How life’s big decisions crank up the stress levels

Emma Thompson with her daughter Evie Preston and her mother Pauline Thompson, at her home at Yeadon, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme

Emma Thompson with her daughter Evie Preston and her mother Pauline Thompson, at her home at Yeadon, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme

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FOR EMMA Thompson, it seems life could not be more stressful than it is right now.

She’s in the process of combining two households into one, as she and her mother sell their homes to buy a bigger property to house three generations of their family.

Family mediator Anne Braithwaite, pictured in her offices at Albion Court, Leeds.''Picture by Simon Hulme

Family mediator Anne Braithwaite, pictured in her offices at Albion Court, Leeds.''Picture by Simon Hulme

Miss Thompson, of Yeadon in Leeds, is not alone in feeling that putting a house on the market, putting in an offer on another, finally picking up the keys and every form-filling legality in between is highly stressful. A new survey from Which? puts buying or selling a home above having a child, changing jobs or getting married in the stress burden stakes.

The only one thing more stressful, it seems - divorce.

Since putting their homes on the market in the summer, Miss Thompson, 35, and her mother Pauline have had their first dream property scuppered, but are now in the final stages of securing a new property in Rawdon.

For the mother of two-year-old Evie, it is hoped the stresses of the last few months will be worthwhile in the end.

“Mum is elderly, she’s 74 and has really bad arthritis and was struggling in her own home, so we had the marvellous idea of selling both our houses and moving in together,” she said. “But we could have never imagined how stressful and hard it would be. It’s 100 per cent worse than having Evie!

“But we’re hoping that once we’re all moved in, our stresses will reduce. Mum will be there to help with Evie, and I will be there to care for her if her condition gets worse.”

David Blake, from Which? Mortgage Advisers said there were a number of things would-be homeowners can reduce the strain of buying and selling, including speaking to a mortgage adviser and getting finances in order early.

He said: “We’re a nation obsessed with homeownership, but when it comes to buying or selling, our research shows that it can be an incredibly stressful process. Investing in good mortgage advice will ensure you find the best mortgage for your personal circumstances.”

Almost 2,000 people who had recently bought or sold a house took part in the Which? survey - and around 70 per cent said they’d found it stressful.

In comparison, just 40 per cent found getting married stressful, and 49 per cent said changing jobs was distressing.

Also highly stressful was arranging care for an elderly relative, which worried 68 per cent. But by far the most stressful life event was divorce.

This came as no surprise to family mediator Anne Braithwaite, who was a divorce lawyer for 30 years before settings up her mediation chambers in Leeds.

“With divorce or separating from your partner, you are dismantling the whole fabric of your family life, and other stressful life events, like moving house, are involved,” she said.

“You are losing your primary relationship - even if you are the one who instigated the spilt - and that means a lot of emotional upheaval. Also if you are married, a lot of your future plans are defined by that marriage, so there is a sense that you have lost your future too.”

Financial uncertainty, and the feeling of bereavement at losing the relationship also adds to the stress, she said. But mediation can help lighten the burden.

“Having someone impartial there, facilitating communication, can make the big decisions less stressful,” she added.

Top tips for reducing stress while negotiating the property ladder

WOMEN find buying or selling a property more stressful than men, the survey found.

Three quarters (75 per cent) of the women surveyed said they found selling a property stressful, whilst only two thirds (66 per cent) of men felt the same. These figures were mirrored when it came to buying a property, with 73 per cent of women finding the process stressful as opposed to 67 per cent of men.

Top tips for reducing stress while grappling the property market include:

- Know the process - if there a chain involved?

- Be realistic about time frames and when you expect to move.

- Know your limits - don’t overstretch to get your dream property, it may result in financial trouble in future.

- Get good advice - there’s more to the best mortgage that the lowest rate.

SUPPORT: Cameron Harper and Alex Craven who both have Cerebral Palsy.

Cameron walks for his pal Alex