The stress of moving house.
As soon as you mention that you are moving house, someone will tell you about the stress involved.
“They say it’s one of the most stressful things you can do,” is the helpful advice you will receive.
“They say it’s as stressful as having a baby or a bereavement,” they say.
In theory, it should be a simple process. You decide to move. You offer your house for sale. Someone chooses to buy it. You find a new house. Exchange funds and everyone lives happily ever after. But no. Unfortunately, the process is run by ‘professionals’ intent on stealing your money and killing you off with a stress-induced heart attack.
A brief comparison of stressful activities.
The stress of arrival.
When the little wand turns blue, you pretty much know, almost to the day, how long things will take. Generally, the timescale from when one of you is on your back with your knees in the air and a grin of contentment, to being on your back with your knees in the air and screaming profanities at the other, is nine months. If it goes on much beyond a few days over that time, the professionals will step in and sort it out for you.
You are unlikely to receive a message from the hospital informing you that you are no longer pregnant because the doctor has inexplicably changed his mind, or that the completion date has been put off for a month because your midwife failed to complete some paperwork and missed the deadline.
The stress of departure.
Once the doctor has signed the death certificate, you can generally work on the principle that death will continue for the foreseeable future.
The stress of moving.
Moving house has none of these certainties of life about it, and in an instant, you can go from being within sight of your moving date to being back at the start of the process. It is the ultimate game of snakes and ladders, but with every square having the ability to send you back to square one. It’s rather ironic that in a process referred to as ‘moving’ very little actually moves you forward when moving house.
‘Luckily’, we are guided through the process by ‘professionals’, so they will surely help us to fend off any stress involved.
The first (and sometimes only) task of an estate agent is to send you a contract notifying you of the absolute minimum expense you will incur. It will also point out (though not in so many words) that if they are no good at their job (they won’t be) and they don’t do anything leading to the sale of your house (they won’t) they will still expect to be paid, even if it’s another estate agent that gets off their arse and sells your house. It’s like a supermarket being out of stock of your favourite brand of pizza, but still charging you for it if you find it in another shop.
Another professional skill of your estate agent is their knowledge of house values, and they are trained to use this knowledge to fill you full of optimism and confidence (the technical term is smarmy bullshittery). Based on a rigorous set of criteria including: their daughter’s date of birth, their favourite number, and what they read in the local paper last week, they will miraculously create a number and suggest that this is the value of your house. They will also assure you that they will have no problem in selling it. Once you have signed the contract, they then do fuck-all and wait for a passing customer to pop in and make an offer. If, after a few weeks, the property hasn’t sold, the estate agent will suggest dropping the price. Not because they were completely wrong in their valuation, or because of their total lack of proactivity, but because of ‘fluctuations in the market’. With few available alternatives, you take their ‘expert’ advice, agree to drop the price, and continue waiting. Eventually, someone will show an interest in your house, and they will put in an offer. But not at the price expertly suggested by the expert. After much haggling, a reduced price will be agreed upon, and, more through luck than judgement, the house is sold.
With a broad grin of satisfaction, the estate agent congratulates you on the sale and extends a hand towards you. Although, this is not in the form of a handshake, but to hand you a massive bill for services that may (or may not) have been rendered.
Strangely, the percentage fee charged for commission is never affected by fluctuations in the market and remains constant, regardless of how little work they did or how much you had to drop the price to achieve a sale. Of course, you could call them to discuss the matter, but you are unlikely to receive a reply. As soon as they get your money they bar your number and go ex-directory.
The stress of life.
So, the next time someone says “It’s one of the most stressful things you can do,” just point out that it is the most stressful thing you can do.
Other life events may be stressful in their own way, but it is at least having babies or suffering a bereavement doesn’t involve estate agents.
The only real connection to other stressful life events is that moving house inflicts so much stress that there is always the potential of there being a bereavement.