twirling in the master bedroom while the light from the sun shone in through the balcony doors, but I’ll spare you the details.

As I stared at the blank fields on the contract asking for my initials, I realized that I couldn’t sign the termination papers without feeling like a part of me was dying. I also couldn’t stop the tears from welling up in my eyes. It felt so much like I was saying goodbye to someone forever.

The thing that confounded me was that I felt so emotionally attached to something (not a person) I barely even knew. Yes, I had visited the house several times through the course of putting an offer on it and having it under contract — but I didn’t live in it. There were no real memories created there — just those I created with my imagination.

So then why did I feel so attached? That is the million dollar question.

In the end, I managed to sign the contract termination papers. My fiancé and I are now back to square one of the search — and while that took a little readjusting to (with me feeling a bit down and depressed for a while), I will admit that in hindsight it was the right decision. I feel free. That house’s spell on me has been broken and I’m ready to continue looking for the one. I did not expect a house to hold so many of my emotions hostage; it was a very confusing experience. I knew house buying would be stressful, but that experience took it to a whole new level. And as for the reason why I felt I became so attached? I think it was because I had started putting my eggs in the basket before I was able to pay for the basket to take it home. I had started imagining my life there before it became reality. And when reality didn’t conform with my hopes, I crumbled.

Dreams were dashed.

So to anyone who is looking to buy a house, expect the unexpected. Know that you may not get the house of your dreams right away, and that it may come one, two or five (or more) bids later. You may also find yourself feeling as insecure as you felt in certain relationships, much like I did. If you do, I want you to know that it’s totally OK. We’re only human after all. Where would we be if we didn’t have feelings, hopes and dreams?

So keep at that house hunt, even if it’s frustrating and gets you feeling down. There is always light at the end of the tunnel — but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to prepare yourself for some heartbreaks along the road.