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Trulia Blog

5 Tips to Avoid Real Estate Regrets

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Make these questions your guide to ensure you feel comfortable in your decision to buy or sell.

Buying or selling your home is stressful. Like, really stressful. It comes with countless questions that can keep you up late at night:

“Am I paying too much?”

“Should I sell now or wait for the house to increase in value?”

“How much remodeling can I afford?”

“Is this the right neighborhood for my family?”

By keeping these five tips in mind, you’ll feel more confident in your decision to buy or sell.

1. Know your budget

There’s more to homeownership than paying the mortgage. Ask your real estate agent to request a year’s worth of water, trash, and utility bills from the seller (or directly from the service providers), and make some estimates as to the ongoing cost of repairs and maintenance. Then take an honest look at your budget, making sure to factor in those less obvious expenses like lawn care and upkeep.

Are you prepared to devote an extra $100 per month to gutter cleaning, lawn aeration, and other maintenance costs? There’s no right or wrong answer, but you’ll enjoy the peace of mind that comes with anticipating all your expenses.

2. Be honest about your remodeling tolerance

It’s tempting to dream about replacing the old oak-face cabinets with maple or pine, or ripping out the builder-grade bath vanity in favor of a vessel sink with a wall-mounted faucet — especially if an upgrade means a serious hike in your home’s value. But are you prepared to handle a large remodeling project?

From collecting estimates to managing contractors to coping with the reality of living amid sawdust and debris, remodeling your home is a major undertaking. If you’ve never experienced a massive renovation before, gut-check your assumption that you’re ready for a major overhaul. You may be better off starting small.

3. Understand your family’s needs

How close is the home to the elementary school, soccer practice, and your office? Does one member of your family want a garage or toolshed and another want a soundproof basement to drum in?

Ask every member of your family to write a list of their top two or three must-haves and make sure the house you’re considering meets these criteria.

4. Speak your mind

Let’s say you’re under contract to buy a house, but you’re still in your due diligence period — and you’re getting cold feet. If you’re truly honest with yourself, you think this is a bad idea. Yet you don’t want to disappoint your agent or your spouse. Should you keep quiet?

Of course not. If something doesn’t “sit right,” speak up. Don’t worry about hurting other peoples’ feelings. Politely, and honestly, speak your mind.

5. Separate emotion from reality

Your house is worth whatever the market says it’s worth — not what you think it should be worth. Yes, you DIY-installed the hardwood flooring, built a nice deck, and grew a lovely garden, but the transaction process is a rational market decision.

If you’re selling, estimate how much money you’ll collect from the sale after agent commissions, closing costs, and other fees. Are you comfortable walking away with this amount in hand? If the ballpark net proceeds give you anxiety, then either stay put or reframe your expectations.

Have you encountered or skirted any potential real estate regrets during your house hunting (or selling) journey? Share in the comments below.