Woulda, shoulda, coulda – we all have experienced it. Some of us regret not buying Facebook when it was $38 a share. Some might even regret not joining Facebook back at the Harvard dorm. We often hear people regret forgetting their umbrella or ordering a triple cheeseburger, but those are small fries compared to what apparently nearly half of all Americans experience.
According to a latest Trulia survey conducted in June 2017, 44% of all Americans regret their real estate decisions. An overwhelming 71% Millennials surveyed say they have regrets about the home they chose or the process of getting their current home. Compared to that, suddenly that bad lunch seems easier to swallow.
It is truly stunning that so many go home to a place they are not completely happy with every day, considering home buying is the single largest and most important financial decision for most Americans. Why were they so careless?
The truth is: these 4 in 10 Americans (and 7 in 10 Millennials) probably were not careless at all. More likely, they carefully deliberated their decisions, and tried to do as much research as they could. But their decisions – which so many of them now regret – might have been products of circumstances (i.e. money), supply-demand equations, or inflated confidence in the local housing market, in the quality of the home, or in their stage of life.
This is particularly true in today’s feverish housing market, which has been dubbed the "strongest seller's market ever". In a latest Redfin survey of recent homebuyers, 1 in 3 say they made an offer of their home purchase without first seeing the home in person. There have also been more reports of homebuyers waiving home inspection contingency to gain an edge on – or often just to keep up with – the competition in a bidding war. It’s not hard to connect the dots between buying a home sight unseen and waiving inspections to regrets.
So, why is regret so common? Setting aside the natural psychological let down once they “won” a home, it is important to understand why some homebuyers take desperate measures in the first place. According to ValueInsured’s Modern Homebuyer Survey, 81% of all Millennials want to buy a home, and 74% want to buy now if they could afford to. Owning a home is consistently ranked in the survey to be the number-one defining measure of the American Dream. Hardworking and well-meaning Americans just want to own a home base where they can help their family flourish. But when under pressure of low inventory, rising home prices, rising interest rates, and a seller’s market, some make real estate decisions that they eventually regret.
There is also the issue of changing consumer preferences and expectations. In the same Trulia survey, 1 in 5 homeowners say their home purchase has held them back. In an age when consumers can practically return, upgrade or get a refund on anything, when they can have warranties and insurance on their iPhones, baby toys, or even toasters, it is hard to imagine that – until recently – there was no exit plan or insurance to protect one of homeowners’ biggest investments – home down payments. Today’s generation of buyers want the American Dream, but they are also renters, leasers and upgraders, who want flexibility in everything they do. A good home – and a healthy home-buying industry – should provide a strong anchor to its homebuyer, but it should never make you feel stuck.