Navigating the Costs and Stress of Selling a Home

Written By Sarah Ford

Selling your home is often a chapter-ending, page-turning event—a bittersweet intersection between farewell and new beginnings. It’s filled with nostalgia, memories of growth, excitement of change, and an entire history etched into the heart of a home. However, beyond the emotional ties, selling a home can be daunting, particularly when navigating the real estate market independently or for the first time.

Statistics suggest that selling a home ranks high on the stress scale. According to a recent study, 36% of home sellers said that selling their homes triggered more anxiety than planning a wedding, getting fired, or becoming a parent. This stress can compound when one steps into the labyrinthine world of real estate without an experienced guide, often amplifying the financial and emotional toll.

Nevertheless, selling your home isn’t just a clouded horizon. It can also be a golden sunrise, heralding an upgrade to a larger residence, a move closer to family, or a strategic decision to exert greater control over your finances. These potential benefits provide the buoyancy that counters the weight of the process.

Although the challenges in selling a home are real—both in terms of financial cost and emotional stress—it’s essential to remember that these are temporary obstacles on a path leading to something new, something better. After all, it’s often for greater living comfort, financial stability, or simply starting afresh that people decide to sell their homes. These motivations can turn the process from seemingly impossible to worthwhile.

Read More: Choosing a Buyer’s Agent- 8 Things First-Time Homebuyers Need to Know!

Why is selling a home so stressful? 

Most often, selling a home can be stressful, not because of the paperwork or the showings but also due to external factors such as timing, negotiation, economy, probability of the purchase, and many more.

According to a  Zillow survey in 2019,95 % of home, sellers are stressed about at least one element of the selling process. The house owners most often want to sell within a certain time due to other commitments. But not knowing if they can sell their house is 56 % of their concern for those surveyed. 

Also, before selling a house, the sellers have an estimate of the price they want to sell their house. 53% of the participants in the survey were stressed if they’ll get the desired price for their house. 

Another major concern sellers have is that an offer will fail to impress buyers (52%), spending time, money, and energy on preparing a home for sale (51%). Followed by a lack of control over the selling process and if the house will sell within the expected time frame (quoted as 46%) marks #7 in the 10 most stressful life events.

A few other concerns sellers have do not knowing if potential buyers are serious about their purchase or not (quoted as 44%), regularly cleaning and maintenance (43%), negotiating (40%), and keeping the house open for tours at all times without any privacy (39%). All these factors in selling a house can take a toll on even the strongest-headed agents. 

The research also dives deeper into transition for first-time sellers (45%), who found unexpected aspects like low mortgage rates and higher interest rates for their future home more stressful than to repeat sellers (29%)

Also, it is common for individual sellers to jump into the market without enough research and knowledge. The above factors cannot be completely eliminated, but they can be managed. This will play a very important role in reducing stress and thus having stronger control over the situation. 

Must Read: First-Time Homebuyer’s Guide in Texas – Navigating Your Path to Homeownership

2. Which type of seller is mostly stressed while selling a home?

The Zillow survey also reveals that more than three – a fourth of the American population who have tried selling a home in the last three years have felt this experience (77%) as stressful as going through a relationship breakup (78%). 

The other top stressful situation in an individual’s life is rated as – purchasing a new home (72%), wedding planning (60%), getting terminated from a job (58%), becoming a parent (58%), teaching an adolescent kid how to drive (53%) & potting a training a little kid (47%). Rightfully so, these situations are either life-changing or a first-time experiences, which can add to the mental pressure. 

Digging a little deeper into this survey, the process of home selling is found stressful for adults under the age of 35 compared to 73% of those age 55 and above, those with no children to take care of (79% vs 68% with children), which funnily, in general, can be assumed the other way round due to the added responsibility of a child. 

However, one in four sellers estimated the time of selling a home correctly, and the remaining thought the process took longer or even lesser than they expected. 

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3. What’s the factor mostly stressed for a seller?

There are many factors that home sellers go through in the selling process that contributes to a lot of stress. Most of them chose to sell their house to recover from a financial situation they might be going through, move cities, or upgrade to a new home. These major life situations are already stressful, and the factors below add to that stress. 

