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Buying and selling a home and the joys of waiting. How to stay sane.

Estragon: “I can’t go on like this.”

Vladimir: “that’s what you think.”

      - Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

 Whatever side of the home sale transaction you are on, either as the buyer or the seller, the whole process is undeniably a bit stressful. Even the Dalai Lama probably gets a little stressed out buying a home, and you know how relaxed he looks all the time.

The most excruciating aspect of the whole process can be all that WAITING! Waiting for this to happen, waiting for that to happen. HURRY UP already!  The house offer waiting game can feel like it goes forever.

It will seem like the laws of quantum physics and the space/time continuum are being violated.  Just ask Stephen Hawking about when he bought his first home!

There are periods of rush, rush, go, go…rush to go see a new listing, rush to make a decision whether to make an offer, rush to get an offer submitted, followed by....periods of deafening silence which feel like they drag on forever. Whoever said patience is a virtue obviously never bought or sold a home before.

Buyer a home and the stress from waiting to hear back

When it comes to buying or selling a home there are several periods of waiting, some longer than others and some potentially more excruciating than others. Allegedly, all good things come to those who wait, but first, you have to, um, wait!

Real estate waiting periods: The Classics!

The wait to submit an offer.

Sometimes the seller will set a date and time to review offers. In Seattle for example, it is common for new listings to come on the market on Wednesdays and Thursdays, followed by open houses at the weekend, and then on Monday or Tuesday, the seller will set a deadline for submitting offers. This is particularly common in a hot seller's market where the owners are confident of getting multiple offers

If you see the home the day it comes on the market and fall in love with it straight away, then you are going to have to wait a few days before being able to submit an offer.  You can try submitting a really strong early offer to see if the seller will bite.

The wait between submitting your offer and waiting to hear back if it has been accepted. 

How long after making an offer on a home do you hear back? Waiting for the seller to respond to an offer is probably the most stressful wait of all. You finally find THE HOME, it meets all your criteria and you really, really want that home! Unfortunately, so do four other buyers. You put your best foot forward and submit your best offer.

This is usually the shortest waiting period but also the most excruciating (assuming you genuinely want the home). You might even hear back by the end of the same day but it can seem like a lifetime of waiting. The clock appears to be going backward. All sorts of possibilities will go through your mind and you will drive yourself mildly insane by second-guessing yourself as you wait for the seller to respond to your offer.

Here's an example from yours truly from when I bought my own home...

I bought my home in 2003 before I became a Realtor. The home had been on the market for 5 weeks without receiving any offers. It was dated with few upgrades but I loved it. A 1932 red-brick Tudor with original floors, leaded windows, coved ceilings, and a great backyard with tall NW evergreens. I finally had my downpayment saved up and was ready to make an offer. I wanted THAT home and I wanted it NOW!

I made my offer on Friday afternoon expecting to get a rapid response from, I assumed, the desperate sellers. Next thing my agent informed me: “The listing agent said the sellers are out of town camping someplace in the Pacific Northwest with no phone or internet and won’t be back until Tuesday!’

 “What, FOUR whole days!! Noooo!!” (followed by a massive blood pressure surge).

 And so started one of THE most stressful few days of my life. Up there with breaking up, where you’re the dumpee, not the dumper (unless you were hoping to get dumped).

 And to make matters even worse, the listing agent held an open house that Sunday probably telling everyone “we have an offer” and trying to leverage it for a better offer. Grrrrr!!

 I parked across the road watching buyers go in and out of the home while screaming in silent desperation: “What are those people doing in MY home!” Yes, I was actively realestalking the place.

 The never-ending weekend dragged on, and then molasses Monday and finally trembling Tuesday arrived, but I would have to wait until that evening to get a response to my offer.  Yes indeed, a few adult beverages and comfort foods (cheesecake works wonders) were consumed those four ridiculously long days.

And then at 9pm, I got a call from my agent: "You got the home, there were no other offers."

All that stress for nothing. I could have been busy at Home Depot picking out paint swatches as normal buyers do on Saturday evenings in the early stages of becoming a renovations addict.

But don't forget the seller side: unless it’s a strong sellers' market, the seller will be stressed from waiting for an offer to come in the door. In a slow market, pre-listing optimism can quickly evaporate as the seller waits for the call they want to hear from their agent. "Waiting for an offer on our house" can be very stressful for home sellers.

The wait between submitting your inspection response and hearing back.

you the buyer do your home inspection including a sewer scope for older homes and have just spent around $600. You found some smaller items but also some significant, potentially costly repairs like the home needs a new roof, the electrical panel is not to code or the sewer line is collapsing.

