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Psychology of the Search: Hopeful home buyers feeling stress of being priced out of market

A mental health counselor and a recent homebuyer weigh in on the struggle and strategies to overcome the challenge of finding a home within budget.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Money doesn’t buy happiness, but the lack of it can be stressful, especially for those facing cash-laden competition in the quest to buy a home or rent an apartment.  

“A lot of hopelessness and despair and anxiety and sleep problems,” licensed mental health counselor Alisha Teague at Out Of The Box Counseling in Jacksonville said. She’s recently had people seek her help in the search for a house. 

“Every time they try to bid, they get outbid by $50,000 or more,” Teague said as an example.  

Though that anxiety can’t be quantified in dollars, Sinthia Marquis of Jacksonville, who recently found a home for herself after months of looking, said it’s costly nonetheless.  

“It was pretty stressful,” Marquis described her search. “You know, things are getting snatched up real quick in the areas that you can afford.”  

Even many of those who find a place wind up fretting that they’ve overextended themselves financially.  

“Someone I know was trying to buy a house that was probably worth maybe about $200,000 and they ended up paying half a million,” Teague said. “There’s definitely that buyer’s remorse of knowing that you way overpaid for a house.”  

So, what to do, especially given that some people’s searches are especially urgent based on their individual circumstances?  

“We first have to accept that we can’t control,” Teague said, explaining it is not only counterintuitive, it just might be the most important thing to do precisely when it’s the hardest course of action to take.  

“The first thing to do when we’re stressed about anything is to relax," Teague said. "And that tells your brain that you’re okay and then you’re able to think of long-term solutions. Because when we’re stressed we’re just trying to survive.”  

Sure, but what are some actionable steps we can take in the very moment when it feels like the sky is falling?  

“You can literally just breathe,” Teague began. “Taking deep breaths is telling your body, ‘Alright, we’re safe, it’s okay.'”  

In other words, start with the basics.  

“We have to take care of ourselves first, so that includes making sure that we’re sleeping well and eating well and exercising,” Teague said.  

Marquis said she often leaned on some deliberate techniques of her own.  

“I kind of practice my own form of therapy: Being out in nature, meditating, grounding myself,” Marquis said.  

She followed by smiling her way through some other examples of therapeutic distractions.  

“Go outside, you know? Take a bath, do something, have a glass of wine!”  

If self-therapy isn’t enough, Teague said there’s plenty more that a person can do – noting that these ideas don’t apply exclusively to the stress of a home search.  

“It’s good to have a notebook or something handy nearby, just to jot it down. We like to call it a brain dump just to get it out.”  

Yet another additional strategy, Teague said, is to spend a moment imagining the worst-case scenario in your situation.  

“And then make a plan from that," Teague explained, “because if the worst-case scenario is already going to happen then you’re already prepared for it.”  

“That plan could be that you downsize until the market gets a little bit more stable, or you live with family and friends," she added.  

Both Teague and Marquis commented that it’s a good idea to consider pursuing homes that might not be your first choice.  

“I may not be able to buy a house,” Teague said, putting herself in that hypothetical position. “But maybe I can buy a mobile home or a condo or something different.”  

Marquis said that kind of open-mindedness improved her focus and calmed her psyche.   

“Even if you think the neighborhood is not up to par or to your standards, I would still go check it out,” Marquis offered. “As much as you want what you want, the way the market is now, it’s too crazy to be too picky.”  

Teague also encouraged that people consider seeking counseling if the going is just too tough, assuring that therapy can be accessible even to those with limited savings.  

“There are community mental health, some private practice therapists, they offer pro-bono services for some or sliding-scale fees.”  

Marquis said she found her new home on Facebook Marketplace. As if anyone needs another challenge, she acknowledged that people should tread carefully using online platforms without help from a real estate professional.  

“Even with that, I would suggest being careful because there’s also a lot of scammers.”  

Of course, many hopeful buyers have been at least temporarily stepping away from the frustrating frenzy, which both Teague and Marquis acknowledged is perfectly okay to do.  

In the broader sense, Marquis urged that you don’t give up.  

“Keep looking. I had people help me look as well,” she said, finishing with an autobiographical prediction. "You might get lucky and end up falling in love somewhere you didn’t think that you could.” 

The following are links to mental health services in several area counties of the First Coast: 

Duval County: https://www.coj.net/departments/parks-and-recreation/social-services/mental-health-services 

St. Johns County: http://www.sjcfl.us/MentalHealth/index.aspx 

Clay County: https://ccbhc.org/services/adult-mental-health-services/ 

Glynn, Camden counties: https://dbhdd.georgia.gov/locations/gateway-behavioral-health-services 


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