The following are the top situations that cause stress among sellers: 

3.1 Selling their home in a desired time frame 

Most sellers who want to sell their current home have made that decision for an important life event like their marriage, moving to another place, job transfer, or a financial crisis. An important life situation like this just adds to their stress and is required them to sell their home within a particular period. 56% were unsure if they’d be able to sell their house on time.

Sellers find it difficult to give off their house for sale within a certain time frame. Buying a house is a critical decision, and the buyer can spend a lot of time researching, finding better options with better deals, and consulting with their peers. 

3.2 Not getting the desired price for a house 

Adding to this anxiety, 60% of the sellers have to reduce their prices at least once before selling. Also, buyers have some exceptions on the selling price and concessions on the house’s repairs. 

This waiting time and closing costs have even made sellers break down five to six times in this process. It can be quite overwhelming and mentally taxing. 

3.3 Offers falling through when least expected

From another point of view, buyers also find it stressful to purchase a house; it’s a big decision, after all. They need to arrange for funds or sell their current house. If this process takes longer than expected, it can lead to the deal falling through. 

Buyers can also suddenly change their minds if they find a better deal or choose to wait it out. 

3.4 Upgrading and making repairs before selling 

One major factor sellers mostly miss out on is adding the cost of repairing their house before putting it out for sale. They underestimate the time and money it costs to make repairs, repaint walls, decorate, and plumbing in the kitchen and bathrooms. This can easily take two to three months. 

The burden of repairing a house before selling just adds more to their stress, which is why many choose to sell their house with minimum maintenance for a bare minimum market rate. 

3.5 Keeping the house clean 

Cleaning & maintaining the home for potential buyers to look at is the least stressful situation compared to the other above factors. But, it’s a good 43% of home sellers who’ve found it difficult to keep their house clean at all times.

Cleaning your house after every potential buyer walks in to keep it ready for the next one can consume much of the seller’s time and effort, adding to more stress. 

However, sellers are willing to go through these stressful situations to get the best deal for their house and to complete this process at the earliest. 

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4. What is the seller’s experience regarding stress while selling a home?

The seller goes through many overwhelming experiences, and a lot is going on in their minds at all times. During the Zillow survey, the respondents felt a lack of control over the selling process (63%), which is quite understandable because many of these factors are external, hence losing control. 

Decluttering (59%) and letting go of your belongings and things in your house, which has a lot of special memories, can be quite an emotional experience. Many sellers want to sell their current home to move into a new home or for a better house which also requires a sufficient amount of funds. To this time, the current sale with the purchase of their new home (58%) can be quite tedious. 

A few other things that the seller goes through are not lack of clarity if the buyer is seriously interested (57%), not enough knowledge about the overall selling process and the legalities (51%), keeping the house open at all times for tours (50%), all add up to their anxiety during this time. 

High anxiety and stress result in having meltdowns quite often. More than one in three (36%) have openly admitted that they have cried due to the extreme stress and pressure they’re adding on themselves. Out of these, 83% have broken down up to 5 times, and close to one in five people have cried more than this (18%). 

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5. Which type of seller is mostly stressed out?

Selling a house can be stressful, and, as per data, different types of sellers experience varying levels of stress based on their unique circumstances.

5.1 First-time Sellers

Particularly, adults aged between 18-34 are more likely to find the process stressful, with 67% admitting to the emotional turmoil compared to 39% of those aged 35-54 and 18% of those 55 and above. Their lack of familiarity with the selling process, legalities, marketing strategies, and negotiation tactics can contribute to their elevated stress levels.

5.2 Sellers in a Time Crunch

Sellers who need to sell their homes quickly due to job relocation, financial hardship, or other urgent situations face increased pressure. This stress is more pronounced among adults with children living at home, with 51% finding it stressful compared to 32% of those with no children.

5.3 Sellers in Competitive Markets

In markets with more sellers than buyers, competition can be fierce. Sellers might need to make significant home improvements or reduce their asking price, creating added stress.

