It’s not unusual for a buyer to get cold feet. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s a first time buyer or someone who has been through the process before; there’s a point when almost any buyer — even one who has found their dream home — starts to wonder if they’re making a mistake. My job is to go through the pros and cons with them and make sure they’re making a good, sound decision whichever way they choose to go.
I was working with prospective buyers recently who absolutely loved a house I showed them. The first time we saw it, they couldn’t find a single thing wrong with it. But the next day, they had developed a list of almost twenty things that had suddenly become concerns. There weren’t any pot lights in the kitchen. The gas station wasn’t as close as the one they used now. And so on.
I took them back out to see the house a second time, and as soon as they walked in the door, they relaxed. They remembered why they’d fallen in love with it.
But as soon as they got home, they started to feel uneasy again.
I knew that what they were doing by raising minor issues was talking themselves out of moving. Sure enough, a few days later, they told me they’d decided to stay where they were.
Now that’s an extreme case of cold feet, but it’s not the first time I’ve seen it happen. It’s a way of rationalizing a decision not to move: it’s not that you don’t want to move, it’s that no house is good enough. It reminds me of the way Seinfeld used to sabotage relationships with beautiful women by deciding he didn’t like their shoes.
Can you get past a case of cold feet? It depends. If you have to move, you’ll look past minor imperfections. Buyers who really fall in love with a house will often rationalize the other way, and ignore red flags they should be attentive to.
Interestingly enough, this couple had missed out on a house they wanted more than twenty years ago because they couldn’t bring themselves to make a decision in time. They still talk about that as a mistake. Will they look back on this the same way? Hard to tell, but what I’ve found is that sometimes it’s not what you buy that causes buyer’s remorse, but what you don’t.