We don’t talk about it a lot, but it is real: buyer’s remorse. That sinking feeling that you rushed too quickly into your home purchase and that it is all a big mistake. If remorse comes during the due diligence period (during which the buyer can terminate for any reason or no reason at all), you can still terminate your contract; if it comes after that period, you cannot terminate without facing potential legal penalty.
Buyer’s remorse is not just a problem for buyers – it’s a HUGE problem for a seller. If a home is on the market, goes under contract, and then comes BACK on the market, there is a stigma attached to the property, whether or not the contract termination was called for by any logical reason. This stigmatizing effect is why sellers want to be as certain as possible that the buyer is NOT likely to back out. For instance, many sellers would never accept an offer from a buyer who has not yet seen the property. Why, you ask, would any buyer MAKE an offer without seeing the house? Well, in these days of low inventory and few houses to choose from, buyers sometimes HAVE to make an offer without seeing it. I recently helped buyers moving back to Atlanta from Sweden; with their three children, they didn’t want to move into a rental only to then move again when they purchased a home. They had lived in Atlanta previously, and knew the area in which they wanted to live – so they trusted me, working with their parents, to decide on a home and get it under contract for them. Whether or not they’ll have remorse is yet to be determined.
But buyer’s remorse may be more rampant in these times of buyers rushing into purchases because there is such low inventory. The first advice I give is to remember that almost EVERY buyer has remorse at some stage of the process. Despite my vast experience with the phenomenon, I myself had buyer’s remorse with the purchase of my current home. I went through with the sale – at the urging of my husband – and it’s the absolute best home for us that I could ever find or ever imagine. So working THROUGH the buyer’s remorse and soldiering onward to closing is sometimes the answer.
And I also suggest to buyers feeling a bit of remorse that we examine if the remorse is illusory and fleeting or based on fact and true potential pitfalls. For that, we take the buyer’s initial wants and needs list. Does the home they chose fit what they said they were looking for? Is there likely to be another home in their price range that would fit those needs and wants better? Looking at the inspection – are there problems with the home that are not fixable, or has the buyer just been spooked by routine home repair items that aren’t a big deal?
There are several scenarios where buyer’s remorse seems to fester that usually IS fleeting and should be worked through: when the negotiations with the seller have been contentious and the buyer is left not having good feelings about the seller; when the buyer keeps looking at homes online and considering other homes; and when family and co-workers plant doubt. Remember that the seller is LEAVING the home and it will be yours; remember from our search that homes can be and usually are much different in person than they are online; and remember that the family and co-workers did not engage in the search with you and don’t know all that went into the decision (it’s typically more realistic to consult with friends who have been with you through the process).
With a careful selection process, a great inspector and a great real estate agent guiding your way, any buyer’s remorse may be a typical and passing phenomenon. Sometimes knowing that it’s common is all a buyer needs to know to get through it. For the seller faced with a terminating buyer, it is a good practice to let future purchasers know if the termination was based on “cold feet” rather than a true problem with the house. Always let us know your current thoughts and concerns – armed with all information, buyers can avoid remorse, and sellers avoid a lost buyer.
Mary Anne Walser is a licensed attorney and full-time REALTOR, serving buyers and sellers in all areas of Metro Atlanta. Her knowledge of residential real estate and her legal expertise allow her to offer great value to her clients. Mary Anne serves on the Committee that drafts and reviews the contracts utilized by all REALTORS in the State of Georgia. In addition, she is a member of the Atlanta Board of Realtors, the Georgia Association of Realtors, the State Bar of Georgia and the Georgia Association of Women Lawyers. Contact Mary Anne at 404-277-3527, or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.