Survey: 3 in 4 Homeowners Have Regrets

If you purchased a home in the last few years and are regretting your decision, you’re not alone.

Although homebuying reached record levels during the pandemic, with some 12 million Americans buying a home in 2020 and 2021, a survey from home insurer Hippo found that more than 3 in 4 homeowners (78 percent) have had regrets about their recent home purchase.

Specifically, homeowners have regrets regarding the following:

  • I spent too much (30 percent)
  • I bought too quickly (26 percent)
  • My home requires too much maintenance (25 percent)
  • I bought a fixer-upper (24 percent)
  • I was pressured to make an offer (21 percent)
  • I bought sight-unseen (17 percent)
  • I don’t like my home’s location (15 percent)
  • I don’t like my neighbors (15 percent)
  • I don’t like my home (13 percent)

The number of homebuyers with regrets increases when narrowed down to those who purchased their home during the pandemic. A whopping 86 percent of pandemic homebuyers reported having regrets, according to Hippo’s 2022 Hippo Housepower Report.

Although a study by Redfin found nearly two-thirds of homebuyers made offers on homes they never even saw in person, even those who toured a home multiple times before finalizing escrow reported regrets.

The biggest regrets come down to not understanding the true cost of homeownership, the survey found, with 49 percent of homebuyers reporting that while they were aware of monthly mortgage payments, property tax payments, home upkeep, and renovation costs can tally up and were not necessarily factored into most homebuyers’ budgets. 

Other regrets included:

  • Too many unexpected issues with their home (47 percent)
  • Too much maintenance and upkeep involved (47 percent)
  • Compromised on what they really wanted to get into a home (46 percent)

In other words, the cost of homeownership is largely higher than most homeowners expected, especially once you consider affording unexpected home repairs and other issues, regular maintenance and upkeep costs, and some regret settling for a home that isn’t exactly what they wanted.

And it’s not just pandemic homebuyers who bought a fixer-upper that have regrets. About 1 in 4 luxury home buyers reported they are not satisfied with their property, according to a Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Trends Report. Specifically, luxury buyers say they have regrets about buying their property due to lifestyle changes, property size, remote location, lack of neighborhood amenities, or they returned to full-time office work.

“Pandemic-era buyers really faced these unprecedented conditions,” says Amanda Pendleton, who is a home trends expert at Zillow. “This combination of rising prices, few options to choose from and that extreme time pressure meant that some buyers really ended up at a home that was less than ideal.”

Homeownership Regrets 

Kate Faux is one pandemic homebuyer who said the costs of homeownership were not as clear as she believed them to be when she was going through the home buying process and is finding homeownership to be more expensive than she was led to believe. 

After living with her mom for a year during the pandemic, Faux says she was motivated to get a place of her own.

“I didn’t have my own space. I didn’t even have my stuff—it was all in storage in Nashville,” she told Morning Brew. “I was looking at apartments in the city in [the Bay Area], and as much as they were like, ‘Oh my god, you can get a great Covid deal!’ I was like, cool, I’m not going to pay $3,000 for a one-bedroom and an empty city.”

So Faux decided to look into buying a house. She had a good amount of savings and wanted to take advantage of the pandemic’s ultralow interest rates. She ended up finding a home in the town she grew up in, which she says made the daunting process of becoming a homeowner a bit less menacing.

“I had this […] whole network of people who I knew had my best interests at heart. But even then, I felt very unprepared. Ultimately, when I finally bought the house, like even the closing process, it was so confusing.”

The closing process came with thousands of dollars in costs that never seemed to end. “I had this budget. That’s what I bought the house based on. That’s what I made my mortgage based on,” she said. “And now you’re telling me there’s this much more, and I’m like, where am I finding that money?”

Faux isn’t the only new homeowner blindsided by surprise costs.

Faux says in addition to closing costs, the maintenance costs and hard work that come with owning a house were a bit of a shock.

“Having lived in apartments, I just wasn’t exposed to the ongoing maintenance that a house would need,” she said. “The things that in your mind feel very easy but actually take a lot of time and money.” For example, just painting the walls took up Faux’sweekends for two months and cost her more than $1,000 in paint alone. 

Fixing a leak, she discovered during the first rain she experienced also cost another $1,200. And these expenses, which she had not budgeted for, piled up steadily and continuously.

Other pandemic homebuyers, like Mikhekla Hunnicutt, knew there would be some expenses involved in homeownership but says she was caught off guard by shoddy home improvement fixes by the previous owners. 

Hunnicutt, a first-time homebuyer, bought her home in St. Louis in October 2020. During the home buying process, Hunnicutt and her husband had a home inspector examine the house, and the inspector discovered problems with a sewer pipe underneath the house. The previous homeowners agreed to fix the sewer pipe, but Hunnicutt told NewsNation the work wasn’t done properly.

Not long after moving in with her husband, Hunnicutt says they started having major plumbing issues. “Toilet paper, sewage,” she said. “Anytime we would run the laundry, the amount of water coming from the laundry machine would force what was in the pipes back up into the house.”

The issue with the sewer pipes not only led to costly repairs but it left Hunnicutt feeling angry.

“I’m also very tired,” she said. “This has been dragging on for a couple of years now. And I’m very frustrated by it. I had to take out a large loan to get the repairs done.”

Hunnicutt isn’t alone in being emotionally exhausted from home repairs, either. The Hippo survey found that a majority of homeowners were impacted more than just financially by unexpected house-related issues, with 59 percent of pandemic homebuyers reporting something unexpected went wrong. An even greater number of homebuyers, 68 percent, reported homeownership was more difficult than anticipated. 

