Everybody will warn you that the path to homeownership can be fraught with a lot of difficulty. The stress of getting through a mortgage pre-approval and finding the right home for your needs is nearly constant until you finally have an offer accepted. When you actually get to “Closing Day” it feels like you can finally breathe an actual sigh of relief – until buyer’s remorse sets in.
This is the part of the homebuying journey that often gets overlooked. When there’s a huge amount of money involved, the last thing you want to do is end up regretting your decision. Sometimes, buyer’s remorse is just an anxiety reaction to what is, without any doubt, a monumental decision. Other times, however, it can be a very real – and unpleasant – reflection of the fact that you made a serious mistake.
So, what can you do to avoid the biggest regrets new homeowners have?
1. Rushing the Process
With the housing crisis escalating and fewer homes on the market, buyers have been feeling increasingly pressured to make deals fast – before anybody else snaps up the opportunity they see.
Unfortunately, that can lead to overlooked details and cause buyers to settle for less than they really want or need. You absolutely have to look at the “big picture” when you’re buying a home because it’s not just the purchase price that matters but whether or not a home actually fits in with your future goals.
You don’t want to buy a “fixer-upper,” for example, if you’re already spending 60+ hours each week at your job and don’t have the time to do the work on the home. If you’re contemplating having children in the next few years, you need to think about the lifestyle you envision for them – because that can affect how many bedrooms you need and whether a yard is important.
- What’s the solution? Take your time. Think about your needs today, but also consider your goals for the future and let both inform your purchase decision. Don’t succumb to the pressure of a hot market or other external influences. If a house gets grabbed out from underneath you because you hesitate, rest assured that another will come along. A carefully considered decision is more likely to result in a home that makes you happy.
2. Skipping the Home Inspection
Think twice (or more) before you make an offer without a home inspection contingency. (If anything, that’s the one contingency you should never waive, because looks can be very deceiving.)
There are tons of sellers out there who know how to make a property look appealing to the inexperienced eye while cleverly hiding some serious defects. As always, when there’s a lot of money on the line, it’s “buyer beware.”
What if the inspection comes back with a few problems and the seller doesn’t want to make repairs? Well, you have decisions you have to make – but at least you’ll be making them with all the information you need to determine if the purchase (plus any immediate repairs you’ll need) is still worth it. You won’t be unpleasantly surprised months or years down the road.
- How do you avoid problems? Make sure that you hire a thorough and competent home inspector to carefully inspect the property before you reach a final agreement with the seller. Work with your real estate professional to determine what repairs need to be negotiated and what you can do on your own with minimal expense and effort.
3. Not Thinking Hard Enough About the Location
The old adage “location, location, location” is never more true than when you’re discussing real estate. A home may have all the right features that you want and still be in a location you hate, and you won’t feel like your home is much of a sanctuary if your peace is constantly intruded upon.
Be very honest with yourself here about what you do and do not like in a neighborhood. If you’re the kind of person who loves your privacy, you may not enjoy a noisy neighborhood that throws block parties all summer. If you have kids (or intend to have them), you probably won’t be very comfortable in a neighborhood filled mostly with retirees. If you hate living according to a lot of other people’s rules and don’t want to curb your personal expression, skip the neighborhoods with strict homeowners associations.
- How do you prevent issues with location? Don’t let yourself fall so in love with a home’s aesthetics that you overlook everything outside the property’s boundaries. Thoroughly investigate the neighborhood dynamics by visiting at different times of the day and week. Walk around and get a feel for the overall culture, vibe, amenities and safety. Don’t forget to consider lifestyle issues, too, including what your work commute will look like and how close you are to the things that matter to you – whether that’s medical facilities, good schools, shopping or nightlife.
In short, the best way to avoid any real regrets (beyond the angst that a lot of people face following any major purchase) about your home in the future, is to take as much time as possible when you’re deciding to buy. It’s better to lose out on a deal than to have your “dream” home evolve into a nightmare of epic proportions.
As always, your real estate professional is there to guide you. Homebuying is a multifaceted process, and avoiding the most common mistakes takes a lot of self-reflection and research, along with strategic planning and professional guidance.