More homebuyers regret their purchase than ever. Here’s how you can avoid buyer’s remorse.
Buying a house is such a big decision and is so expensive that it’s totally normal to have some anxiety over the purchase when you close. But what happens if you keep having those thoughts a month or two after you move in? That’s called buyer’s remorse and it’s happening more and more to homebuyers.
According to this Zillow survey, 75% of people who bought a home since the pandemic began regret at least one thing about their decision.
If a house were more like any other product you could return it with a receipt for a full refund. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way. So, in this article, we’ll explain how to avoid buyer’s remorse and what to do if you’re already having some regrets.
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What to know about buyer’s remorse
- Buyer’s remorse is common
- People usually regret the size of the house and the amount of maintenance required
- Feeling better about your purchase takes time and some small adjustments
- Avoid buyer’s remorse by doing your research and making a great budget ahead of time
- Decide what you won’t compromise on before you hit the homebuying market
What is buyer’s remorse?
Buyer’s remorse is feeling regret after a purchase for any number of reasons. It’s common that you may feel you’ve spent too much money on a luxury good like a coat or a handbag. But you can also be surprised by the amount of commitment it takes to own something that requires your attention, like a car.
Buyer’s remorse can feel more intense with a house because of the cost and commitment. It’s not that easy to simply return or re-sell the house but there are a lot of ways to deal with buyer’s remorse.
Why do people get buyer’s remorse about houses?
A poll by Bankrate from May 2021 revealed that 64% of Millennial homebuyers and 33% of Baby Boomer buyers had at least some regrets about the home they bought. The Zillow survey goes on to say that the largest share of people regretted the amount of maintenance or the price of their house. The second-largest group of people felt they’d bought a house that was too small.
Some other reasons you may experience buyer’s remorse are:
- You can’t afford the monthly payments
- Your home doesn’t seem to go up in value
- The location isn’t everything you thought it would be
- The house is too big to maintain or to furnish
But why does buyer’s remorse happen in the first place? Well, for starters, the market is very fast-paced. In Seattle, the average number of days that a home was on the market so far in 2022 was just six days. In the Bay Area that number is as low as 5 days in some zip codes. That’s a lot of competition for the average homebuyer.
This report from eyeonhousing.org says that, even before competition spiked during the pandemic, the average homebuyer spent three months searching, touring, and making offers on homes. And most homebuyers had to make at least five offers before they won one.
All this competition can make homebuyers feel pressured to make decisions quickly and compromise on things like budget, location, and square footage. By the time the dust settles and a buyer moves in, the reality sets in.
What do I do about buyer’s remorse?
If you bought a house and are now experiencing homebuyer’s remorse, it doesn’t mean you made the wrong choice. Here are a few ways to handle it and grow comfortable with your new house.
Let out your frustrations
If you really feel like you made the wrong choice, let it all out. Admit that you may have made a mistake and take a deep breath. It’s not the end of the story.
Remember what made you want to buy the house
Something about the house caught your attention. Remembering what made you want to buy the house in the first place can help you manage buyer’s remorse. Whether it was the perfect office, the kitchen island, or the fenced yard, spend some time in the space that makes you the happiest.
Close the apps
Don’t look at other houses. Looking at other houses can increase your sense of uncertainty over your purchase. Rather than browsing other homes and wondering if you missed out on something, take a breath, look around your new house, and close the apps.
Make the home your own
Change can be overwhelming. When you move into your new home, you’re really moving into someone else’s home. They painted the walls. They chose the carpet. They chose the light fixtures.
Take some time to make the home feel like yours. You don’t have to fully redecorate, but hanging your pictures on the walls and getting your things into the house can make it feel more like home.
Reassess your finances
Maybe you can already tell that, in the long-run, the payments will stretch you thin. But you can likely manage to make it about five years before they get the better of you. That’s about the time it takes for your home to appreciate enough to cover your initial closing costs when you re-sell it. In the meantime, write a new budget with that goal in mind.
How can I avoid buyer’s remorse in the first place?
If you’re still house hunting, here are some ways to avoid buyer’s remorse and be confident in your home purchase.
Choose your non-negotiables
Get very clear on what you want before you start looking at homes. Create a list of things that you have to have and things that would be nice to have. There are lots of things to consider when you’re making this list including storage space, walkability, and size. A house hunting checklist is a great tool to use, so you can stay organized. Choose what you’re not willing to compromise on and stick to it.
The same goes for what you absolutely can’t take on, whether the budget or the square footage. Decide your absolute maximum and don’t, no matter what, go above it.
Decide on your budget—and stick to it
It’s easy to get carried away when you feel like you’ve found the perfect home. You decide that you can squeeze a little more out of your monthly budget to make payments on a larger mortgage. You can reduce the amount that you eat out or not go shopping as often. But the compromises that seem doable now can get old quickly, even if you can make the payments. How long do you think you can resist take-out or a little retail therapy? If you have to put off the rest of your life just to live in your own house, you’ll end up with buyer’s remorse.
Deciding on a budget and then not budging from it can help reduce buyer’s remorse down the road.
Understand what you’re getting
See the house in person. In the past, this probably wouldn’t have to be said (or written) but in the frenzied 2020 and 2021 markets, many buyers bought a house sight unseen. And not just because of the pandemic—homes were selling so fast in the last couple of years that many buyers didn’t even have time to see them before they made an offer.
Seeing a house in person versus looking at the listing photos can be very different experiences. Walk through the home and see what work it needs and get a feel for the layout to make sure it’s right for you.
Don’t waive too many contingencies
In order to win a home offer, you may have to waive certain contingencies that seem low-stakes. But some contingencies are there for a reason—especially the home inspection contingency. The buyers would love it if you offered to buy the home without doing any kind of inspection but if you don’t, you could end up with a real lemon.
Work with a trusted agent
A real estate agent can work with you to get the best deal and help you keep a level head. A home is a huge and often emotional purchase, so working with a third-party can prevent you from making a purchase you’ll later regret. Here is what to look out for in an agent.
Buyer’s remorse isn’t the end of the world
While experiencing remorse after buying a house can feel like the end of the world, keep in mind that it’s not! There are definitely things you can do to handle the buyer’s remorse that you’re feeling as well as steps to take the next time you decide to purchase a home. If nothing else, you can use this as a learning experience so you know what you can do better in the future.
About the author: Stephanie Mickelson is a freelance writer based in Northwest Wisconsin who specializes in real estate, building materials, and design. When she’s not writing, she can be found juggling kids and coffee.