How to Deal With Cold Feet and Buyer's Remorse

feet covered in snow, representing cold feet
••• © Big Stock Photo

Buyer's remorse creates cold feet. It's worse than walking in the snow in skimpy shoes without socks. After you've received news that you've just bought a home, it's not unusual to develop buyer's remorse (thinking you shouldn't have bought something), that forms into a state of mind real estate agents call cold feet (backing out of a deal).

One minute you're jumping up and down with glee, calling your friends and family to share the joy, and the next minute doubt settles in, like a big rain cloud seemingly out of nowhere. You wonder, "What in the world did I just do?"

Symptoms of Buyer's Remorse

All sorts of bad scenarios pop into your mind. You might imagine your spouse getting fired and wonder how you will make the mortgage payment. What happens if something breaks in your new home and you can't afford to fix it?

Did you pay too much for the home? Should you have looked for a different home to buy? Did all of this happen too quickly? Your head might spin. Can it get any worse? These are thoughts many first-time homebuyers have spiraling through their minds. This is buyer's remorse at its finest.

You might decide to find somebody else to help you quench these fears, maybe a family member or a close friend. This person might regale you with horror stories of the problems they've had with houses, further adding to your anxiety.

It is all so clear now—your friend has found even more negative outcomes when buying a house. What if an asteroid hits Earth? You might be in debt forever.

The Treatment

If you find this is happening to you, break away and find a third party (that won't stoke the flames) to talk over your fears and your buyer's remorse. Speak with a person you trust who is not connected to your real estate transaction.

While your real estate agent can help—agents are trained to help buyers deal with remorse—but you might feel better about it if the person was completely separate from the home buying process.

It also helps to "Ben Franklin" the situation. This means to try to balance the pros and cons of any given circumstance. Take a tablet of paper and draw a line down the middle. Label the left side YES and the right side NO. Under the NO column, list the reasons not to buy the home, counterbalanced by the reasons to buy the home in the YES column.

You might not be able to come up with any reasons to buy the home when you start this process, but by the time you finish, you might have many reasons to buy.

The Ben Franklin Approach

Begin by listing the reasons you feel uncomfortable moving forward with your home purchase. On the YES side of the column, you can begin to list the reasons to buy a home and reflect on them to counter the negative reasons on the NO side.

To Buy Or Not To Buy
No Yes

The home is too expensive

The home is not too expensive because you are pre-qualified and pre-approved by a mortgage lender

The mortgage payment is much higher than rent

The tax deduction for mortgage interest makes your payment less than rent

You don't know anything about home repair

Your first year of repairs might be covered under a home warranty paid for by the seller

You might not like the home after living there for a few months

It is possible you might love the home even more after living there for a few months and making it fit you

The home needs upgrades and you can't afford to make any improvements

You can make home improvements as your budget allows, just like your parents and grandparents did before you

A meteor impact might destroy your house

If a meteor impact destroys your home, you have more to worry about than the home

Don't Forget Your Initial Reasons

Also, on the YES side of the column, don't forget to list the reasons to buy a home that made you want to buy one in the first place. These may or may not be countered by an entry on the NO side.

Some of those might include privacy, control of your home, or simply calling a place your own. Cavemen claimed a cave because humans are territorial, and shelter is necessary. Modern humans are no different in that respect. Everyone needs a place to return to after a day of hunting and gathering, in which to raise a family or let their guard down and relax.

Using this method of thinking about your purchase, your remorse will vanish and your cold feet will warm up. Remember, it is common to feel buyer's remorse—but it passes when you remember what you want for yourself and your family.