Impulse Control

Impulse Control

Steering clear of buyer’s remorse

From the moment I saw the magnificent view out the west-facing windows of the condo I now own, I knew it was where I wanted to live.  That view, plus the square footage and the full bathroom for every bedroom, made my heart race every time I visited the property or viewed it online. I was so smitten, so deeply in love that I could barely sleep or breathe or eat during the excruciatingly slow purchase process.

Finally, that glorious moment arrived when the real estate agent handed my husband and me the keys.  Angels sang.

 And then I panicked.

Suddenly I was no longer sure about the neighborhood, the commute, the master shower, the idea of a condo, the HOA fees, the neighbors, the weird alleyway between the garages, the cool factor, the purchase price, the size of the laundry room, and so on.  Every night for two weeks, I woke up terrified that I’d just spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on something I was no longer sure I wanted.

Turns out, Homebuyer’s Remorse is a common affliction. According to a recent Redfin survey, one in four homeowners regrets the purchase of their home.  Occasionally, the regret is preceded by a sudden financial crisis or the discovery of fraud on the part of the seller.  But more often, it’s the result of an impulse purchase.

Most of us know something about that. We walk into a store intending to look at shoes, and we walk out with three pairs, a cute leather jacket and a scarf for mom. 

For instance, that pair of strappy tangerine stilettos that we’ll likely never wear are not worth the sacrifice of a whole summer with no air conditioning.

Inevitably, after the high of an impromptu shopping binge wears off, we realize that at least one purchase falls into the “ridiculous” category.  For instance, that pair of strappy tangerine stilettos that we’ll likely never wear are not worth the sacrifice of a whole summer with no air conditioning.  And, quite frankly, the last thing mom needs is another silk scarf. In the end, we either return the superfluous items to the store, or just suck it up and live with our regret.

Not so simple when you buy the wrong property.  Please keep these tips in mind so you don’t end up regretting the purchase of a big-ticket huge-ticket item you can’t return.

 Set a ceiling

Here’s the thing: if you get absolutely everything you want in a home, it’s either because you’re filthy rich, or because you’re one of those super Zen people who wants only what they already have. The rest of us have to keep our wants in check.  Nothing says impulse purchase like spending an extra $40K for a house with an infinity pool when your now-necessary-80-hour workweek leaves you with no time for swimming. You should not spend much more than one third of your monthly income on housing, and this includes taxes, association fees and insurance.  Share your max number with your agent, and ask for it to be taken seriously.

 Remember that your agent works for you

For first time homebuyers, it’s easy to mistake an agent’s knowledge and market expertise for authority over all matters of your home buying process. Keep track of how you feel in relation to your agent.  Do you feel listened to? Do you feel like your agent understands your needs? It’s important that you feel comfortable, and that you trust your agent. If you don’t, get a new one. The last thing you want is to be stuck with a home you feel like you were pressured into.

 Shop with someone who knows you (but not necessarily your mother)

If you’re purchasing a home with a partner, you’ll have to negotiate and prioritize your must-haves together. If you’re purchasing on your own, you should bring along someone who knows, for example, how often you’ve complained about your current commute and can remind you of that when you’re all gaga for the cute craftsman bungalow forty minutes away from your job. Be careful, though: if you know your mom might convince you to purchase a house with a yard even though you despise yard work, then maybe you should bring Aunt Jenny instead.

 Assess your heart rate

If the closet in the master bedroom of that downtown high-rise condo has your heart going a thousand miles an hour, consider putting closet space higher on your list of priorities. But if you’re heading for panic mode because you overheard someone at the open house say they might make an offer, slow down and take a breath. A little competition is good for the spirit, but when purchasing a home, you don’t just want to win; you want to win the right property.  Those who have recently lost a bid are especially vulnerable to impulse purchases.

 On the other hand…

It’s common to experience anxiety after making what might be the largest purchase of your life. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve made a mistake. In my case, those two panicky weeks were about fear: fear of change, fear of commitment to the wrong choice, and fear of the unknown. In the end, after I settled in a bit, hung my favorite paintings and spent a couple of afternoons gazing out at the gorgeous view, I resumed my love affair with my new home. No, it didn’t meet every single one of my desires, but it met the ones that are most important to my family and me at this time in our lives. I have no regrets.

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Elizabeth Salaam
Along with her work as Senior Contributing Writer for Girl's Guide, Elizabeth Salaam writes for the San Diego Reader. Her work has also been published in Elle Magazine. | Most inspired by: Contradictions. | Favorite room in my home: The Master suite. The windows have views for days! | Best design idea I may never do: Adorn my enclosed toilet room with library book wallpaper and a chandelier. | Will never: Bungee jump. | Have always been: Rebellious. | Dying to: Live in a Paris flat with herringbone wood floors.
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