Looking to buy a house? Here’s a stat that could give even the most determined shopper cold feet: 80 percent of homebuyers have at least one major regret about their purchase, according to a survey by mortgage hub HSH.com. And a survey by real estate site Redfin found that one in four homeowners wish they’d never bought their home at all.
So what can you do to avoid buyer’s remorse—or getting so overwhelmed by the process you stick to rentals 'til retirement? Here, homeowners share five woulda-shoulda-coulda insights. They might not guarantee happy home hunting, but they’re a good place to start.
1. YOU DON'T HAVE TO GO IT ALONE.
“Buying a house can be overwhelming, but it’s totally worth it! Spend the time to find a good mortgage lender, because that person will help work the system to benefit you and your family. We’re on purchase number three now, and our new lender was amazing—knowing our upper limits and the best way to get us into the house we wanted and can afford.” —Haiyen Chin Sawyers, Los Angeles, California
2. THE PAPERWORK IS LIKE WHOA.
“We just bought our first home, and I wish we’d known how much time and effort it would take to deal with all of the paperwork and running around to get random pieces of information for our loan. It’s so time consuming. If you can, start gathering your big financial documents early, like tax info for past years, bank statements, rental history, and leases and payment info. My husband’s a chef in a seasonal town, so luckily we did this during a slower part of the year for him. But if we’d been crazy busy, it would have been super hard to deal with all of the unexpected paperwork.” —Alexa Doebler, Holland, Michigan
3. YOU MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO AFFORD WHAT THE BANK SAYS YOU CAN AFFORD.
“We were approved for so much more than we could realistically swing. We ended up buying for about $60,000 less than what we were approved for, thinking we were being smart and safe. But after we put in the offer, we ran the numbers to double check and discovered we would barely make it. We were in full panic mode, and ended up renting out the in-law apartment in our basement for three years because we could barely make our mortgage.” —Diane Worobec-Serratos, Chicago, Illinois
4. MAINTENANCE WILL ALWAYS COST MORE THAN YOU THINK.
“Many first-time homeowners overlook things that are taken care of when you rent. Evaluate the yard and how you want to spend your weekends: Do you like spending time cutting grass and pulling weeds? If not, can you afford a lawn service? When it comes to repair, plan for maintenance funds—then double it, depending on the age and condition of the home. And expect that some costs, like property taxes, will go up forever.” —Jenna Swiecki, San Diego, California
5. GETTING SETTLED ISN'T A SPRINT.
“The best piece of advice I got when moving from a small city apartment to a five-bedroom home: Don’t furnish it all at once. I’m so glad I listened and resisted the urge to buy stuff quickly. What I liked when we first moved has already changed, and taking our time has allowed us to be more mindful about what we buy for each room. If I’d furnished and decorated our home in a rush, I’d probably want to do a full home makeover already.” —Amanda Lynn, Omaha, Nebraska