real estate

As homes languish, seller stress soars

"Take it off the market," Brodie says. "But I don't think the high-end market is going to come back for a while, so it's not like you can take it off for three months and try again. They have to accept the reality of the market and make the move and move on, or be willing to wait, which in many cases could take years."

Seller meltdown

Meanwhile, seller stress in all of its various forms continues to ripple through the real estate landscape. Dallas RE/MAX Realtor Ken Lampton reports working with buyers from hard-hit Las Vegas who assumed that an 80 percent offer was far too high for any property.

Widespread Realtor stress even prompted the National Association of Realtors last year to update the "Field Guide to Stress Management" page on their Web site.

Lambrou has clients who have suffered mental breakdowns and even divorce as a result of recent real estate stress. The problem often arises from what psychologists term "catastrophizing," in which those under extreme pressure magnify the negative impact or outcome.

"Research has shown that in circumstances of depression and anxiety, people overestimate the threat, the negative outcomes, and underestimate their resources -- their job, their family, their social and professional networks," he says.

Although people typically think of post-traumatic stress disorder as resulting from fearing or actually watching a life-threatening event, the magnitude of an imagined catastrophe eventually could "border on being a traumatic event," Lambrou says.

"When people imagine the worst-case scenario of actually being put on the street, that could imprint as a trauma," Lambrou says. "So in that regard, it could be on the order of a post-traumatic experience."

Neubauer, however, doesn't see us becoming a nation of real estate basket cases. In fact, he thinks our current catharsis might even prove healthy.

"I think people are evaluating what is really important in life," he says. "I think we were a country of people that got a little bit paunchy and a little bit habit-driven, and now we're coming to terms with what and who is really important to us."

Helpful tips to avoid seller stress

Lambrou offers the following tips to avoid seller stress:

  1. Don't overestimate the threat. It is a natural reaction when stressed to "catastrophize" or imagine that the worst-case scenario is imminent. This is a good time to remind yourself that many less-dire outcomes are far more likely.
  2. Access your resources. Catalog your skills, professional and personal resources, and successes in your life.
  3. Take good care of yourself. Don't stop your healthy routines. If you have to cut back your gym membership, get out and walk. See a doctor and dentist on a regular basis. Eat well and get good rest.
  4. Don't go it alone if it becomes overwhelming. Don't just suffer with your problems and burn out friends and family by talking about your problems. Community-based agencies are available with few or no fees to provide counseling and help you cope.
  5. Fight stress. Practice active and passive relaxation, meditation, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation exercises and slow, deep breathing.

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