We’ve all bought things we regret, but if there’s one purchase you don’t want to get wrong, it’s a home. Once you’re in, you’re in—no return policies allowed.
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted thousands of Americans to move and buy a new home. You’re probably familiar with some of the forces at work: People in cities wanted to have more room, maybe even a yard. Working remotely meant many would need a home office, or could move out of commuting distance entirely. Some who lost their jobs went searching for locations with a cheaper cost of living. Others moved closer to relatives, seeking comfort via proximity to their clan.
All told, these factors conspired to put a whole lot of homebuyers in motion, some even purchasing new abodes sight unseen.
For many, this leap of faith into unknown environs turned out great. Yet as we slowly emerge from the pandemic, stories have been swirling about people who actually wished they’d stayed put and hadn’t moved at all.
Entering the valley of buyer’s remorse
Homebuyer regrets assume many shapes and forms, depending on the reason people picked up and moved in the first place. Urbanites who moved to a more rural setting may have ended up bored, missing the bustling cafes and nightlife only a city can offer. Those who moved close to family may have quickly lost enthusiasm for their in-laws “dropping by” whenever they felt like it. Folks who bought a home way out of commuting distance may be dealing with a “come back to the office” command from their employers, setting themselves up for a soul-draining commute.
Further compounding this regret could be the high price they paid for their new house, especially since many markets across the U.S. have been experiencing record highs.
“Many people have experienced some form of buyer’s remorse, especially those who paid well over asking price during the pandemic,” says Jason Gelios, a real estate agent with Community Choice Realty in Birmingham, MI, and author of “Think Like a Realtor.”
“The pandemic had many homebuyers making an emotional purchase at the drop of a hat, because the competition was so fierce, not remembering that purchasing a home is a big decision that should not be rushed into,” adds Gelios.
Desperate to persuade sellers to accept their offer over others, many buyers also failed to do their due diligence on the property, which came back to haunt them later.
“In this seller’s market, many buyers have had to waive home inspections or limit it to health and safety items only,” says Elizabeth Sugar Boese, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Realty in Boulder, CO. “Then the new homeowners are shocked by the expenses to repair or maintain their home, causing many to regret the purchase.”
Or even if they were aware of problems, many buyers just didn’t take them seriously.
“Many homeowners do not understand what mold is, what water damage is, or what termite/wood rot is before they purchase,” says Jameson Tyler Drew, president of Anubis Properties in Whittier, CA. “They end up walking into a landmine and not realizing it until four months after the purchase.”
Now what? What to do if you regret a home purchase
If you’re one of those unlucky folks mired in homebuyer remorse, chin up—you are not stuck! While leaving a property purchase behind isn’t as easy as ditching a rental, there are still ways to reverse course.
Renovate your place to your tastes: Have you seen just how astoundingly different a home can look after those makeovers on reality TV? This should give you hope that, if you like the neighborhood but have grown to hate the house, you can renovate your way to something that works for you.
Even if this home purchase has left you financially tapped out, some financial assistance in the form of a loan or grant could be hiding nearby.
“Check with your bank to see if they are offering any programs offering financial assistance,” says Chantay Bridges, senior real estate expert at EXP Realty. The programs often cater to first-time homebuyers, teachers, firefighters, and other workers who benefit the community.
“While you are on a hunt, don’t forget to speak to your tax professional,” Bridges adds. “There could be tax deductions for home renovations.”
Doing a little homework can open doors to salvaging your investment and making you much more comfortable at home.
Relist it: Even if this hot market forced you to make a home purchase you regret, the good news is that the market’s still hot. So even if you haven’t lived there for long, your home may have already appreciated in value, with plenty of buyers eager to move in there next.
“The market is still a seller’s market, and you could relist and sell for probably more than you purchased it for,” says Boese.
Even with mortgage interest rates rising, demand is still outstripping the supply of homes for sale—especially right now.
“The first half of the year will be tighter with more bidding wars than the second half,” says Tami Bonnell, co-chair of EXIT Realty Corporate International.
You can get an estimate of your home’s value through an online home value estimator. But just be sure to account for the costs of selling a house, including a listing agent’s real estate commission and closing costs. Even if you take a slight loss on the sale, it might be worth it if you really want to get out of there.
Rent it out: If you don’t like the place but aren’t ready or able to sell it, renting it out can be a solution, at least for a time.
The rental market is on overdrive in many places, just like the home-selling sector. Also, as the pandemic winds down, people are traveling more, upping the demand for short-term stays. Whether you look for a long-term tenant or take the short-term route, this path will bring in income that you can use to pay bills as you move elsewhere.
“Renting a home on Airbnb has become really popular over the last several years,” says Josh Trubow, a certified financial planner and senior financial adviser at Sensible Financial. “However, managing an Airbnb can be a full-time job, especially if you do not live in or near the property. Property managers can help handle some of the hassle, but you should then expect to give up 15% to 25% of the income.”
You will also need to carefully track income and expenses, possibly working with an accountant to make sure you are well-prepared come tax time.
Janet Siroto is a journalist, editor, and trend tracker. Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and other publications.