Even in the best of times, buying a home is fraught with excitement and uncertainty. But in 2021? The pressure is on, and you may feel like you need to buy any house you can get, as demand is high, and so are sale prices.
But once the closing documents have been signed and you officially take homeownership, you may be dismayed to find that your excitement has turned to disappointment — and even regret.
Earlier this year, a Bankrate survey found that 64% of Millennial homebuyers regretted their decisions. Not exactly the happy homecoming you expect when you set out to buy for the first time.
Fortunately, there are ways you can reduce the risk of homebuyers’ remorse — and mitigate it when it rears its head.
There’s a lot of pressure in the current market to move quickly when you find a home you like. The Covid-19 pandemic sent interest rates plummeting and home prices soaring, inspiring a mad dash on the real estate market.
People began buying houses in droves, and headlines about bidding wars became commonplace. When you finally find a house you like, chances are, you’re not the only person interested in the house and someone else is probably putting in a bid. You’ve got to move fast, which means you might only see the home in person once before making an offer.
Related reading: Worried About Home Affordability? Here’s How to Cope
Some buyers these days don’t see the homes in person at all. Instead, they rely on virtual tours and digital listings to make this huge financial decision. So it’s understandable that when they get to spend any real amount of time at the house, it falls short of their expectations.
“The process of buying a home is kind of like a wedding: it’s very exciting to plan and go through the process but once the wedding day comes and goes, you’re left with your marriage,” said Gina Baker, real estate analyst at Fit Small Business. “Marriage is exciting, too, but is a commitment and hard work, just like owning your home.”
If you find yourself feeling down after you close, you’re not alone.
But the feeling of homebuyers’ remorse doesn’t have to last. There are things you can do to boost your happiness with the home and banish the homebuyers’ remorse blues.
Find the right location, not just the right home
Yes, the house itself is important. But zoom out and consider where the home is, too, and whether the surrounding community meets your needs.
“With time, almost anything about a home’s physical profile can be changed,” Dukic said. “But the location is the evergreen fundamental that you’re signing off on for the deal. The location factor is, in my opinion, often under-considered. First-time homebuyers can avoid that mistake by spending real time in the market they’re considering before they make their purchase.”
One way to do that is by moving into a short-term rental, he said. “Short-term rentals can be a great way to immerse in local culture without committing to a long-term financial decision. Different from a year-long lease commitment, short term rentals can help families test different locales while remaining flexible to switch gears or move on a sale when they’re ready.
“Homes are changeable, but local communities, attractions, schools, and other resources are permanent—that should occupy a big part of a prospective buyer’s considerations,” Dukic said.
Think about the home’s layout, too, rather than cosmetic features.
“The most important things to consider are location and layout when looking for a home because it is very difficult to change a home’s location or the layout. If the paint, flooring, cabinets, or fixtures aren’t to your liking, you can make a weekend project of improving your new home or hire someone to make the changes,” said real estate agent Amy Kite. “The nice thing is you will get what you want and probably increase the value along the way.”
You may have made an offer after only seeing the home once, but after your offer is accepted, ask your real estate agent to bring you back for another tour or two. Spend time in each room, imagine yourself living there. Walk around the neighborhood and get to know your neighbors if you can. Ask them what they like and dislike about the area. Then, scope out what types of restaurants, schools, parks, and entertainment are nearby.
When you schedule the home inspection, try to be there in person so you can ask the inspector questions. As they fill you in on the house’s quirks and potential problems and costs, you may realize it’s not the house for you.
It’s not ideal to back out of a sale because you may lose the earnest money you’ve put down. But it’s better to lose a few thousand dollars now than to buy a house you don’t really want. Being brutally honest about the house’s condition and whether it’s what you want will help prevent one of the biggest financial decisions of your life turning into your biggest regret.
Among the Millennial homebuyers surveyed by Bankrate, more than 20% cited maintenance expenses among the reasons for their regrets. The financial realities of homeownership can be tough to come to terms with, especially when you just put down thousands, or tens of thousands, of dollars in down payment and closing costs.
But creating a repairs and home maintenance fund before buying a home can ease the blow. Even if you don’t anticipate major repairs upon move-in, there’s a good chance you’ll find something that needs to be replaced or updated.
Besides, appliances and major systems can break down any time. Designating savings for maintenance costs and repairs will help you adjust the financial side of owning a home.
