Real Estate Regret Is Real—Avoid These Mistakes

A public service announcement for all potential home buyers.

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Buying a home is stressful enough, but factors of uncertainty make it all the more difficult. And if you’re a bit of a commitment-phobe, about to drop potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home (or even a couple of thousand as a security deposit on your dream apartment rental), it better be as near perfection as humanly possible.

So, take it from people who know: real estate experts. Back in July 2017, Trulia released a survey in which it polled 2,264 US adults about their biggest home buying regrets—so that we can learn from their mistakes, and hopefully relieve a little of the stress surrounding homeownership in the process.

The findings were reassuring, especially if you’re someone who’s currently experiencing some form of real estate regret and wondering if you’re alone. Spoiler: You’re not. Turns out, 44 percent of Americans have some form of regret about their current home or the home buying process—a slight decrease from the 46 percent in 2012, but a substantial percentage nonetheless. Trulia’s report found a discrepancy in regret according to age, with millennials showing the most disappointment (71 percent), while those 65 years and older seemed happier with their investment (only 28 percent exhibited regret).

So, what are these regrets, and how can you be sure you avoid them before taking the plunge? We scoured the Trulia report and polled a few experts of our own to create an advisory guide that anyone interested in buying a home definitely needs to consider. Here’s what they had to say.

Don’t sleep on a great deal.

You find your dream home. It has French doors and a patio ripe for summer entertaining. It even has space for a home office so that you can avoid a hellish commute and occasionally work from home. Here’s the thing: If you’re sold on the home, chances, are others will be too—so while you should never rush into a big purchase, don’t wait around for someone else to.

“Buyers and renters usually tend to wait too long for deals,” says Agent Kevin Djungu of Warburg Realty. “Nobody likes to be the first one to pull the trigger. They think if a unit is sitting on the market, then something must be wrong with it, [or] they wait for other people to start buying or renting so they can jump in as well… at that point, prices just increase by the demand, and they end up missing on their first chance.”

Don’t think too small.

According to the Trulia report, a pretty large portion of regrets came either from renters who wished they had decided to buy instead (41 percent), or from homeowners who wished they had gone with a larger home (33 percent). It seems that tiny homes may not be so trendy, after all.

Don’t forget to walk through the neighborhood.

This one’s a big one, with both Ted Karagannis, an agent at Warburg Realty, and Phillip Salem, an agent at Triplemint Real Estate, cautioning against taking a laissez-faire approach to getting educated about your new home’s surroundings. This means both in considering how the neighborhood will affect your lifestyle and in whether or not you actually like the area.

“Usually, the too good to be true apartments come with caveats,” explains Salem. “Further from subways, not as developed neighborhoods, and a bit further from [the] center.”

Don’t ignore finances.

In the report, those aged 18 to 34 were almost twice as likely to wish they were more financially secure before making their housing decision. San Diego-based Hedda Parashos, owner and realtor at Palisade Realty and one of Trulia’s real estate experts, has seen homeowners buy outside their means with rather unfortunate consequences.

“Some buyers stretch their budget and purchase a home for more than they can afford, which creates financial stress because they think they can wing it, or they’re trying to keep up with their friends,” Parashos says. “Carefully budget your income and anticipate additional expenses that will come once you’re a homeowner.”

Find out how to budget a down payment well before taking any formal measures to buy a home.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

“All too often, a buyer who doesn’t listen to the advice of his or her agent ends up painfully losing an apartment that he or she wants, especially in a competitive market. When we eat in a restaurant or get a haircut, we don’t tell the chef or barber how to cook or cut hair; we trust that their training and experience will get us what we want,” says Steven Gottlieb, an agent at Warburg Realty. Don’t lose out on a bid due to lack of representation,  and be sure to have a team you trust in your corner.

“While it may seem like you could get a better deal as a direct buyer, most times broker fees are set, and it doesn’t necessarily cost less for sellers when there is someone representing the buyers,” adds Agent Gina Ko from Triplemint. 

Real estate professionals can be a huge resource and timesaver—crucial when you’re hunting for your dream home while also holding down a full-time job. “[Your team] will know the common issues to look for, the prices you should be paying, and help guide you through the process seamlessly,” says Ashlie Roberson, another agent at Triplemint.

Don’t go easy on your walk-through.

Small red flags or problems you think you can fix can rapidly turn into massive headaches (and mounds of expenses) down the road. Be sure to thoroughly investigate the condition of the property beforehand, point out anything that looks suspicious, and figure out exactly how you’re going to deal with it, should you choose to buy the home.

“Problems usually start happening once escrow is closed,” offers Parashos. “There’s nothing worse than toilets or pipes leaking and causing a flood while moving in. Do your due diligence, and hire the right experts in the field.”

This story was originally published on July 13, 2017. It has been updated with new information.

See more real estate stories to catch up on:
Are You Ready To Buy A Home? Here’s How To Tell
Painting Your Home This Color Will Increase Its Value
4 Reasons Why Renting Isn’t Throwing Money Away

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Published on July 28, 2018 - 9:30am EDT

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