Specifically, the survey found unexpected house-related issues:

  • Negatively impacted their job (80 percent)
  • Negatively impacted their mental health (67 percent)
  • Negatively impacted their children (66 percent)
  • Negatively impacted their relationships with their partners (63 percent)

The Hippo survey is not the only one that found a majority of the 12 million pandemic homebuyers have regrets. A Zillow survey on pandemic homebuyers found three out of four buyers in 2020 and 2021 have at least one regret about their home purchase without anywhere or anyone to turn to for help. 

Pandemic homebuyers spent a median amount of $495,000 for their home — with almost a third paying over asking. A majority of these homebuyers, 70 percent, were first-time homeowners.

If they had to do it all over again, 64 percent say they would have purchased a different home, or waited longer to buy (63 percent).

Kay Kingsman, who bought her first home in Portland, Oregon, in August 2021, said she felt swept up with everything at the time of purchasing. “[Homes] were selling so much above market rate. I didn’t want to wait too long,” explains Kingsman. “And I was kind of swept up in this fast go, go, go motion.”

But on move-in day, Kingsman said there were already problems with the house.

“I noticed the worst smell of my life,” Kingsman said. “When I stepped in, it was overwhelming like cat urine. Everything was just really dirty and like grimy, to the point where it was hard to believe someone had lived in this house. They also had to shut off the water for the downstairs bathroom because the toilet was just draining water out of the bottom.”

Kingsman recounted finding beard shavings in the bathroom, noted the water pressure was weak, and the air conditioning was busted. She also discovered she had no parking privileges thanks to a messy lawsuit they left behind.

“It’s just been a complete headache,” she says. “I would say my regret is not that I bought a house — it’s more that I didn’t allow myself the time to pick the right house.”

“I’m still very proud of myself that I did it, but I am disappointed that I feel kind of taken advantage of,” she said.

Are Home Repairs and Maintenance Worth the Hassle?

On average, homeowners spent nearly $6,000 on home repairs and maintenance in 2022. Yet a majority of homeowners acknowledged they could and should be doing more home maintenance tasks, such as clearing tree limbs and cleaning appliance filters. 

The biggest reason homeowners reported delaying certain proactive home maintenance tasks was the cost. Higher prices cut into home project funds for more than half of homeowners (54 percent). Inflation concerns caused 64 percent of homeowners to delay maintenance, while 52 percent said fears of a recession prompted them to delay home improvement projects. 

According to the Hippo survey, less than 1 percent of homeowners reported they successfully addressed all necessary home maintenance tasks.

Tarek El Moussa is an entrepreneur, real estate expert, and investor. He said there isn’t really a way around spending money on repairs, especially when you’re dealing with plumbing issues, but that it’s important to ensure you have quality representation. 

In Hunnicutt’s case, El Moussa says it doesn’t appear the previous owners hired a licensed, bonded contractor who knows exactly what they’re doing nor does it seem the Hunnicutt’s had quality representation during the homebuying process.

“When the seller agreed to do those repairs, they should have had it in writing that it was done by a licensed, bonded contractor and that repair should have been warrantied,” he said.

With some homebuyers waiving home inspections, not every homebuyer was fully aware of what they bought. More than half of homeowners reported something went wrong since purchasing their home, which explains why 55 percent of homeowners plan to make upgrades or home improvements in 2023, according to the Hippo survey. The average budget for home improvements and upgrades is $11,173.

While the process of improving or repairing your home may be emotionally and financially taxing, the survey found that doing the work can actually lessen buyer’s remorse. The Hippo survey found 77 percent of homeowners who completed home maintenance and repair tasks led to increased feelings of pride in homeownership and motivated the homeowner to stay in their home. 

4 Tips to Prevent Homeownership Regrets

Keep in mind that just because you buy a home, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to live there forever.

“Not every home is going to be a forever home,” Pendleton emphasizes. “If your home doesn’t meet your needs, you can always move.”

Of course, you can always renovate your home to suit your needs, which could come with tax credits and rebates, particularly energy-efficient improvements. But for those looking to stay in their home for a while or forever, Pendleton has four tips for house-hunters before buying a home to reduce your chances of feeling buyer’s remorse.

1. Know Where You’re Willing to Compromise and What you Want/Need in a Home

Before you start touring homes, have a conversation with your realtor about where you’re willing to compromise and where you’re not, Pendleton says. It’s important to establish your priorities and deal-breakers and separate your needs from your wants ahead of time.

2. Location and Layout

Focus on things that are important that you can’t change, like location and layout. “You can update a dated kitchen, you can rip out that ugly carpeting. But all the money in the world really can’t change your home’s location, and changing a home’s layout would be really expensive.”

3. Consider Hidden Costs and Maintenance Fees

Zillow research found homeowners end up paying around $750 a month, or over $9,000 a year, just for basic repairs and maintenance. When determining if you can afford a home, make sure you can afford the maintenance fees, not just the mortgage and property taxes. Also, don’t take unnecessary risks, like waiving an inspection, as this can end up being incredibly costly later on.

4. Find a Trusted Team

Make sure you hire a real estate agent you can trust to have your best interests in mind and not someone willing to close any and every deal. “You know, you really want to rely on a trusted real estate agent who will keep you grounded and focused on your priorities … so they can help you identify potential red flags in the home.”

Have you recently purchased a home? Are you experiencing buyer’s remorse? Did home maintenance fees catch you off guard? Share your story with us in the comments below!

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