Counsellor Isabelle Anastasi tells Iggy Fenech how buying a property can be transformed from a stressful experience into a positive move forward. 

Like most clichés, that of buying a property is probably the biggest investment you’ll ever make stems from a lot of truth. Indeed, the financial aspect of purchasing a home is enough to make many run for the hills but, as counsellor Isabelle Anastasi explains, there can be a positive side to it if we just take a step back and breathe.

What makes people stress when buying a property?

On top of the financial aspect, which includes taking out a loan, making repayments for decades, and finding what you’re looking for within your budget and in the location you prefer, there are other things that add to the stress. For example, many have overt or subconscious worries about whether they have chosen a good location and whether they will have a good relationship with their neighbours. It’s for this reason that those of us going through such processes tend to fall in the pit of overthinking things by planning everything to the minutest of details and doing our utmost to gain total control of everything.

Some of us may also go into the process with high expectations about what we’re looking for and what we’re going to find. Meanwhile, couples purchasing a property together may have different expectations and, if not ironed out beforehand, these can trigger several arguments, making this process even more stressful than it already is.

Finally, but also crucially, the legal jargon in contracts and application forms does not make matters easier. This triggers a lot of fear and uncertainty, particularly as these can make you believe you’re making a mistake or will have to face consequences you haven’t signed up for. So, if there’s anything you don’t fully understand, ask for clarification – even multiple times if necessary.

How does this stress affect those experiencing it and those around them?

This process can trigger anxiety and strong feelings of doubt and insecurity. Buyers may become less focused on their day-to-day activities and become short-tempered, particularly if quite some time passes and you still haven’t found what you were looking for.

One way of changing bad stress into good stress is to treat the purchasing of a property as a project rather than a chore

This behaviour will definitely cause a ripple effect on those around you, particularly if you, as a friend or family member, become so emotionally entangled in the situation that you become unable to give unbiased opinions or advice on the matter. You may also find it uncomfortable to get involved in the situation, either because you don’t wish to side with either party involved in the purchasing process when an argument takes place or you do not want to be blamed if the wrong decision is taken.

There is a thing called good stress, which makes people perform better. How can people turn the stress that comes from purchasing a property into ‘good’ stress?

Good stress is also known as eustress in psychological terms and is beneficial to the individual. One way of changing bad stress into good stress is to treat the purchasing of a property as a project rather than a chore. How? By getting excited about it: Imagine what it will look like once it belongs to you; plan it out and play around with different possibilities in order to make it feel like your home rather than your property!

Exercise, however, is the ultimate key to turning bad stress into eustress: Go for a walk, to the gym or a class, so you can burn off some steam. It might change your whole perspective, honestly.

Finally, bad stress is usually turned into good stress by the way we think about it; the way our mind perceives the situation. Make a list of the negative thoughts that haunt you and find positive and believable thoughts which counter them.

Could you outline three practical things that people could do when they are feeling stressed about their property?

One can definitely talk and confide in a trusted individual, be it your partner, a family member, a friend, or even your agent. Seek reassurance from these people and do not bury your worries in your head. People around you can give you their unbiased opinions and feelings, which might help ease the stress.

Secondly, trust your gut feeling and keep your self-doubt in check. Tell yourself, over and over again if necessary, that your decision to purchase this property is the right one. There will definitely be some downs along the way, but you are strong enough to deal with them in the best ways possible.

Finally, meet up with a family member or a friend and enjoy the moment without worrying about the what ifs of purchasing a property. Go for dinner, a movie or a drink and do not think about it for some time. One day, you will look back at all this and realise that this was simply another hurdle that you managed to overcome.

What precautions should people take to lower the stress surrounding their property purchase?

Do your financial homework beforehand and set your priorities. Discuss your worries with those around you and try to be open to suggestions, advice and different perspectives on your project. Moreover, if you are buying a property with your partner, get ready to make compromises: both of you probably have these ideal mental images of what you are looking for and you may not always find what you are seeking.

Once again, trust your gut feeling. If a property does not sit right with you, do not allow anyone to pressure you into buying it. Do not rush into making this important decision. For most, purchasing a property is a lifelong investment, so try to make sure that what you are purchasing suits you and your needs.

Another important thing is to not look at properties that are over your budget. This may create more stress and anxiety, especially if you decide to still buy it knowing that you are not able to afford it. If you don’t purchase it, this may still trigger feelings of helplessness, disappointment and lack of self-worth.

Finally, be patient. You might need to look at quite a few properties before you find the right one. Don’t give up.

Isabelle Anastasi has been studying and working as a counsellor for the past seven years. She has worked both in the public and private sectors with children, young people and adults, encountering and managing different cases surrounding mental health. These include anxiety, depression, relationship issues, eating disorders and addictions, among others. She works on an individual level, as well as with couples, families and groups.

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