Thinking of Buying a House? Learn From Other’s Mistakes in the Top 10 Regret List
If you are thinking about buying a house, there are many who have been through the process and whose experiences might help you. We can all look back on the big decisions in our lives and see what we might have done differently. The only productive reason to do this historical review is to share our insights so that others can benefit from our mistakes.
The emotional intensity of purchasing a home comes as a surprise to many homebuyers. Because emotions are so strong while involved in such a novel experience, the logical part of the brain might get left behind until after the closing. This is part of the reason for “buyer’s remorse,” that particular strain of regret related to home-buying. Your brain is trying to catch up once the emotions subside.
Certainly, having a tuned in real estate agent can help offset this, as can hearing from a buyer’s point of view.
Buyer’s remorse is not just about the money. It is also about a host of other decisions you make when making that home purchase. If you, the home buyer, could keep in mind that 80% of homeowners experience some regret after purchasing their home, for various reasons, maybe the experience would lead to less doom and gloom thinking. Normalizing your experiences by being in good company can take the edge off your journey.
Being able to share the thoughts and reactions of homebuyers so soon after real estate transactions was very difficult prior to the Internet being so accessible. Surveys were mailed with tepid hope since the majority were never returned. Now we benefit from speedier response times and less chance for people to forget the details of their experiences.
By culling information from several different surveys published in the last two years, some regretful themes emerged from the pool of buyers willing to respond to questions. These surveys are not representative of the home buyer population as a whole since there are characteristics related to responsiveness. But the top ten regrets can give potential homebuyers in the Hingham area and on the South Shore of Boston some preparedness.
1) House size and layout
One of the top regrets among buyers was not buying a bigger home. Almost 35% of recent home buyers wished they had searched for a larger home. Some people wanted more closets, or closet space, while others wished they purchased a home with more bathrooms. One gentleman likened it to buying a computer. “Always buy the largest capacity computer you can, and the fastest, because that way you won’t outgrow it as quickly.”
Define your priorities before you start looking and don’t think of them as negotiable. If you want two walk in closets or four full bathrooms keep looking until you find the right house. Keep in my mind the features you want in a house, but are willing to negotiate or adapt. If you fall in love with a house that is missing your priorities, all might seem well at first, until you hire a contractor who tells you that the supporting wall cannot be moved for your closet renovation.
2) Lack of knowledge regarding the home buying process.
Not understanding the step-by-step, detailed process of buying a house made buyers rethink preparing for the endeavor differently next time. One large survey reported that 38 percent of homeowners wished they had educated themselves about what is involved along the way to home ownership.
Buyers are often uninformed about the underwriting process and unprepared to collect all the required documentation needed to secure a loan. If you are serious about buying, start getting your paperwork and records at the outset.
Remember that any good real estate agent will be your best educator.
3) Renting for too long.
Wasting money on rentals instead of buying a house sooner was on the list of buyer regrets. About half of all homeowners thought they wasted money by not jumping into the real estate market sooner. Part of this was due to not knowing the ins and outs of the lending market and how much down payment is actually required to attain a mortgage.
Michaels and Barbara rented in Boston for too many years because they assumed that the city market was far beyond their means. “We looked at open houses in Boston,” Barbara said, “but the prices were so much more than we could ever imagine borrowing. But once we opted out of the city and went to the suburbs, and went through the mortgage process, we realized that it could have been affordable. And all that rent money just vanished.”
4) Commuting time
A little under 15% of homeowners who responded wished they lived closer to their work, or in a community with an easier commute. But that charming house that you always dreamed of made any commute seem inconsequential, until you settled in and winter snows ensued.
As ridiculous as it sounds, try the commute both ways, and in all forms, before you make an offer. Drive, take the train or take the boat and assess more accurately. Commuting is part of work life for many of us, and an extension of the work day. Making it easier will make you happier.
5) Neighborhood fit
Over 25% of homebuyers regretted not fully investigating their neighborhood.
