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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Finding the balance: Realistic expectations reduce stress of buying or selling

Jennifer Valerien, owner/broker of Re/Max Inland Empire, tells buyers they could make five to seven offers on homes before they have an offer accepted. (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Buying or selling a house can be an emotionally fraught time.

If you’re buying, you’re embarking on one of the biggest financial decisions of your life, but it’s much more personal than investing in the stock market.

You’ll live in the space and make memories there. And someday, you’ll probably sell the house, triggering its own set of emotions.

Jennifer Valerien, the owner/broker of Re/Max Inland Empire, encourages people to embrace the excitement of being a first-time homebuyer, and accept the nostalgia that accompanies the sale of a longtime family home.

“Home ownership itself is a wonderful thing and an emotional thing,” said Valerien, who is also a Spokane Association of Realtors’ board member.

However, having realistic expectations for the process helps buyers and sellers stay off the emotional roller coaster, she said.

“If you can take the emotion out of the process, you can reduce the stress,” Valerien said.

Financial prepardness is good place to start. She encourages buyers to get pre-approved for a loan before they start looking at houses. They should also create a monthly budget based on the anticipated mortgage payment.

Knowing their price range helps buyers who can afford a $225,000 house avoid becoming attached to a $400,00 property. And when a house has multiple offers, the financial due diligence will pay off. Prospective buyers will know if they can increase their offer without blowing their budget.

It’s not unusual for first-time buyers to fall in love with one of the initial properties they look at. But in today’s competitive real estate market, Valerien tells buyers they could make five to seven offers on homes before they have an offer accepted.

“They might find their perfect house, their dream house. They’re starting to mentally arrange their furniture in the space,” Valerien said. “I’ll try to curb that emotion.”

“I’ll tell them, ‘I don’t want you to get so attached to this house that you aren’t negotiating properly,’” she said. “Or I’ll say, ‘You might not get that house, and I don’t want you to become discouraged.’ ”

When she works with sellers, emotions can take a different turn. Valerien tries to help them see their property through the eyes of a prospective buyer.

“Maybe this is the house where they raise their kids,” she said. After decades of living in the home, each room is full of cherished memories.

When a prospective buyer asks for alterations after the home inspection, the owners sometimes are dismayed or feel affronted. Or, they’ve lived with an issue for so long, it’s ceased to bother them.

“I can’t believe they want me to change that,” they tell Valerien.

But features the owners are attached to, or view as quirky charm, can be deal-breakers in a sale. “You can take the memory with you, but we have to get the house sold,” she said.

New regulations – such as the seismic straps to secure water heaters during earthquakes – also can catch homeowners off guard.

“It’s not an attack on you or your water heater,” Valerien tells them. “It’s just a requirement now.”

Sometimes, the emotions stem from a couple’s differing expectations. Valerien encourages spouses and partners to talk about what they’re looking for in a house before they meet with a real estate agent. If they have an initial list, a the agent can help them refine it, she said.

For instance, a couple might say they need four bedrooms. But if one of the rooms will be used as office space or a craft room, it won’t need a closet or egress window.

“I have what I call my 85 percent rule,” Valerien said. “If a house meets most of their needs, we at least need to consider it.”

Working through the sale of a home after a divorce can be messy, but it doesn’t have to be, she added.

“It helps if the couple stays focused on the process – they are choosing to sell the house,” she said. “As the Realtor, our goal is to get the house sold.”

Valerien reassures clients that she’ll stick with them through the process of buying or selling.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” she tells them. “Trust me: You’re going to end up with the house you’re supposed to have.”