Biggest Regrets: What Homebuyers Would Do Differently

A new survey found that most homebuyers would make different decisions if they had the chance to buy again.

You live and learn. The old saying sums up new homebuyers’ thoughts after they completed the process to buy a house.

According to a new survey from Chase, recent homebuyers said they have some regrets and would make different choices if they had an opportunity for a real estate purchase do-over.

Chase said that although most recent homebuyers reported being happy with their house purchase, there were some common changes buyers would make if they were given a second chance to buy a home.

  • More finance homework. Nine out of 10 homebuyers said they felt prepared to buy a home, but in hindsight would have benefited from understanding the financing more, including the ins and outs of house closings, how to make and negotiate an offer, and the overall financing of the home.
  • Size (of both the price and the home) matters. Knowing what they know now, 39 percent of homebuyers said they would purchase a home with a different size or price, or would select an alternate neighborhood.
  • Realistic expectations. Nearly 40 percent of buyers said they thought it would take less time than it did to traverse the homebuying process. But 16 percent said they were pleasantly surprised by the speediness of the process.
  • Move-in ready? While the majority of folks (80 percent) thought their home was move-in ready, nearly 76 percent of buyers have completed or plan to do renovations to their home in the immediate future. And home maintenance costs can be expensive. Among first-time homebuyers, 51 percent said they “got that sinking feeling” when faced with the reality of home maintenance costs.

My husband and I bought a home together in 2006. It was my husband’s second home purchase and my first. I had lots of questions and concerns, but we were fortunate that we worked with a really great Realtor.

We bought a 1970s-era house that had never been updated, so we really had our work cut out for us. We were young (and naïve) and didn’t think twice about the costs or time involved with home renovation.

I can understand the sinking feeling the other first-time homebuyers had when thinking about maintenance projects. I had that feeling too, and sometimes still do. It’s all just part of the joys of homeownership.

What would you do different if you could have a homebuying do-over? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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  • Jason

    I regret not renting for at least a year when we moved to our current city. Instead we bought a house immediately with limited knowledge of the area. We happened to purchase in the summer after school had dismissed. I test drove the commute before we purchased but traffic patterns changed completely when school was in session. My 20 minute commute became 50 minutes. Had we rented for a year and taken time to get to know the area we would have never purchased our current home.

  • CJN

    If I had it to do over again, I think I would have chosen a small custom built home with more upgrades rather than a larger house built by tract home builders. The money for smaller size but better quality floors, appliances, etc would have been much wiser. Also, I should have realized we would still be here long after the kids grew up and left home. Now I have too much home to upkeep, and floors, appliances, etc that need replacing! Woulda, shoulda, coulda!

  • transmitterguy

    I’m 55 and recommend you to buy a small house first. Small house equals smaller (cheaper)roof repair/ replacement costs, less windows(to replace/fix/paint), smaller square footage to clean, paint, insulate, etc, easier to sell. Get it done before the babies start coming.

  • My husband and I are in our mid 60s and have overtime purchased and sold four homes. Our last purchase was in 2003. In each case, we lost or broke even on the sale of the properties. After factoring in the cost of remodeling, utilities, general maintenance of the property, property taxes and insurance, and realtor fees, I think that if we had to do it over, we would have bought smaller newer properties. For the purchase in 2003, we would have bought a condo and saved significantly over the last 11 years. We sold our last house in 2014 for $50,000.00 less than the 2003 purchase price after paying realtor fees. The house was too big for two people as our children were grown and out on there own. The last property required much costly attention. We were anticipating a need to replace the roof, driveway, generator, and heating/cooling system at the cost of another approximate $40,000, money that we would have never recouped at the time of selling. I would have rather spent the last 10 years accumulating savings at the same time free of many of the property ownership concerns. We have since purchased a condo, paid it off, and living a more care free life. I am glad to say that our daughter and her husband learned from our mistakes and have purchased a small condo in their late 20’s and understand the concept that cash is king.

    • Sherrie Ludwig

      My husband and I are near your age (59 and 61), but our experience has been different. We have had three homes, starting when we had been married two years, and have made money on our houses. First house was all brick Victorian in a safe but not-fashionable area of Chicago. Helped by the appreciating housing market, we sold twenty years later for seven times what we paid for it. The second house was a farmhouse in a rural area with a working, income-producing farm (a horse farm). We made money operating the farm, and sold for a modest profit seven years later, marketed to yet another person who wanted the income more than a perfect house. We bought our current home, our “youngest” (built in 1964 by a builder for himself and his family!) with the eye towards it being our “feet first” house – the one we will be carried out of feet first. It is single-story, well-built and well-maintained, and can be made even more handicapped-accessible with maybe a kitchen remodel to bring sink and range to a wheel-chair-friendly height if necessary. We always put down maximum downpayments, had fixed-rate long-term mortgages, and tried to pay off the house as quickly as possible.(much faster than the term). The lessons we learned: We never bought a new house. Like a new car, they seem to go down in value. We bought for a plan that suited us at the time, not just because we thought we “should” buy. We bought solid brick or masonry houses whenever possible – and maintained them rather than redecorated them. With the exception of the working farm, we never bought a house close to what our income would have qualified us for – always at least twenty percent lower than what the bank said we could qualify for. Better to have financial breathing room than extra rooms to pay for, furnish, heat and insure! And pay off the mortgage like the Devil himself were coming to collect the payments!

  • Lorilu

    I recommend that you buy a larger home than you think you need if you are only a couple and are planning a family. I’m not talking buying a mansion, but childless couples (like we were once!) don’t realize how much room babies and then little children take up. We were forced to sell when the children were still young, uprooting them from school, because our house just wasn’t large enough (tiny kitchen, tiny dinette, not enough bathrooms), and we had not foreseen the need for more space. The process of buying a new home, selling the old one, and changing schools, too, was hair-raising. Then, of course, a very large chunk of money went to our realtor’s commission. Had we bought a home with more long-term use in mind, we would have saved a lot of money and aggravation.

    I discussed this with a friend, and they were in agreement, having purchased a two-bedroom ranch which they outgrew as soon as they had their second of three children.

    • Sherrie Ludwig

      I have found that children take up as much space as they can. The 1,350 sq. foot, three-bedroom two bath house we live in now, tiny by modern standards, was owned by a family who raised three sons to adulthood in it! The finished basement was probably the kids’ playroom on rainy days.

      • Lorilu

        Very true. As I said, I’m not advocating a mansion–just a house that gives you enough breathing room if/when the family comes along. Our first house was a cape of only about 750 sq. ft., plus an unfinished attic and basement. Even after finishing those spaces, we couldn’t make our kitchen/dinette bigger, and seating just our little family for dinner was cramped. Hosting guests was impossible. The kids’ room was just too small for sharing, etc. A tiny house has tiny closets. Had we realized all of this, we would have chosen a slightly larger home to begin with, and saved ourselves a lot of trouble. We’re perfectly happy with a house now that is, as you say, quite small by modern standards.

        Many of our neighbors experienced the same thing–the small post-war cape was fine for a couple and small kids, but just didn’t suit a slightly bigger family. Most ended up moving on, or drastically remodeling the house–which we investigated, but was more expensive than moving!

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