How to avoid catching a case of homebuyer’s remorse

While people don’t expect to buy a perfect home, they hope to at least be satisfied, and want a property they’ll love for a long time.

The sad truth is that many current homeowners didn’t find a home that they still love. According to The Federal Savings Bank, a survey of more than 2,000 adults — conducted in April 2014 by online real estate marketplace Redfin — one in four US homeowners have buyer’s remorse. If given the chance to purchase their home again, these Americans would look for greener pastures.

When breaking the data down by age, 85 percent of respondents 65 or older didn’t have buyer’s remorse. Seventy-two percent of owners between 18 and 64 also felt this way. Given that many retirees upgrade to the type of home they’ve always wanted once they hit the golden years, their higher rate of satisfaction is not surprising.

How to avoid catching a case of homebuyer's remorseWomen respondents and those with children younger than 18 in their home also had higher levels of buyer’s remorse. In regard to regional differences, respondents in the Midwest (28 percent) and Northeast (27 percent) more often reported that they wouldn’t purchase their home again. In the South and West, home regret was at 25 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

Tips for avoiding homebuyer’s remorse

So you’re ready to meet the challenge of buying a new home? A new home purchase should be a joyous occasion for a lot longer than just the week you move in.

With some common-sense planning, you can avoid common buyer mistakes and steer yourself towards success. Here are some steps to take that can help you making a huge purchase that you might come to regret.

1) Stay away from the impulse buy

In order to skip this mistake, RealtyPin recommends that you do some serious research on your specific needs.

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For example:

  • How do the local schools rate?
  • Are there parks or recreation facilities that fit your needs?
  • Can you tolerate the traffic?
  • Is there sufficient shopping?

In other words, rate areas in terms of what is important to you personally. You might find your “dream house” only to discover that re-sales are terrible, the schools are abysmal, traffic is a nightmare, or that aircraft patterns go right over the front yard!

Bottom line — make your dream home earn its stripes. Before you commit to a long term relationship, make certain you are compatible.

2) Get some help

Redfin suggests that home buyers work with a real estate agent. Given the competitive nature of the current market and fast-moving sales, buyers can often jump at the first available property that meets a few of their needs. Agents are there to turn you away from bad impulse purchases.

Begin your search with a buyer’s agent, says RealtyPin — but you may want to resist the urge to call the number on a for sale sign, because the seller’s agent works for the seller. You need an agent who will work on your behalf, and who will negotiate with your interests in mind.

You might also want to consider a real estate attorney. It’s a good idea to find a suitable lawyer as your search begins, rather than in the midst of it. A real estate attorney is best suited to protect you from unexpected terms or surprises when it’s time to sign on the dotted line.

3) Set some limits

Don’t make the classic mistake of buying into more than you can afford. Needless to say, your first responsibility is to pay for your mortgage, taxes, and insurance.

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If you’re set on upgrades or remodeling, can you fit them into your budget? What about furnishings? Can you afford the extra furniture for those extra bedrooms or for that huge new living room?

And what about utilities? Those cathedral ceilings are breathtaking… but have you considered the additional energy costs?

4) Be ready to act quickly, but intelligently

Being ready to pounce on a home you want doesn’t mean acting irresponsibly.

“Yes, we’re advising people to do things as quickly as possible, but there’s a rational, intelligent, responsible way to do that,” says James Paffrath, the co-owner of “By getting all of their ducks in a row before they start house-hunting, they can work fast without making a mistake that they’re going to regret later.”

You should start by talking to a mortgage broker or lenders — getting preapproved for a loan, and even getting mortgage rates locked in to potentially avoid paying thousands more later. “Just a slight rate increase can take that dream home and turn it into a property that buyers can’t afford,” says Paffrath.

5 Don’t cut corners on the home inspection

What’s the best way not to end up with a lemon of a house? Get someone knowledgeable to check over the details.

Lenders require a home inspection before they will approve a loan, but the bank generally pays only for standard home inspections that cover the most major structural components — such as walls, support, electrical, and plumbing.

Buyers are wise to pay for more thorough inspections to include foundations, structure, roof integrity, heating and air conditioning (HVAC), siding, windows and doors, moisture damage, etc. A minor investment with your own inspector is a small price to pay in exchange for enormous deficiencies later.

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6) Remember that it’s not a competition

If the home you want is in a desirable area or is a particularly amazing deal, you may end up in a bidding war — when there are multiple offers on the same property. “Buyers are hungry, and they’re willing to fight over the homes that are available,” says Paffrath.

What’s important is to keep your true goal in mind: a house that you love, not just being the “winner.” A competitive attitude can be ones downfall if their only goal is winning the home rather than getting a property they want. Federal Savings Bank reminds you to keep in mind that if the home’s features or price — which can escalate after several bids — don’t fit, there really is no way to win.

7) Check, doublecheck, triplecheck

Be sure to visit the house more than once and examine each room. Check out the property at different times of the day to get a different perspective. If it has a garage, you might even consider testing the width and height to see if your cars will fit.

Also try to have a private tour. When viewing the home with a group, you’re moving through the property at the selling agent’s pace, thereby shortening the time to view the home.

After seeing the home, compare the in-person experience to the photos in the listing ad. For example: note the differences and consider reasons why the storage closet is open and clean in the pictures, but locked when you visited. No detail is too small to be absolved of scrutiny.

Ultimately, with smart planning and a realistic approach to home buying, you really can enjoy the dream of owning a home that’s just right for you.

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