After months looking at properties online, it can be tough to break the habit of opening an app to see what’s recently come on the market. But that’s a recipe for dissatisfaction.
Bitton suggested unsubscribing from emails with new property alerts, deleting homebuying apps, and clearing out any bookmarked listings you’ve been following. Focus on the home you have, not the other homes you wanted.
As in, why you bought this particular home in the first place.
“Going over the facts and reasons for why you bought the home in the first place is a great place to start when dealing with buyer’s remorse,” said KD Reid, owner of KD Reid Interiors in Newark, N.J., and New York City.
“You probably made a list of your wants, needs, and desired features in a house before you started looking for one,” he said. “Return to that list and see if your home checks off some of those requirements. You’ll see you picked the home because it fits what you were looking for.”
Maybe homebuyers’ remorse hits after you’ve moved in and have had a chance to notice the flaking paint, the cracked tiles, and the ugly fixtures you missed when you first toured the home. That doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause.
“Paint, furniture, and décor are simple ways to change a house into your home and dispel any disillusions when first moving in,” Baker said. “Making a home look and feel like you are ways to change your perspective and make the most of the property that you purchased.”
It also helps to let go of the idea that the house needs to feel like home right away.
“When you spend a significant amount of money on a purchase, it’s natural to have high expectations based on the amount of money you spent,” Baker added. “Keep in mind that you are putting a significant amount of money down as an investment that will continue to build over time and not to be disappointed that it didn’t mature overnight.”
If you’ve tried renovating (and some deep breathing) and you’re still not satisfied with the home, it’s OK to accept that this is not your forever home.
“Owning a home doesn’t need to mean being confined to it,” Dukic said. “Homeowners can view their recent purchase more like the acquisition of an asset. And in the current housing market, that’s what it is—home equity is accruing in the market at an incredible rate, and every address is becoming a highly powerful asset. From this point of view, there are endless paths of action.”
Among those: list a spare bedroom or guest suite on Airbnb to earn extra income and save up for your next home purchase; rent out the home while you travel; buy a new home and keep this one as an investment property. Just because you don’t love this home doesn’t mean you can’t find a renter who will.
Homebuyers’ remorse FAQs
Yes. Buying a house is exciting, but it’s also a stressful and sometimes exhausting process. By the time you get into the home, and the reality of what the property is actually like (and how much money you just put into it) sinks in, it’s normal to wonder whether you made the right decision.
But give it time. The house won’t feel like home overnight, and there’s a lot you can do when decorating to make the space feel like yours. If it never feels like home, you it’s not necessarily a loss. You can turn it into an investment property when you move into your next house.
These days, it’s pretty common. Sixty-four percent of Millennial homebuyers who recently purchased homes regretted their decisions, according to Bankrate. Homebuyers’ remorse can pass, though. As you settle into the house and add your personal touches and begin making memories there, you may remember why you chose to buy it in the first place.
Getting to know your neighbors and spending time in the community can help, too. The more positive associations you can make with the house, the better your chances of feeling good about the decision to move there long-term.
Feeling disappointed after buying a home is normal. As you make a list of all the things the house needs — a new coat of paint in every room, new bathroom tiles, a refinish of the hardwood floors — you may wonder whether you should have bought the house, period.
Rather than try to convince yourself you love the house when you’re really not happy in it, accept that your feelings are valid and normal.
Then, start small. Try to find something you like about the house, such as a picturesque view from an upstairs window or a cozy front deck. Even if most of the house bums you out, focusing on those bright spots can help you start to feel comfortable there and start to see the potential that’s there with a little bit of renovation.
No one buys a home with the intention of hating it immediately upon moving in. But it happens. If you find yourself in that position, try to keep perspective. You can update the home over time to make it more appealing. Meanwhile, you’ve made an investment in your future, said Aaron Graf, CEO of boutique New York City luxury real estate brokerage LG Fairmont.
“Remember that once you own, you have an asset. A home is the key to building wealth in the United States!” Graf said. “Always remember that every month when you make your payment you are building equity, and that will keep things in perspective for you.”
The best way to avoid homebuyers’ remorse, though? Don’t buy more than you can comfortably afford. Get preapproved, and ask your lender what your estimated monthly payments will look like based on your maximum preapproval amount.
That will help you think through how much you actually want to pay for a new house and what works for your budget. Because the last thing you want is to end up in a house you don’t like and that you can’t afford.