Buying a home impacts the mental health of one in two Aussie buyers

16 October 2019
  • Given the stress of buying a home 55 per cent of Aussies say they would rather stay in their current home longer
  • Aussies manage the stress of buying a home by talking to family and friends and re-adjusting their expectations    

New research from Allianz Australia has found searching for a new home affects the mental and emotional wellbeing of more than half (51 per cent) of Aussie home buyers, highlighting a need for potential home buyers to find effective coping strategies during the process.

While this might be the case, the ‘Australian dream’ of owning a property remains strong and the survey of current buyers who bought a property in the last five years and prospective buyers looking to buy a property in the next 12 months reveals their primary motivator is to own their first home (ranked first). Other key motivators include a change in lifestyle needs, like a change in job, or the need for a home office, and the need to upsize for more space.

Before entering the housing market, the research revealed buyers wished they had a more realistic view about the properties available within their budget (14.2 per cent), how long the process would take from start to finish (14.6 per cent), and the additional associated costs, such as mortgage insurance (20.5 per cent), the cost of moving (11.3 per cent) and stamp duty (9.0 per cent).

Top 5 things people consider in their property search:

  1. Price (46 per cent)
  2. Suburb (37 per cent)
  3. Size, including number of bathrooms, bedrooms and living areas (27 per cent)
  4. Proximity to amenities, such as schools, shops, gym (26 per cent)
  5. ‘The feel’ you get about the place (36 per cent)

This data has been calculated by the median responses from 1,000+ respondents, ranking each option from one to 12.

However, when pushed, location was more important than size; and quality workmanship was more important than price.

The research showed buying a home is considered so stressful that the majority (55 per cent) of those surveyed said they would rather stay in their current home longer instead of starting the buying process. In fact, almost one in five (18.6 per cent) Aussies, stressed out by the process, would rather go without social media for a month than enter the housing market.

Rachael Poole, General Manager of Home and Lifestyle at Allianz Australia, said: “Although the ‘Australian dream’ of owning a home is a primary driver of property sales, we know that buying a home is one of the most stressful life events. While this stress is understandable, know that it should be reasonably short-lived, with half (48.2 per cent) of people purchasing their home within six months of beginning their search for a home; 18 per cent in less than 3 months; 30.2 per cent in more than 3 but less than 6 months.

“To help manage the stress, many homeowners tell us they wished they had known more about the additional costs involved in buying a house, and had a better understanding of what was realistic for their budget, from the outset. Bearing this in mind, prospective buyers can reduce potential stress by better understanding the end-to-end costs of purchasing a property and what they are willing to compromise on,” Rachael said.

The Allianz research found Aussies are choosing to talk to family and friends (42.8 per cent) and re-adjusting their expectations (25.5 per cent) to help manage home-purchasing stress levels. Dr Sarah McKay, Allianz’s Wellbeing Advocate, said this was a positive start on the part of home buyers looking for coping strategies as human brains are wired to make emotional connections.

“We are social creatures, so connecting with family and friends throughout the buying journey can help alleviate stress. When we spend time with friends and loved ones, the bonding hormone oxytocin is released in our brain. Oxytocin not only makes us feel good, but it also counteracts the effects of the stress hormone cortisol,” Dr Sarah said.

“Buying a home represents more than a roof over our head. Our homes protect us, keep our family safe, comfortable and together and tap into our basic human need for security. With all of this at stake, it’s not surprising that buying a home can be stressful.”

According to Dr Sarah, we feel stressed when our coping mechanisms are overwhelmed. So finding useful ways to manage stress is important. Here are her top tips for managing stress during the home ownership journey:

  1. Re-think your stress response – see the positive in the challenge that may be causing stress e.g. a beautiful home for the family at the end of the buying process.
  2. Build your tolerance for uncertainty – practice tolerating a small amount of uncertainty is similar to building a muscle. For example, let someone else choose your dinner from a menu, or spend a day without researching real estate listings.
  3. Connect with others – moving is one life event to which most people are able to relate. Even if you feel you lack time or mental energy to socialise, have a coffee with a friend, ask someone to help pack crockery, or cry on a supportive shoulder over the dream home you lost in the auction.
  4. Practice gratitude – counting your #blessings is not just for the Instagram fans. Mental health researchers will tell you that the practice of directing your attention towards the good matters in your life, feeds positive emotions.
  5. Finally, let yourself grieve – if you did not get the house you wanted or the home purchase journey did not go as planned. Give yourself time.
The research was commissioned by Allianz and conducted by Pure Profile in accordance with the ISO 20252 standard. Pure Profile surveyed 1,003 Australians 25 – 55 who have brought a home in the past five years or plan to buy a home in the next 12 months. The survey is a nationally representative sample, which was carried out online between 28 August and 3 September 2019.
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