Nearly two-thirds, or 64%, of millennials (ages 25 to 40) say they have at least one regret about purchasing their current home, according to a new poll of more than 1,400 U.S. homeowners from Bankrate.
Only about 45% of Gen X (ages 41 to 56) and 33% of baby boomers (ages 57 to 75) reported having some type of remorse about their current home, the survey found. But overall, having some dissatisfaction is pretty common: about 43% of all homeowners have at least one regret about their home.
"These purchases, even for those who are well qualified, can be a leap of faith," says Mark Hamrick, Bankrate's senior economic analyst. People tend to focus so much on actually being able to buy a home that many times there's a sense that everything else will resolve itself once the initial purchase is completed, he says.
"The reality is that it's just the beginning of the homeownership experience," Hamrick says. After the initial excitement has worn off, many homeowners are left with a regret or two, something they wish they'd done differently.
Many homeowners, especially younger buyers, have to make compromises on the house they end up purchasing, says Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral insights at the National Association of Realtors. About 69% of all homebuyers make some type of comprise, including on the price, condition and size of the home, according to the NAR's research.
"You're never going to get all of your wish list, so you do generally have to make at least some compromises because money is a factor in the biggest financial transaction of your life," she says. Those compromises could lead to a sense of regret down the line.
But just because homeowners may have a few qualms doesn't mean that they wish they'd never purchased their home. "On balance, most people are happy that they made the decision to buy," Hamrick says.
The most common regret: Underestimating costs
Among all homeowners, including millennials, the most common regret is underestimating how much the maintenance expenses and other hidden costs associated with buying and owning a home are. About 16% of homeowners (and 21% of millennials) cited this as a regret. Other types of regrets focused on the size of the home and the finances involved in the process, including the mortgage payment and rate.
Beth Holmes-Roberts, 38, and her husband purchased their first home in January 2019. The 60-year-old home in San Antonio consists of four bedrooms and two bathrooms and was listed for $195,000. "We literally walked into the house the first day that we were looking and said, 'We need this one,'" Holmes-Roberts says.
Although Holmes-Roberts says owning a home has been a blessing, especially amid the Covid-19 pandemic, she does wish that she had done a little bit more research into what the homebuying process looked like ahead of time, especially around the mortgage procedures. "It just sort of felt like a whirlwind of activity that ended up with us standing in front of this empty house with a set of keys going, 'OK, here we are,'" she says.
Home maintenance has been an ongoing challenge, Holmes-Roberts says. Over the past two years, they've had a lot of plumbing work done, including fixing toilets and a bathtub that didn't drain properly. They also had to replace their entire garage door. All of the family's stimulus payments over the past year, more than $6,500, have gone toward home maintenance.
"The vast majority of the money that we have spent on the house since we moved in has been either standard maintenance or preventive maintenance, so we actually haven't gotten to start on any of the renovations that we wanted to do," Holmes-Roberts says.
Last year, homeowners spent an average of $13,138 on household projects, according to HomeAdvisor's new 2020 State of Home Spending report. While those costs can vary depending on where you live and the age and condition of your home, homeowners should plan to spend 1% to 3% of the home's purchase price on annual maintenance.
That means if your home is priced at $300,000, it's worth setting aside at least $3,000 each year for repairs and upkeep.
How to get ahead of homeowner regrets
If you're looking to purchase a home in the near future, Hamrick and Lautz say there are some steps you can take to help mitigate any buyer's remorse.
Build up your savings
The most important thing is to have a fairly big savings cushion. Think of it like a poker game, Hamrick says. If you're pushing all your chips into the center of the table in order to buy a home, you're going to be in trouble from the get-go. You need to hold some chips, or in this case, savings, in reserve.
"Life is going to come at you fast, whether it's something that happens with respect to the costs of maintaining the home, or all of a sudden your car tire goes flat or there's a big dental bill," Hamrick says. Having a robust savings cushion is critical.
You might be tempted to put everything you have toward the down payment or closing costs, but Hamrick says that's a mistake. "The need to save almost becomes more important after one owns a home because there's more risk with respect to the expenditures," Hamrick says.
Make sure you're thorough
It's important to think through what you're looking for and how you'll achieve it as thoroughly as you can, Lautz says. Look at any potential home with your eyes open about what the property offers and what it would mean to live there for years, or even decades, she adds.
It's also important to have all of the proper inspections completed. Even if you have to spend a bit more upfront, it can mean that you avoid any nasty surprises later on. "The home inspectors are there to help you and understand all of the systems within that home," Lautz says.
Do your homework
When it comes to buying a home, be patient, Lautz says. Once you decide to buy, it can be tempting to rush into the process and start looking at places. But taking the time to do your research on the market and types of homes you're interested in can be a big advantage.
View photos online first, and be deliberate about the homes you're going to see in person, Lautz says. That way, you and your real estate agent are really tackling and seeing homes in a very strategic way, and putting in bids on the ones that really matter.
And at the end of the day, it's all about finding a home that works for you so that you don't have any major regrets.
"I'm really glad that we went with our gut on which house to buy. We've really felt at home here, and it feels like it's the right house for us," Holmes-Roberts says.
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