If you walk into a pristine home with flawless hardwood floors and a completely new kitchen complete with granite countertops and custom cabinets, it might be easy to forget about the neighborhood. And if the price is right, you may not be able to focus on anything else. Once you are swept off your feet by the fantasy of living in the house, it is natural that the surrounding ambience takes a back seat.
Appeal to your logic and walk around the neighborhood, and at different times of day. Pay attention to what you observe and try to forget about the house you fell in love with. If any of the neighbors are outside, start a light conversation with them. Drive around on a Friday night so see how active it is during sleeping hours.
Elizabeth purchased a stunning reconstruction in a cozy neighborhood that wrapped around some playing fields. “I remember asking my real estate agent about it, but I was so in love with the house that I really don’t recall her telling me about the softballs, night games and cheerleading practices.”
In your dreamy state, you might try to consider the proximity of the grocery store, schools and commuting options. Something like the absence of sidewalks are easily overlooked, until you want to take a walk with your children and the family dog. Researching a neighborhood and community has never been easier with the availability of credible, data collection sites online.
6) Lofty renovation ideas
Casual talk of knocking down a wall here and there, installing a bathroom, extending the sunroom, and adding a garage is common. But if you don’t the cost of each project, and the time onvolved, not to mention the mess, you may regret your dreams.
Some home buyers have multiple skill sets for home improvements, or an endless supply of patience for plaster dust and noise. No matter what your skill situation, remember that your house will not be your own until the work is complete.
Many home buyers said they used renovation ideas to help them overlook what they considered flaws in the overall design or functioning of the house. Some were weary from looking at houses and not finding one that suited their needs, or feeling confident that they could figure it out once the stress of buying a house was over.
All of the people in this regret category wished they had brought a contractor over to realistically go over their renovation ideas.
7) Price of the house
Looking back and questioning the amount of money you agreed to pay for your home is nothing short of painful. Maybe you bought when the market was high and now look at home prices with regret. Or you could have been involved with a bidding war and let your desire to win the bid take over your logical thinking.
Don’t let excitement overwhelm you into making a decision you could regret. Aim for being satisfied with and slightly excited by your new home, even if there are a few negotiable features that it lacks, this is the salve to future regret. This requires patience and sometimes letting go of the house you fell in love with.
Be sure to get a clear understanding of the real estate market from your realtor. You’ll want to ask about different communities and then the neighborhoods within each town you are considering. If the market is very active then the seller’s have the upper hand, but in areas that have cooled off, you have a lot more negotiating power.
Some buyers regret the lender they’ve chosen to work with before they even reach the offer stage of the process. Shop around, and look locally too. The larger lenders have internal processes that can cause delays and local lenders are sometimes more accessible during the process. They tend to be more referral based and therefore want to make sure you have a good experience. Your real estate agent should be able to give you some recommendations of lenders that they have had repeatedly good experiences with.
9) Yard size
Believe it or not, one out of four homeowners have regrets about their yard. Half want larger yards, and the other half want yards that require less maintenance. Outdoor living spaces are one of the more important attributes to a home and have caused half of all buyers to make that offer. Whether it is a patio, deck, lawn or garden, even in New England where the outdoor space goes dormant, this is a critical component of attraction.
10) Emotional decision making
Many buyers wished that they had taken some time out of the home buying process to get clear on their priorities. Once emotions take hold, especially if you are worn out from the home buying process, it is difficult to know you are making the best decision you can. This is not to say that emotions do not inform us, but the balance of logic, realistic expectations and emotional input is what makes for a solid decision.
Try to be patient and wait for the right house to come on the market. If you feel like you’re talking yourself into something, it’s probably not the right decision. Understanding these dynamics will help prepare you for the negotiation process and make sure you don’t feel like you’ve made a mistake down the road.
Remember that with such a big purchase, possibly the biggest in your life, come equally big expectations.