Pam Kenyon’s new home seemingly has everything going for it. The spacious, modern kitchen is ideal for entertaining. Huge windows afford scenic views of a neighboring lake. The bedrooms are large and the bathrooms numerous. Compared with Kenyon’s former upkeep-intensive house, the new abode is a dream home.
So why did Kenyon feel so much remorse shortly after moving in?
“I just felt I really left a community behind and was in the middle of no-man’s land. I was mad that I had to move, and you couldn’t do anything to make it right,” the West Des Moines, Iowa, resident recalls. To compound matters, driving through her old neighborhood of lush green lawns and mature trees rekindled feelings of woe. Her new surroundings were barren and treeless. Seven years after the move, Kenyon still has what she describes as “what if” moments.
Such pre- or post-purchase pangs of consciousness are termed buyer’s remorse. Second thoughts can cast doubt after you buy virtually anything: cars, clothes, even meals. It’s just that with a home, such anxiety can be particularly expensive.
Real-estate professionals see it all the time. Jittery buyers can bolt before they sign on the dotted line. Others walk away after an offer is made. In Kenyon’s case, her cold feet developed after she walked in the front door.
The National Association of Realtors reports more than 10 percent of real-estate transactions fail. Buyer’s remorse is often a factor when deals fall through.
For some, it boils down to money. Dr. Steven Pacella, a psychologist in Pittsburgh, says buyers often “feel guilty about wanting things, and they feel guilty about spending the money on things like a house, and it may be money they really don’t have or is way more than they spent before.”
The emotional and psychological consequences of buyer’s remorse are often cited, but there can be legal consequences, too. When buyers walk away from transactions after a formal offer is made, they may lose earnest monies or expose themselves to lawsuits. Realtors, who work to avoid such calamities, may be dragged into the legal fray as well.
Barbara McGill, a Coldwell Banker Realtor in Charlotte, N.C., says homeowners can avoid second-guessing themselves if they are diligent and patient in their search for housing.
“What I tell them is don’t jump at the first thing, let’s look at the comparatives (other homes on the market),” McGill says. She counsels clients to consider not only aesthetics and financing, but length of commute, their tolerance for yard work and area amenities.
On average, her clients tour at least 12 to 15 properties to get a good feel for the real-estate landscape.
• Hire an interior designer to help you adapt your sense of style to your new space.
• Bring cuttings or favorite yard plants with you. Be sure to specify these items in sales agreements when you sell your existing home.
• Write down impressions of homes you may consider buying. On one side of the ledger, note what’s good. On the other side, note what’s not.
• Take the initiative to meet your new neighbors. Offer a welcome gift in reverse such as cookies baked in your new stove or a bouquet of flowers from your new garden.
• Say the proper goodbye to your former home. Remind yourself what was good about living there. But remind yourself why you’re moving and the positives of your new living arrangement.
• Get to know the neighborhood sooner than later. Visit the shops and stores nearest your new home. Get to know the owners.
• Avoid travel through the old neighborhood. Until you are completely settled, find a new way to work or frequent new shops to help you steer clear of your former abode.
• Renovate one room at a time. It can be overwhelming to look at the entirety of whole-house renovations. You’ll be happier when you don’t bite off more than you can chew improvement-wise.