Survey Says: Homebuyer Regrets (And How to Avoid Them)

Many Americans start out their home search starry-eyed and with vision boards full of beautiful bathrooms and luxury kitchens.  However, according to a recent survey of 1,000 Americans by Flyhomes, reality often falls short of dream-home expectations.

You can’t always get what you want

Buying a home usually starts with a wish list: items like a garden-ready south-facing yard, plenty of storage, and a big bathtub. In reality, more often than not people have to make some big compromises.

What does that look like, by the numbers?

Over half—56% of homebuyers surveyed—say their list of must-haves changed significantly from the time they started the process of home shopping until the time they bought their homes. 

1 in 3 people say that the house they bought did not fit the criteria they had for a dream home. 

Stress is common

Stress and homebuying tend to go hand-in-hand, even more than people think: 58% say that buying a home was more stressful than they expected. 

So, how did this stress show up?

Cry it out: 15% say they were reduced to tears by the process. 

Fight it out: One in 5 say they got into a fight with their partner while buying a home.

Talk it out: Two in 5 say they talked to their parents about it.

Play hooky: 16% say they missed work while buying a home.

(Don’t) sleep on it: One-third say they lost sleep over the home buying process.

Money talk

Buying a home is notably an expensive endeavor. No surprise there. But what does that actually look like?

Among first time homebuyers, 40% say they spent more than they expected to when buying a home.

Half of the people who overspent say that they paid more than $20,000 more than they expected to — and 14% went more than $50,000 over budget.


Nearly ¼ of those surveyed say they experienced buyer’s remorse when buying a home. 

What were those regrets? 

Too much $$:  36% say they spent more money than they were comfortable with and 20% say they paid too much for their home. 

Too many repairs: Over half say their new home required unexpected repairs or maintenance.

Too many taxes: A quarter say their property taxes were higher than expected.

Too far from the coffee shop: Nearly 1 in 5 say they weren’t happy with the location.

Too small: Nearly a third say they wished they’d bought a larger house.

Too few bathrooms: One in 5 say they wished they had more bathrooms.

Too little chef space: Nearly a third say they wished for a larger kitchen.

Too much upkeep: One in five say upkeep and maintenance was more work than they expected.

How to avoid regrets and surprises

Our Client Advisors, the agents who act as “head coach” to our homebuying clients, have three tips that help people feel less stressed while buying and more in love with the homes they buy.

Expect to pay over list price

In our HQ city of Seattle, about 50% of homes sold in January sold over list price. This is unlikely to decrease as long as home inventory stays low and homes continue to sell quickly.

So, if you set your sights on homes listed at the top of your budget, you’re likely to get out-priced or to spend more than you’ve budgeted.

Instead, search well below your max so you can comfortably bid up. If your budget is $750,000, start your search at $650,000 to leave room.

Also important here: Get pre-underwritten for absolute confidence in your budget. Pre-underwriting means you’ll have all of the loan process completed up front, except for the part that factors in the home you’re buying. You’ll know exactly how much your budget is (and how much is too much). That information will help reduce stress.

Remember you’re going to make the home yours

Unless you have a near-unlimited budget paired with a lot of luck, no home is perfect … especially when you first move in. 

There’s a big difference between a dream home and the dream of owning a home you love. That second one is very attainable.

It’s OK to be aware of things you’ll likely want to change when you can, like a kitchen renovation or an extra bathroom. Prioritize the wish list items that can’t change, like the neighborhood or the amount of yard space.

Enjoy exploring neighborhoods

Identify your favorites, and then widen the circle. Going a little farther from the hottest ‘hoods usually gets you more square footage and better amenities for less money. We too often see people overlook beautiful neighborhoods with great schools just because they aren’t buzzy. Be the one to start a trend!

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