/ Home & Energy, Parenting

Buying a house or having a child – what’s most stressful?

Stress pencil

Our latest research has found that people regard buying a house the most stressful major milestone in their life (91%), trumping even having a child (81%). Where would you rank it?

You don’t have to be a homeowner to answer the question, either. With our research we didn’t just want answers from people on the property ladder, but also from those who’d yet to take the plunge so we could ascertain perception as well as the reality.

After all, home-ownership and property prices are no longer conversation topics that are the sole preserve of middle-aged dinner parties, but also dominate water cooler chat among a range of generations, particularly those desperate to land their first property.

And even those yet to realise their property ownership dreams are all too aware of the well-documented complications and stresses involved, whether it be trying to find the perfect property before someone else snaps it up or the emotional rollercoaster of the moving day itself.

Speaking from experience

I’m about 40 years shy of experiencing the last life milestone we quizzed people about (retiring from work), but I feel qualified to comment on the other landmarks, particularly as I completed two of them within months of each other in 2012/13.

Having rented for years, my wife and I finally moved into our own property just two days after our first child was born in January last year. We hadn’t planned for the schedule to be so hectic, but the early arrival of our son forced our hand somewhat. After having our offer accepted in September 2012, we finally picked up the keys in December and spent a month renovating the house before moving in.

Trust in the mortgage industry

Both events carried their own stresses – and the worries of parenthood have more of a lasting effect than purchasing a property. But, for me, the most marked difference was the feeling that the people helping us prepare for parenthood had our best interests at heart, which can’t always be said of those involved in the property and mortgage markets.

In fact, just 25% of the people we polled trusted the mortgage industry to act in their best interests. My experience was perhaps somewhat atypical as I’ve worked in the personal finance industry for a decade and I used a mortgage broker I trusted to find me the right deal. However, other parts of the process – particularly my dealings with the estate agent and solicitors – brought their own worries at certain stages.

There’s no magic cure that will make the process less stressful for house buyers overnight – and perhaps this makes getting your hands on the keys all the more sweet – but I speak from experience when I say that enlisting the services of an independent adviser means there’s one less thing to fret about.


No contest – buying a house involves things that can be put right if they go wrong. Having children – experience from 4 Junior Rs – is far more stressful for far longer (for ever, in fact). Will they be born without disability, will Mum be OK, will they continue to be healthy, will they do well in education, will they have happy relationships, where are they when they are late home – the list goes on no matter what age they (or you) are. But they are far more rewarding than owning any property.

Having a job. Done the above(kids and house) , and it was only the job that caused me to have a breakdown.

I have only moved house twice…..

When I was 16 I moved out of the family home into a flat right next door to Tesco where I worked at the time, then in 2008 (aged 20) I moved from the flat into my own house where I am now.

Wasn’t stressed at all. If anything it was very exciting.

As for kids, I have none and will not be having any so can’t comment on that 🙂

As someone, who changed country (Canada to UK), got separated (later divorced), moved to a new job, was made redundant and moved rented flats twice – all within 18 months – I would say it was far more stressful than a mere house move – that would have been a cakewalk in comparison.

I almost went under but didn’t.

I can’t comment on having children as that’s a milestone I’m yet to reach, but I’m currently in the process of buying a house and I would say that it’s shaping up to be of the most stressful and challenging things I’ve done.

It’s an emotional roller coaster whether you want it to be or not. Before we starting looking, I always thought I’d be able to remain detached and not get my hopes up before making progress on a place, but in reality I feel disappointed every time we lose out.

That said, I think both buying a house and having a baby will be incredibly rewarding experiences and if I’m going to be stressed about something, I’m happy it’s that – there are far worse things in life (some outlined above) to get worked up about!

Super-qualified to comment. I have moved house had three children and have been both a midwife and an estate agent. I reckon it’s 50/50.

Peter Fletcher says:
10 March 2014

We received an offer on our house in October 2013, my wife was not over keen on the idea of us moving home but I am of the thinking that now is the time to move house to better our financial position for the future. Eventually after many viewings we found a property that was valued £30k more than our accepted offer and it was very plush to say the least. Although my wife was still not keen on the move and made this clear by her digging her heels in and resulted in the two of us engaging in small arguments.

Our two sons were also not keen on the move so I was feeling very alone on this idea. To cut a long story short the chap we were buying from went very quiet? Both estate agents and solicitors could not understand what was happening and information was next to nil coming our way. This was all beginning to go very wrong and very quickly, February was turning into a nightmare! Our buyers were asking what was happening? The date had been set for exchange of contracts and on that day our vendor decides that he now wants to put things off until March 21st? At the fear of losing our buyers we had to now go and find another house and quick. We was given no reasons as to why he had changed his mind and the fact we had now spent approx £1700 on preperation to moving seemed to be of no interest to him and he has even continued to market his property?

We managed to find another house not 200 yards from the initial property and even negotiated a much better deal, our buyers have been so good about the situation. They gave notice on their rental flat and could not get this turned around when things started to go wrong so they ended up travelling over to Lithuania to stay with family until it’s time to move in.

We are now into March and our move date is the 25th of this month so this episode will all very soon come to an end. Throughout all of this I have been under the doctor for treatment for high blood pressure and as a result have now taken the dreaded step of having to take medication for the rest of my life, I guess the situation hasn’t helped my diagnosis but I do not blame it either.

Is moving a stressful thing to do? Yes I would say it is…..:-)

I hope your move goes well and that your wife and family enjoy the new home.

Certainly a lot of stress is caused if the seller pulls out well after the legal wheels have been set in motion and numerous expenses incurred; there’s no come-back and the costs have to be written off. It’s not unknown for the seller to stop the sale on the brink of exchange of contracts with a demand for a higher price [although less likely in the current market outside London & the SE]. It can also happen the other way round if the buyers get cold feet or see another property they like more so they walk away. I seem to recall that the Scottish legal system has a way of restricting this freedom to stop the conveyance but I don’t know the details. Buyers without a property to sell are also a mixed blessing as they won’t necessarily hang around if a seller does not clinch the purchase of their next property quickly.

Vacillation is the bane of the property market. So much depends on high quality estate agency support to keep everything moving along in the right direction and to motivate everybody else up and down the chain [including chivvying up the solicitors to minimise delays and prevarications over trivia]. Unfortunately, as lots of other contributors to related Which? Conversations have reported, estate agents often leave a lot to be desired. The only way I can see of de-stressing the buying and selling of houses is to uncouple the two transactions through having an intermediate abode so you can complete the sale of one house before buying the next. Apart from the obvious logistical difficulties, in most areas there are probably not enough properties, vacant and available, to facilitate this process.