After buying my first home in December 2016, I expected to experience nothing but positive feelings and a sense of accomplishment.
Instead, I felt unease, fear, and self-doubt. “Did we make the right decision buying this home?” I often wondered in the months after moving in.
I didn’t realize my home buying “hangover” wasn’t unusual. In fact, according to a survey from Trulia, 51 percent of homeowners regretted something about the home they bought or the process of choosing it.
It can be tricky to transition from picky buyer to happy homeowner — but it’s possible. Here’s how you can cure the four most common causes of homebuyer’s remorse.
1. You’re Not Entirely Happy with Your New Home or Neighborhood
It doesn’t take long to notice a new home’s quirks after you move in. That one neighbor who leaves their garbage bins at the curb for too long. The drafty windows that lead to high heating and cooling bills.
In my case, it was the fact that my street is on the route of a weekly late-night cyclist event that comes with crowds, loud noises, and even cop cars — with lights on.
Here are the most common reasons people regret their home choice, according to Trulia’s survey:
- The home is the wrong size: 42 percent said they regretted not choosing a bigger home (33 percent) or smaller home (9 percent).
- The home is too updated or not updated enough: 26 percent said they wished they’d completed more or fewer home improvements.
- The buyer didn’t know enough about the home or neighborhood: 15 percent said they wished they’d known more about their home or neighborhood.
What to Do About It
It’s natural for new-home infatuation to fade. Remind yourself why you picked your home in the first place by pulling out your initial list of preferences and reviewing it. Chances are your new home still meets the criteria of what’s most important to you.
Also, once you’ve closed on your home, stop looking at home listings — doing so will only lead to “what-ifs” and “could-have-beens.” Instead, focus on learning to love the home you live in and make a plan to fix the features you’re most dissatisfied with.
2. You’re Having Problems with Your Mortgage
Maybe you don’t regret buying your home — but you regret how you financed it. About 1 in 5 homebuyers (21 percent) regretted their choice of lender, according to the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study.
Here are some common reasons you might regret your choice of mortgage lender:
- You were a first-time buyer and didn’t have the knowledge and experience to effectively compare mortgage offers.
- You wound up with a mortgage rate that was higher than you could have received elsewhere.
- You felt pressured into a product that was a poor fit for you.
- You encountered issues with your mortgage servicer once you entered repayment.
What to Do About It
If you hate your mortgage, the good news is you don’t have to be stuck with it forever — or even for the next 30 years.
Instead, you can refinance your home into a new mortgage that better meets your needs. However, you will face new closing costs and will have to go through the whole mortgage shopping and application process again.
Still, refinancing could be your chance to get a home loan that fits your financial and homeownership goals.
3. You’re Not Feeling Financially Prepared for Homeownership
With big life events such as buying a house, it can feel like you could wait forever and the timing would never be “just right.” So instead of waiting for perfect timing, you might take the plunge and figure it out as you go.
Unfortunately, a leap of faith into homeownership can turn into financial free fall. Among homeowners, 9 percent agreed with the statement “I wish I had been more financially secure before I decided,” according to the Trulia survey. Younger homeowners (ages 18 to 34) were nearly twice as likely to cite this regret, at 17 percent.
If you’re unprepared for all the expenses of buying and moving into a home, you might feel overwhelmed. Although these costs might have seemed manageable on their own, perhaps you weren’t considering the whole financial picture.
What to Do About It
When you feel like you’re drowning in housing costs, that’s a sign to focus on fixing your cash flow — in other words, your budget.
Review your expenses and look for places where you’re spending too much on low-priority costs. Look for ways to lower monthly living expenses, such as utilities, bills, or transportation costs. If you shop around or negotiate your way to a lower rate on a monthly bill, you’ll reap those savings each month.
Focusing on debt can be another smart move. For example, it’s not just your mortgage you can refinance. You could consolidate credit card balances into a loan with a lower interest rate or refinance a high car payment.
Alternatively, see if there are any low-balance debts you could quickly pay off to eliminate the monthly minimum from your budget.
4. You’re Facing a Sudden Loss of Liquid Savings
Even if you’re keeping up with monthly costs, your savings account balance is probably much lower than when you were saving up for a house. A home purchase requires you to pour tens of thousands of dollars from a bank account you can access at a moment’s notice into a nonliquid asset.
Here’s what that down payment looks like in actual dollars, assuming a borrower takes out an average mortgage loan of $318,200:
- $20,311 for the first-time buyer paying the average 6 percent down payment
- $51,800 for repeat buyers paying the average 14 percent down payment
And these figures don’t include closing costs or other incidental expenses that come with moving and establishing a household.
After closing on our home and paying the down payment, I felt more anxious about our money. Having a buffer of just under $30,000 suddenly gone from our bank accounts left me feeling financially insecure and wondering if buying a home was the right move.
What to Do About It
When I got caught up in moments of worry, I reminded myself that I hadn’t “lost” the money I put into a home — I’d transformed it into less liquid equity.
I also set a realistic savings goal and made sure the earmarked funds were transferred into a separate savings account along with our bills each month. It required putting off some major home purchases, such as an updated refrigerator and a new sofa. But a year later, our emergency savings fund is exactly where it should be, and my financial insecurity is nowhere in sight.
For homeowners experiencing buyer’s remorse, simply acknowledging that it’s a common experience can help you understand why you feel this way. Instead of obsessing over your regrets, give yourself credit for all the things you got right with your home purchase.
And remember: Although your regrets might be real, you likely can make some adjustments to your situation or attitude to overcome them.