 You want to ask the sellers to fix all the bigger items but you agonize between pushing for too much and the sellers completely refusing.  You have to decide what are reasonable home inspection repair requests. Or you might want to push for a price drop. You still want the home. You submit your inspection response with the requested repair.

And now you wait and start agonizing as to how the seller will respond. Depending on the terms of the contract you agreed to, the seller might have up to 3 days to consider your repairs request. Some sellers will reply the same day but many will use that full 3 days before they get back to you.

On the other side of the fence, the sellers have been anxiously waiting to see what you will find during the inspection and what list of items you will come back with. Most sellers, despite living in their homes every day, might be oblivious of needed repairs and code violations. The sellers hope you found nothing but they are probably lying awake at night worrying that you will find something major that might kill the deal.

The real estate time-bending phenomenon: when 3 days is more than 5 days! What?  For real estate contracts, time periods of 5 days or less do not include weekends or holidays. So, say the buyer has 3 days to do an inspection which starts on a Thursday and Monday is the 4th of July, then the buyer actually has all the way through the end of the following Tuesday. Now 3 days have magically become 6 whole days. Pretty impressive, eh?

 Waiting for appraisal results (one of the longest waits).

you have cleared the inspection phase and now it's time for the appraiser to make you wait. The lender orders the appraisal and in a busy market, it can be a week before the appraiser actually gets to visit the home and then another whole week before the buyer gets the appraisal report. That could be two whole weeks of perfecting your waiting skills.

This waiting for appraisal results period is just as scary for the sellers as it is for the buyers. Low appraisals can torpedo a home sale in double quick time (once the actual report comes in that is). You've come so far and now have this to deal with. Approximately 9 times out of 10 the appraisal will pass but it's that chance of not passing and that 2-week wait that can drive buyers and sellers climbing up the walls.

Probably the most frequently asked question I get from both home buyers and sellers is: "is the appraisal back yet?"  Yes, it's up there with kids in the rear seat asking every 5 minutes "are we there yet?"

Waiting for the loan to be approved (a less anxious wait).

after the appraisal step, you are about 90% guaranteed to close but you still have to wait for loan approval and the closing process.

"But wasn’t I pre-approved already?" You were pre-approved for a loan for a hypothetical home in your area.  Now that you are buying a specific home, you need to be approved for that particular home and part of that process was the appraisal. After the appraisal, you are still about two whole weeks from closing. Your loan has to go through the underwriting process before the loan is approved. Yes, it's another 2 whole weeks but you are looking good at this stage and can get busy packing.

Waiting for closing (happy waiting phase): Good news, your loan has been approved! You are almost over the finishing line now but still have a few bits of business to take care of now involving escrow, reviewing closing disclosures and statements, attending a signing appointment, etc. But who cares, you're 99% of the way there and can almost feel the front door keys in your sweaty little hands.

Tips on how to stay sane during real estate transactions

 Ask your Realtor to plot out a timeline on a calendar with the various steps and time periods clearly mapped out. Print it out and stick it to your fridge.  You might not be able to bend time or make it speed up but at least you will be able to see the deadline for completion of each step. You can gleefully watch the days go by as you edge ever closer to that magic day when you will close.

Have a firm grasp of how the purchase process works AND how the mortgage process works rather than just completely relying on your agent or mortgage broker for updates. Buyers and sellers who are knowledgeable about the process tend to be more relaxed about the transaction because they know what's coming next and understand why each step is necessary. However, it doesn't mean that they won't be immune to stressing out while waiting for the appraisal report.

Many buyers will have a decent handle on the home buying process but when it comes to the mortgage process, well it's just not as fun! However,  once you understand the mortgage process you will know what's going on in the background (while you're busy waiting) and maybe you'll be more willing to accept why some steps of the process appear to take so long.

And then you hit that last week before closing and you’re ready to be done with the whole thing. But wait there's more! And to help you through those last few days here’s a great guide to the closing process and the things you need to do that last week before you get those keys to housing Nirvana. Hey buyers, don't forget to do a walkthrough of the home a day or two before closing.

And now, some completely useless tips to keep you distracted and reduce your stress levels.

  • Try to train your cat on the meaning of loyalty.
  • Increase your alcohol or "medicinal" marijuana intake (WA and CO only please!).
  • Look for those missing odd socks that you've always wanted to investigate or that one missing piece from that 2000 piece Matterhorn jig-saw.
  • Take up smoking (but promise yourself you will quit on closing day).
  • Watch the complete Twin Peaks series in one single sitting (best TV series ever!).

 Vladimir: “that passed the time.”

