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 the good news that you've just bought a home, it's not unusual to develop buyer's remorse, or what real estate agents call cold feet. This cold feet syndrome happens all at once. 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?"

Then, it gets worse... seriously. All sorts of bad scenarios pop into your mind. You might imagine your spouse getting fired and wonder how will both of you 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? Yes, it can. This is buyer's remorse at its finest.

For example, you can find somebody else to help you feed into these fears, maybe a family member or a close friend. Together, you can drive yourself totally insane. And it makes sense to you to cause yourself this pain because you're sharing the scary thoughts by encouraging each other to come up with even more negative outcomes. Like, what if an asteroid hits Earth?

If you find this is happening to you, break away and find a neutral third party 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. This is not to say that your real estate agent cannot help, because agents are trained to help buyers deal with buyer's 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. To Ben Franklin means to try to balance the pros and the cons. 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 will have many reasons to buy.

Begin by listing the reasons you feel uncomfortable moving forward with your home purchase. Reasons not to buy a home might be:

  • The home is too expensive.
  • The mortgage payment is much higher than rent.
  • You don't know anything about home repair and stuff can go wrong.
  • You might not like the neighbors.
  • You might lose your job and end up sleeping under a bridge.
  • If you have to move out of state, you might not be able to sell the home for enough to pay off your loan.
  • You don't own any gardening tools or a refrigerator or anything else you need to live happily in a house.
  • You might not like the home after living there for a few months.
  • The home needs upgrades and you can't afford to make any improvements.
  • A dry spell might cause a fire in your home and burn it to the ground.

On the YES side of the column, you can begin to list the reasons to buy a home and reflect them as a counter to the negative reasons on the NO side.

  • The home is not too expensive because you are prequalified and preapproved by a mortgage lender.
  • The tax deduction for mortgage interest makes your payment less than rent.
  • Your first year of repairs might be covered under a home warranty paid for by the seller.
  • You should meet the neighbors before buying a home to determine if you like them.
  • If you lose your job, your spouse can still make the payments plus you may qualify to collect unemployment insurance payments.
  • If you have to suddenly move and cannot sell, you can rent out your home and keep it.
  • You can throw a housewarming party and friends and family might bring nifty presents as housewarming gifts.
  • It is possible you might love the home even more after living there for a few months and you are eager to experience this pleasure.
  • You can make home improvements as your budget allows, just like your parents and your grandparents did before you.
  • If a meteor burns your home to the ground, well, that's why you carry homeowner's insurance.

Also, on the YES side of the column, you should also list all of the reasons to buy a home, which you initially came up before making a purchase offer. Some of those might include privacy, having control over your home and the ability to call a place your own, setting down roots, getting a dog, holding backyard barbecues, building equity, and maybe even starting a family. All of a sudden, just like snapping fingers, your buyer's remorse will vanish and those cold feet will warm up. Remember, it is common to feel buyer's remorse but it will eventually pass.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.