5.4 Sellers with Emotional Attachment

Those who hold a significant emotional connection to their home, such as selling a cherished family property, experience increased stress levels. The emotional aspect of letting go of such a property can add to the overall strain of the selling process.

5.5 Sellers with Complex Transactions

Sellers involved in complex real estates transactions, such as short sales, foreclosures, or estate sales, face additional stress due to complicated legal and financial issues.

5.6 Sellers Going Through Life Changes

Sellers navigating major life changes like divorce, the death of a loved one, or downsizing due to an empty nest may find the process more emotionally charged and stressful.

It’s important to remember that 41% of people who describe the house-selling process as stressful have shed tears during the process, compared to only 16% who didn’t find it stressful. Therefore, seeking professional assistance, such as real estate agents, attorneys, and counselors, can make the process smoother and more manageable.

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6. How much is the stress of selling their house compared to other stressful events?

Selling a house is not just a financial transaction; it’s also an emotional and often stressful process. A survey reveals that most sellers lack control over the selling process (63%), and this uncertainty significantly contributes to their stress levels. Other factors escalating the stress include decluttering (59%), timing the sale perfectly with the purchase of a new home (58%), and not knowing if potential buyers are seriously interested or not (57%).

Additionally, mundane tasks such as keeping the house clean for open houses and tours (55%), understanding intricate details of the overall selling process (51%), and having to vacate the home for tours and open houses (50%) further amplify anxiety levels, even though these might seem less critical at first glance.

This immense stress associated with selling a home led more than a third of sellers (36%) to admit that they cried due to feeling overwhelmed. The study found that of these individuals, 83% cried up to five times, and nearly one in five cried more than that (18%).

Interestingly, sellers most likely to cry due to stress included younger adults aged 18-34 (67% vs. 39% of those aged 35-54 and 18% of those 55+), parents with children living at home (51% vs. 32% of those with no children), and those who describe the house selling process as inherently stressful (41% vs. 16% who say selling a house is not stressful). This data illustrates the considerable emotional toll the selling process can exact, particularly on certain demographics.

Selling a home can indeed be an expensive process. While it might seem that the proceeds from the sale would all go directly to the seller, there are many costs involved that can significantly reduce the final sum. Here’s a breakdown of some of the potential costs:

Read More: Mastering The Maze: Can a Buyer’s Realtor Represent 2 Buyers on the Same Property?

7. Is selling a home considered expensive?

  1. Real Estate Agent Commissions: This is often the most substantial cost a seller faces. The standard commission is typically around 5-6% of the selling price, split between the seller’s and buyer’s agents.
  2. Closing Costs: These include various fees such as escrow fees, title search fees, and transfer tax. These costs can range from 1-3% of the selling price.
  3. Home Repairs or Improvements: To get the house ready for sale, sellers may need to invest in repairs or improvements to make the property more appealing to potential buyers. This can range from minor cosmetic updates to significant system repairs or replacements.
  4. Home Staging: Staging a home can help it sell faster and possibly at a higher price. This may include costs for furniture rental, storage unit rental for personal belongings, and a professional home stager.
  5. Home Inspection and Appraisal: Some sellers opt to have a pre-listing home inspection and appraisal. The inspection can uncover any potential issues that may derail a sale, and the appraisal can provide a realistic idea of the home’s market value.
  6. Moving Expenses: These costs are often overlooked but are part of selling a home. They can vary greatly depending on the distance of the move and the amount of belongings being moved.

Selling a home can indeed be both expensive and stressful due to the many variables and costs involved, such as agent commissions, closing costs, home repairs, staging, and moving expenses. However, with careful planning, understanding of the process, and possibly the right professional guidance, these challenges can be managed effectively. Ultimately, while the process may be demanding, the financial and personal benefits of moving to a new home can be worth the effort and investment.

Also Read: How to Find the Best Old Age Home for SASSA Pensioner? [2024 List Included]

Written By:

  • An experienced marketing consultant with a decade of hands-on experience in real estate. You might catch her at a local jazz bar on a Friday night or at home experimenting with vertical kitchen gardens.

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