Estragon: “it would have passed in any case.”

Vladimir: “yes, but not so rapidly."

-              Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot


#1 By Oneslip at 4/29/2018 5:21 AM

Thanks for the article- sitting here right now in the "waiting" for a response on contract mode hence looking up such articles as the one you printed. I realize exactly what the seller is doing, trying to seek any other serious buyers in the 2 days we have given for a response. Agonizing to say the least and a bit angering as I am the one that put pen to paper willing to commit to this purchase while the seller shops around my offer. I realize it is not personal & just business. I was hoping my agent and the seller already had discussions so my offer would be more of a formality than still debatable. Well, I do feel the house is over priced and given my offer was much lower but still respectable that may be my saving grace as many others would not even take the time to look at it assuming of dealing with a difficult seller. I'm still optimistic and hopeful a deal will be reached because I guess as they say what is meant to be is what is meant to be...

#2 By Conor MacEvilly at 4/29/2018 9:14 AM

Hey Oneslip
Thanks for your comment. I've been there myself. Yup, it can be agonizing waiting to hear back. A tighter response time would have helped but at the same time might not guarantee a different outcome. As you say, it's just business, with your agent trying to get the home for as low as possible while the seller's agent is trying to get as much as possible. Hang in there and good luck!

#3 By Oneslip at 4/29/2018 2:53 PM

Under contract! All that stress & worrying for nothing. Hope other's find your article that are in the "waiting" stage as it is on target. The only thing I can suggest is try to keep busy, I went to the gym, worked on my car and did some other things trying not to think or focus on why I have not heard back sooner etc. etc.
Have not slept well the past few days- something tells me I will sleep good tonight- until the realization of how I am going to pay for this hits!!

#4 By Conor MacEvilly at 4/29/2018 5:07 PM

Congrats! Always a huge relief to get agreement locked down. Time for a giant exhale. Agreed, have to stay busy with stuff you enjoy while in waiting mode. A watched pot never boils as they say. Good luck with the rest of the process.... and of course waiting for the appraisal to come back ;0)

#5 By Cheryl Wyatt at 5/15/2018 -1:21 PM

We just accepted an offer on our home, which wasn't even on the market yet! Now, we await the already-scheduled outside improvements to finish, before we can even ORDER the appraisal and we are due to close in 5 weeks. Patience is a virtue. We don't know where we are going to live yet ;-)

#6 By Brandon Richards at 6/5/2018 7:44 AM

The blog was well made and the guide was splendid! For those people who are struggling with selling their house fast, this is good news right here! Thank you for sharing and posting this blog Kudos to you and Good luck!

#7 By Pam & Ray Baginski at 9/24/2018 0:08 PM

We're waiting on the appraisal of our new home. It's been a hectic ride for sure. I keep myself busy packing things every day, it passes the time. Our closing date is 30 days away, We're counting down the days. All the waiting is so stressful, hope we hear good news soon.

#8 By Conor MacEvilly at 9/24/2018 2:27 PM

thanks for reading my article and for posting a comment Pam and Ray. Hang in there! Once you get past the appraisal step you are 95% home and dry. Enjoy your new home. Good luck!

#9 By moira walters at 10/6/2018 10:41 PM

Its late, I can't sleep, the closing was supposed to happen last Friday but my agent thought it was the following week, so now I'm a bit peeved at her and just wish the whole thing was over and done and that I had a new address. But now I have to wade through Sunday and find out Monday when the new closing date is and I hate my apartment. Time hurry up, please!

#10 By Conor MacEvilly at 10/7/2018 0:21 PM

Hi Moira
That is really stressful. Just when you thought you will finally be escaping rental-ville, you hear you have another whole week to go. Real estate closings don't always happen on time for a number of reasons. You're nearly there and you'll enjoy your address all the more when you finally get those keys on your hands. Goodluck!

#11 By Alison at 11/20/2018 8:00 PM

Thank you for the informative article. My husband and I are getting very antsy for our closing date. Was supposed to be last Friday, but the underwriter had a sudden realization that should have been discovered long ago, and is requiring the seller to pay for a second appraisal all of a sudden. We're glad that we're not responsible but it's pretty upsetting that we have to wait longer. Living in an undesirable place for a while now and hope so much that everything will work out. At this point our realtor is aiming to close by Nov 30, and the appraisal is scheduled for tomorrow, but then we have Thanksgiving and the weekend... Sigh. Keep packing, hope for the best, and find articles like these that give me peace of mind at least, plus encouragement and humor!!

