Buying a home may be a financial transaction, but it’s a highly emotional one, too. And while there are highs—like the moments you know you’ve found The One or you get the keys to your new home—you may also go through periods of high anxiety or hopelessness before you close the deal.
Ask any homeowner about their experiences buying a home, and you’ll hear a similar refrain: Purchasing property is utterly nerve-racking. With so many moving pieces, buying a home can feel like a high-stakes juggling act—only you don’t have time to practice.
As a real estate agent over the past four years, I’ve specialized in working with first-time buyers. Although each home sale is unique, I’ve noticed buyers experience some of the same ups and downs during the home-buying process.
Here are seven things only home buyers understand.
1. Online photos can be deceiving
Odds are good you’ll be spending a huge chunk of time looking at properties online, but listing photos can be misleading. Professional photographers and listing agents alike are capable of disguising flaws of all shapes and sizes. The only way to truly know what a house looks like is to see it in person.
2. Open houses are fun—until they’re not
Going to open houses gives you the opportunity to see properties without having to deal with the hassle of coordinating showings. However, it’s easy to get worn out. If you’re serious about buying a home, you’re attending open houses every weekend—which can get quite cumbersome, especially if you’d prefer to be out brunching with friends or attending Junior’s soccer matches. The important thing to remember is that your house hunt won’t last forever, in spite of how it may feel in the thick of things (see our next point).
3. Buying a home can feel like a never-ending slog
Finding a great home—one that meets your needs and (hopefully) checks off a lot of your “wants”—takes time. With all of my past clients, I showed each of them at least five properties before we made an offer on a home. (One buyer looked at probably close to 30 homes before we found The One.)
The lesson: You have to be patient, because it could take a while for you to find a house that you love.
4. Anxiously waiting to hear back on an offer
No one likes playing the waiting game after submitting an offer on a home but, unfortunately, this is simply part of the home-buying process. Whether or not you’re going up against other offers, the seller needs time to review each bid carefully. Furthermore, each state has its own legal contract that home buyers must use when making an offer on a property, and some jurisdictions require you to submit a mound of paperwork.
Once you’ve submitted an offer, though, the best thing you can do is wait. To minimize the pain though, I typically recommend home buyers attach an addendum stating that their offer expires in 24 hours. I do this for two reasons: It prevents the seller from being able to use your offer to shop around for a better one, and it gives you an exit strategy if you decide you want to walk away and look for another home.
5. Disclosures and home inspections? Terrifying
Unless you’re buying a brand-new house, the seller is required to provide you with property disclosures about the home’s condition. These documents can be a bit unsettling, as can a home inspection.
But don’t fret: These documents err on the side of too much detail, and often make a problem seem far worse than it really is. Make sure to talk them over with your real estate agent so you know what the repair work will truly entail.
6. The disappointment of not getting everything you want
If you’re buying a house, you’d better be prepared to negotiate. When you submit a lowball offer on a property, you should expect the seller to make a counteroffer. Both parties may have to make concessions in order to agree on a sales price.
A request for home repairs is another big point of contention. Home inspectors are trained to find every single flaw with a house, no matter how big or small. If the inspection reveals a major issue (e.g., a cracked foundation), that should absolutely be something you discuss with the sellers to see who will pay for repairs. However, you shouldn’t nickel-and-dime the sellers by asking them to fix every minor thing that’s wrong with the house; if you do, the deal could fall through.
Note: I always recommend including a home inspection contingency when making an offer on a property, unless the house is a short sale or it’s being sold as is, in which case you don’t typically have room to ask for repairs. A typical home inspection costs $300 to $500.
7. Getting a hand cramp at closing from signing all those forms
At settlement, home buyers sign a lot of paperwork to make the sale official—meaning your hand will definitely be sore by the time you’re finished writing your John Hancock on the last document. But trust me, it’s all par for the course—and well worth it, as I’ve seen time and again home buyers’ eyes light up once they’re handed the keys.
Daniel Bortz is a Realtor in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. He has written for Money magazine, Entrepreneur magazine, CNNMoney, and more.