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Are Home Buyers House Hunting All Wrong?

Are Home Buyers House Hunting All Wrong?

Jun 4, 2024

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey

Home buyer remorse appears to be growing, as buyers second-guess their recent home purchase. But could they be getting distracted by looking more for a “pretty” house than taking into account all aspects of homeownership, even the less “pretty” items—from the roof and windows to the foundation?

Eighty-two percent of home buyers expressed regrets about their recent home purchase, according to a new survey from Clever Real Estate. Their most common regret: Buying a home that requires too much maintenance. More than a quarter—28%—of the buyers surveyed say they were shocked at the cost and time needed to maintain the home. About one-third placed the blame on the seller for not being upfront about how much maintenance the home required.  

The second most common response for home buyer remorse, among 24% of respondents: The home does not meet all their needs, the survey shows.

Top Home Shopping Priorities

One-third of home buyers said the most desirable home improvements when they’re house hunting is looking for an updated kitchen, remodeled bathroom and contemporary lighting.

“Buyers place so much value on these cosmetic updates that they often take precedence over the structural elements of a home,” Clever Real Estate researchers note in the study. Only 24% of recent buyers cited having a solid foundation as important, and about the same percentage said a new HVAC system and an updated electrical system were important—less than several cosmetic items in the home.

“Aesthetic changes can certainly add value and style to a home, but buyers should look beyond the facade to a home’s underlying qualities,” the researchers note. “Cosmetic fixes can mask structural problems that may cause safety hazards and lead to expensive repairs that most buyers want to avoid.”

For example, a home with fresh interior paint—which ranked as No. 4 most important to buyers in purchasing a home—is only a fraction of the cost of purchasing a home that has foundation or structural issues, which was at the bottom of buyers’ home-shopping list.

Overall, buyers report the following features, repairs or improvements as most important to them when purchasing a home, according to the Clever Real Estate study:

  • Updated kitchen: 33%
  • Updated bathrooms: 33%
  • Updated lighting: 33%
  • Fresh interior paint: 32%
  • New roof: 31%
  • Up-to-date plumbing: 31%
  • Updated flooring: 29%
  • Up-to-date electrical system: 29%
  • Fresh exterior paint or siding: 28%
  • New windows: 28%
  • Outdoor features, such as a patio or deck: 27%
  • Updated master suite: 26%
  • New HVAC: 25%
  • No foundation or structural issues: 24%

Keep Your Buyers Focused

One of the top benefits that more than half of home buyers cited from using a real estate agent (behind helping to understand the process) is pointing out unnoticed features and faults with a property, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends report. To help home shoppers avoid regret, here are some ways to keep them focused on all aspects of a home:

  • Maintenance costs: Help buyers gather maintenance costs, such as the average utility costs, yard upkeep, homeowner association fees, etc.
  • Age of key aspects of a home: Find out the average age of big budget components of the house to help judge whether those could possibly be needing a replacement soon, such as the roof, HVAC and household appliances. Check out the “Study of Life Expectancy of Home Components,” produced by the National Association of Home Builders and Bank of America Home Equity, that offers the average length of time for common household, from garage door openers (an average of 10 to 15 years) and an HVAC (15 to 25 years) to many exterior items, like roofs or siding (an average of 20 years).
  • Inspection reports: Talk to buyers about the benefits of having a home inspection conducted, or even considering further inspections to help avoid buyer’s remorse, such as about the home’s key components and structural integrity. Nineteen percent of home buyers continue to waive the inspection contingency when purchasing a home, according to the latest REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey, reflecting April transactions nationwide.

The home insurance firm Hippo offers a printable home tour checklist that buyers can fill out as they look at properties in judging multiple aspects of the home, from the maintenance of the yard to noting the age of appliances and home systems.


Melissa Dittmann Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is an award-winning journalist who covers the latest real estate news and trends. You can hear her weekly on the syndicated radio show and podcast, Real Estate Today, in her housing trends segment, “Hot or Not?” She is the creator of the Styled, Staged & Sold blog and a frequent contributor to and REALTOR Magazine. She’s also the host of The Housing Muse podcast at Follow her on Instagram or X @housingmuse.

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