#12 By Conor MacEvilly at 11/21/2018 8:39 AM

Hi Alison, sorry to hear about your closing woes. That is definitely an unusual one... the lender requiring a 2nd appraisal and having it paid for by the seller. Hopefully you can enjoy your last Thanksgiving at your current address and have a better one in your new home next year. Thanks for the thumbs up on the article. Good luck and hang in there!

#13 By Lizzie at 12/1/2018 6:45 PM

Thanks for sharing this article! I’m in Canada and the process is slightly different (no official appraisal step)
I had my offer accepted last night and the inspection and financing need to be confirmed by next Friday. I’m single so have no one to stress with and I’m FREAKING out. Worried about all that could go wrong. I am no longer looking at houses and that has been my destressing fun for the past few months. I can’t wait til Friday. I know everything is smooth sailing after that! :)

#14 By Conor MacEvilly at 12/2/2018 0:18 PM

Thanks for sharing Lizzie. Good to know that it's an international stress fest thing ;0). Interesting that there's no official appraisal step in Canada. Good job staying distracted. Yup, waiting sucks but Friday will soon be here! Best of luck.

#15 By Curri at 5/31/2019 8:40 PM

Man is this ever stressful! My husband and I are buying our first house and have saved for sooo long! Wanted to afford a nice home with plenty of room for us and our toys... Contract part was quick and smooth! We had our inspection done this last Tuesday afternoon, Thursday morning we digitally signed our "request for repairs" Here it is Friday @ 10:30pm and I'm already stressing out... our inspection report was lengthy. We only mentioned the major stuff in our request. Smaller stuff, we can do ourselves. What I find kind of amusing is the seller is a contractor... Just getting restless and hate to pack up a bunch of stuff to keep myself busy this weekend if there's a chance it can fall through... Washing vehicles won't do any good. I'm in Oklahoma and it's going to rain everyday this week. I see Melatonin in my very near future.

Thank you for your article!

#16 By Conor MacEvilly at 6/1/2019 -2:00 PM

Hi Curri. Thanks for the humorous comment! Yup, there's always that fine balance between pushing the sellers for repairs and not getting their dander up too much but sounds like you asked for the right stuff and are not nitpicking the small items. Hopefully you and the seller can reach a mutually beneficial compromise and move on to closing. I think you should wash those cars regardless...anyything to stay distracted ;0). Best of luck!

#17 By Westrom Group Real Estate at 6/17/2019 10:11 PM

Great blog!

All the information that you shared with us about buying and selling a home and the joys of waiting. is very useful and important. thanks for sharing this.

#18 By Katie at 7/11/2019 8:50 PM

Lol...what about the potential wait AFTER signing closing papers? We signed the big stack with the notary almost a week ago, and are still waiting. This process is insane!

#19 By Conor MacEvilly - author at 7/15/2019 4:54 PM

That's a new one Katie. Unless of course, you have an extended closing and the loan was approved well before closing and hence can sign early? Thanks for the comment.

#20 By A&P at 10/28/2019 4:29 PM

Thanks for the read, this waiting period is nerve wrecking! And it's only the beginning. We are waiting to find out if they'll accept our offer. It's a couple going through a divorce, they are unsure of how much they owe on their mortgage. Offer submitted yesterday and we leave for a vacation out of the country in 3 days.

#21 By Conor - author at 10/30/2019 6:18 AM

Thanks for the comment A&P. Hopefully, your offer was accepted before went on vacation so now you can enjoy some R&R. Good luck!

#22 By Cindy at 5/17/2020 7:32 AM

This article is so so so good. I love your lightness and your humor. I appreciate you writing about this very stressful period in someone’s life with such charm. We are in the appraisal phase hoping for the highest possible number as we are financing closing costs along with the mortgage. It’s a dreadful affair this waiting around... it really truly is! Thanks again!

#23 By Conor - author at 5/17/2020 7:47 AM

Hi Cindy, thank you so much for the nice comment. It made my day during these crazy COVID times. Yup, it can be amazingly stressful as much as you might try distracting yourself with other stuff. Just need a time machine with a fast forward button! Hang in there.

#24 By Ruby r at 7/12/2020 9:51 PM

we are waiting to hear offers on our house. Its been 3 days and we have showed it to people, selling it on our own. No idea if its a buyers market or a sellers market. Waiting is hard, don't know if we should reach out to them and offer steep discounts or just patiently wait. Its been only 3 days.

