Home shopping can be an intense, emotional process. Here’s how to make sure you don’t get caught up in it.
Ever bought something special and later realized you didn’t need it or like it after all? Usually, returning it is as simple as boxing it back up, locating the receipt, and taking it back to the store for a full refund.
But unlike store merchandise or even a car, you can’t return a home with a receipt, which makes the decision to buy even more stressful. You also don’t get a chance to “try before you buy” the home. You need to do as much homework ahead of time as possible, because in real estate “All Sales are Final.”
In a busier real estate market, with competitive bidding and limited inventory, you may feel compelled to go the extra mile to “win” a home. And then, it’s entirely possible that, within hours or days of getting the deal, you cool off and second guess yourself about any part of the home or the transaction. You decide you want to pull out of the contract.
Thinking it through
How do you avoid getting into this situation? To avoid buyer’s remorse, stay grounded by asking yourself the following questions throughout the home-buying process.
Must I ‘own’ this house or must I ‘win’ this house?
Often, in a competitive situation, a buyer just wants to win. If you’re competing and forced into a multiple-offer situation, step back and ask yourself: Is this the home I really want, or do I just want to beat out the other buyers?
Also, has the potential purchase price exceeded the list price? Putting an offer on a home at $475,000 is one thing. But a few rounds of counter offers may bring the price up over $500,000. A price $25,000 higher can create an entirely different set of circumstances, and the home may no longer be right for you.
Have I seen the home more than once?
There are hundreds of buyers who saw a house only once. Some international customers even purchase sight unseen. But this is the exception, not the norm.
No matter how much you think you love a home, if you’ve only seen it once, you could be heading for buyer’s remorse. Going back in the evening or a different time of day provides another perspective.
Also, you may see things differently the second time around. Often, you miss something in your first pass that stands out the second time around.
Have I seen the home from every angle and spent time in every room?
A quick tour of the home provides a basic understanding of the floor plan, condition, and size. But to really know a home, dig deep.
Walk to the end of the lot and look at the back of the home. Open every closet and go in the attic, basement, and garage (park your car in there, if you can). And look at the neighboring houses, too.
Have I seen a floor plan?
Reviewing an architectural floor plan provides an opportunity to see the home in a different context. It’s possible you’ll pick up on things you might have otherwise missed.
Have I reviewed the photos after seeing the home?
Going back to the listing photos helps jog your memory. Seeing the pictures, which are snapshots in time, will give you a different perspective.
Was the shade closed in the picture, and if so, why? Did you ever look out that window?
Does the photo remind you that the bedrooms are small because there are only twin or queen-sized beds without any nightstands?
These types of questions are a great way to evaluate if a home will work for you.
Have I toured the home privately?
Visiting a home with other buyers isn’t the best way to see it. You may feel cramped or rushed. You might want to sit in one of the rooms in silence for a few minutes, but it’s often not possible to do so at an open house. You may just want the time and attention of the listing agent, or maybe you don’t want anyone there but your agent.
If you’re serious about a home, go back for a private showing, because it reveals more when you have time alone there.
Have I done due diligence?
If you haven’t seen or heard about any disclosures before making an offer, it could be a red flag. In many markets, disclosure packages are available before making an offer. If not, a good listing agent will reveal the major disclosure items verbally.
Make sure the town sees the home as it is being presented to you, that all the rooms and renovations are legal and permitted. If you’re too busy to review the disclosures, you shouldn’t make an offer.
Also, find out if there have been previous contractor’s inspection, termite, or other reports you haven’t seen yet.
Is this home what I set out to look for in the first place?
Sometimes your path changes once you’re in the market. You realize that another area will give you more for your money. Or a home that’s in the school district you want needs a lot of renovation, which you hadn’t counted on doing. You may discover that with lower rates and being open to a new or emerging area, you can afford a better home.
When buyers are in the throes of a competitive home market, it’s easy to settle for a home that “kind of” works, or to lapse into autopilot mode. You may just be ready to buy and be done with it. You don’t think about things like the commute from the new neighborhood to your job, that you aren’t the renovating type, or that you never signed up for the lawn mowing and maintenance issues associated with homeownership.
A good agent will bring you back to your original plan before you sign a contract. You and your agent should review all the reasons why the home isn’t the right option. It’s better to flesh that out in advance than to ignore the warning signs and cancel. If your agent tries to talk you out of a house, that’s a sign of a good agent.
The contingency safety net
To help protect you from buyer’s remorse, always have an inspection contingency in your purchase agreement. Reserve the inspection contingency for something serious about the property you didn’t know before signing on the dotted line. Some agents call it the “cold feet” or “buyer’s remorse” contingency. It allows you to exit the agreement if something comes up.
If you think you’ve found the home of your dreams but have the littlest doubt, or you can’t answer all of the above questions, think twice about accepting that final counter or even making the offer. Ultimately, never sign an agreement if you aren’t completely convinced this is the home for you.