Real Estate Regret: 10 Simple Ways to Avoid It

Buying a home is the single largest investment most people will ever make, but if you’re not familiar with the process and you don’t take steps to protect yourself, you could end up with a house you wish you hadn't purchased. Buyer’s remorse is a fact of life in the real estate industry, but with a little knowledge and planning, it can be reduced or completely eliminated. If you’re in the market for a new home, keep reading to learn a few shopping tips that will go a long way toward helping you buy a house you’ll love.

  1. Check Out Transportation

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    Check Out Transportation

    Don’t let the temptation of the "perfect" house lure you into ignoring the way its location will affect your commute. Whether you commute by car, on foot, or by bicycle, make test runs to and from work during your regular commuting hours so you have a good idea of what you’ll be facing. Also scope out the parking situation. Will you have to park a block away and get stuck lugging heavy bags of groceries every time you shop? Once you factor in any transportation hassles, that charming house may seem a lot less charming.

    Related: 10 Things Real Homeowners Regret About Buying a House

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  2. Insist on a Survey

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    Insist on a Survey

    Without a survey to determine property lines, you could find out after you move in that part of what you thought was your yard is actually your neighbor’s. Visual borders, such as fences and hedges, are not reliable for determining where one property ends and another begins. For a small fee (usually around $200), you can have a city surveyor come out and locate the property pins. If you need a more extensive survey—if, say, you're buying several acres—it can run a few hundred dollars more, but it’s essential to have it done so you know exactly what you’re buying.

    Related: 9 Things First-Time Homeowners Don't Know to Do

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  3. Don’t Oversize

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    Don’t Oversize

    Big houses are enthralling; they offer vast living spaces, and it’s easy to get swept up imagining how you could put all that room to use. But large homes not only come with bigger price tags, they also cost more to heat and cool and, because county assessors take square footage into account, they have higher property taxes. Do you really need that fourth garage stall or room for a home gym? If the answer is no, look for a more moderately sized home.

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  4. Consider All Costs

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    Consider All Costs

    First-time home buyers often focus on the amount of their potential mortgage payment and forget to factor in the additional costs of homeownership. Nothing will sour you on your new home more quickly than finding out that living in it costs a lot more than you thought it would. Before you sign on the dotted line, find out how much you’ll be paying in property taxes and utilities, and figure out what a homeowners insurance policy will run. Budget in extra money for maintenance, home repairs and homeowners association (HOA) dues, if applicable.

    Related: 18 Hidden Costs of Moving

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  5. Think with Your Head, Not Your Heart

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    Think with Your Head, Not Your Heart

    Before you start house-hunting, decide what factors in a new home are most important to you. Do you want to live in a specific school district or near your place of employment? Perhaps you need a house with at least three bedrooms, or you want a large garage so you can have a workshop. Determine your needs, and don't let the sight of a super-charming home derail them. It’s easy to fall in love with a house, but if it doesn’t meet your most important criteria, move on. 

    Related: 12 Things Realtors Look For in Homes of Their Own

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  6. Insist on an Inspection

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    Insist on an Inspection

    If you buy a home listed with a real estate brokerage, the listing contract will usually specify that an inspection be done after your financing is approved. If you’re buying a for-sale-by-owner house (FSBO), however, an inspection may not be part of the contract. Nevertheless, insist on one—even if you have to pay for it—before you commit. For about $300, you can have a professional inspector examine every part of the house, including appliances, wiring, and HVAC, so you won’t end up dealing with unexpected repairs after you move in.

    Related: The 7 Most Annoying Things About Buying a Home

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  7. Find Out Everything You Can About the Neighborhood

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    Find Out Everything You Can About the Neighborhood

    Even if you believe you've just found your dream home, research the neighborhood. What school will your children be attending? How far is it to a grocery store? Are the other homes in the neighborhood in good shape? Visit with local law enforcement and find out what the crime rate is in the neighborhood. You'll probably be living there for a good long time, so you'll want to be sure that you like the neighborhood as much as you love the house.

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  8. Know Your DIY Limits

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    Know Your DIY Limits

    Buying a home that needs a little TLC can be a good investment, particularly if you do the work yourself. Before you start making offers, though, be aware that if you have to hire pros to get the work done, you may end up paying more for renovations than the house is worth. Even if you have the DIY chops to tackle major remodeling projects, the local building authority might require that some parts of the project be done by pros (wiring, HVAC, and plumbing, for example). Your best bet is to get free estimates from contractors before you buy so you’ll know what the work will cost if you can’t do it all yourself.

    Related: 8 Homeowners Admit to Their All-Time Biggest Screw-Ups

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  9. Don’t Make Major Purchases After You Start House-Hunting

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    Don’t Make Major Purchases After You Start House-Hunting

    Most buyers get preapproved by a mortgage company before they start looking at houses, and their lenders tell them exactly how much they can afford to spend on a house. The lender determines that amount by comparing the buyer’s income and expenses. If you take on more debt, however, the amount you can afford to spend on the house will drop. If, for instance, you buy a new sports car before you close on a house contract, the additional monthly payment for that new car could disqualify you from the mortgage, even after preapproval, and you could lose the house you wanted.

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  10. Contract with a Buyer’s Agent

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    Contract with a Buyer’s Agent

    The world of real estate can be confusing to first-time home buyers, so it pays to have someone in your corner who’s looking out for you. For this reason, consider hiring a buyer's agent, a real estate agent who specializes in representing only buyers, not sellers. A buyer’s agent works on commission, getting paid only when you close on a house. Her job is to protect your interests throughout the real estate process. She handles important details like scheduling surveys and inspections, and she'll work with your lender and the seller’s agent to solve problems.

    Related: 12 Reasons a Realtor Might Not Want to Work with You

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  11. See the House of the Week

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    Discover and admire beautiful and innovative home architecture, from grand Victorians to quaint cabins and all the styles in between. Take a look at the latest images and inspiration!