#25 By Vince at 7/21/2020 0:52 PM

Thanks for this post. My fiance and I are first time buyers. We're buying a newly built home that's move-in ready. Apparently the process is a bit different, but the stress levels are still quite there. We signed the contract last Thursday night. Deposit was sent to escrow before that. Seller agent sent contract to be signed by the sellers/builder that next day, Friday. Now we've been just waiting, and looking up articles like what you wrote to get some sense of sanity. I don't know what is taking them so long to sign the contract. We didn't change anything even though the contract was heavily one sided (seller's side), but we really love the house. So we're just in this limbo, constantly staring at my email inbox for new messages. I know it's a bad idea, but I find myself constantly refreshing that inbox. On the plus side, my inbox is now clean, organized, and filtered out spam/marketing emails.

Hey Vince: thanks for sharing. I love your comments, Classic real estate waiting insanity. Agreed, those new home purchase contract are completely stacked in favor of the seller, i.e. the builder! Depositing the earnest money before signing a contract is definitely a new one. Good luck! Conor

#26 By Sadia MacAlpine at 7/31/2020 5:33 PM

We just had an inspection done Tuesday and asked the seller to repair the mold in the attic on Wednesday. It is now Friday and we have not heard back yet. Should I be worried? We ordered the appraisal to be done. Not sure when that'll be but we close on August 13th. Which is a little less than 2weeks

Hi Sadia. Check your contract as to how much time the seller has to respond to you repair request. I had a buyer find the same issue during an inspection recently. If the seller has say 3 days to reply, that is 3 business days to respond and if Thursday is day 1, they will have until Monday to respond. They might be getting quotes to see how much it costs?...or just making you sweat it out and negotiate? Regardless, it's never easy waiting to hear back. Best of luck!

#27 By Jillian Kozak at 9/1/2020 5:23 PM

We are waiting to find out whether or not our offer has been accepted! We feel confident about our offer, but at the same time, it's hard to tell what the competition will offer because it's a seller's market. We are praying for good news and find out tonight or tomorrow. Hoping for GOOD news!!

#28 By Kerri at 11/29/2020 7:04 AM

This is such a helpful read. I don't feel quite so alone now. We have been going through the real estate gauntlet since August, and it is now November 30. First on the buying side...we finally got under contract on our future home after FIVE offers and the house going under contract with other buyers between offer 4 and 5!! They ended up walking away due to concerns over a barn wall. If that wasn't enough, we have had TWO sets if buyers walk away after inspection on the home we are selling. The first was due to the buyers putting offers on 2 properties simultaneously and the second was a cross country move where the cash buyer never actually set eyes on the house and after inspection realized it is not a NEW house, but actually 50 years old, smh. Considering it is supposedly a hot seller's market it feels like the opposite. So, here we are...WAITING for an offer after 2 showings yesterday and a 3rd that will be rescheduling due to car trouble (yay...another cleaning opportunity and a chance to load up my 3 dogs and 2 kids in the car for a few trips around the neighborhood!)! I find it all crazy-making torture. Fingers crossed we will be free from it all very soon.

Reply from the author: Thanks for sharing your real estate travails Kerri. You have definitely been through the home buying/selling wringer. It can be brutal but worth it when you emerge out the other side. 2020 has been such a fabulous year. Hang in there!

#29 By Ellie at 4/20/2021 4:58 PM

2020 has been a fabulous year?! Not from this side of the fence.
As the buyer's h3ll continues this year, closing times are being extended because of such rapid activity.
If nothing else pops up in the process, it will be about 3 weeks between appraisal and closing, with about 20 seconds for the official bank approval. And this is in a comparatively podunk area of upstate NY.
Trying to actually still care with all of this waiting.
I know, everyone is doing their job. But for a person of very little patience, the drawn-out expeience just kills my enthusiasm.
So no, no packing until it is really done. Because you just never know...
Thanks for the article.
Thanks for the comment Lisa! Yup, even after the appraisal is finished, there's a lot of navel-gazing to be done waiting for the current bottleneck to be cleared....UNDERWRITING...that is also sinking under all those current owners doing refis. Good times!

#30 By Crystal at 11/11/2021 2:36 AM

We submitted our request for repairs 10 days ago (minus 2 for the weekend and my head is spinning. We did request a whole new septic system but how long can we wait...our realtor said waiting is actually probably good news because if they were going to say no they would have said it I'll be here...picking up some new our closing date of December 1st slowly crawls closer...thinking at this point that date might change. This article was a tremendous help, validation that I'm not alone.
Conor the author says: Hi Crystal. 10 days is an excruciating time to have to wait but it's a big expensive repair and the sellers might be getting quotes? On the upside, it's really good that you found out that the septic is on the bling and didn't discover that the day after closing. Good luck with those new hobbies and attempting to keep your sanity..and glad you enjoyed the post. Yup, you are most definitely not alone. Good luck!

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