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How Seller's Remorse Can Break The Bank

Oct. 16, 2013
3 mins
A man looks upset as he reviews a document

The excitement that comes with buying a home is palpable. There’s a new neighbourhood to explore and a new space to design. But those same points of excitement for buyers can be points of sadness, anxiety, and even regret for sellers as they leave one home for another.

Have You Thought It Through?

Seller's remorse is a recognized phenomenon in the real estate world. It can strike sellers who are not emotionally prepared or who did not think through the decision to sell, or it can happen when adult children are forced to sell a family home rich in memories following the death of a parent (like in this case mentioned by Toronto Star real estate columnist Mark Weisleder). The result? Feelings of regret and even desperation.

“Sometimes people aren’t sure if they’re ready to leave. A lot of memories are made in a home,” says Caitlin Turner, a Toronto-based real estate agent with Sutton Group Realty. “It can be difficult to leave, especially if you’ve owned a home for a long time. People mark their kids’ heights on walls, it’s emotional.”

A Pain In The Wallet

But it’s not just an emotional issue; seller’s remorse can have real, financial side effects. Regretful sellers who decide they want out of the sale are bound by a contract, and breaking that contract isn’t necessarily easy. Sellers will have to return any deposits to the buyers, as well as offer reimbursements for time, inconvenience, and any expenditures the buyers already made for items like house inspections. Agents may also require their commissions, sometimes even if the listing was cancelled before an offer was accepted. The process can become even more complicated and more expensive if the buyers decide to take the matter to court and if they have already sold their own home.

Moving Forward... To A New Home

For sellers grappling with feelings of regret after accepting an offer, Turner recommends looking not to the past, but to the future.

“The of starting over can be like spring cleaning — getting organized, enjoying a fresh start,” she says. “Concentrate on the new memories to be made in the new house. That next step can be just as exciting.”

Should You Really Sell?

To avoid feelings of remorse following a sale, home owners need to prepare themselves months in advance of listing their home. Here’s what you can do to avoid finding yourself with a case of seller’s remorse.          

  • Make a list of reasons as to why you want to sell your house. Are they important, unarguable reasons, such as “Can no longer afford this home?” or are they more temperamental reasons, such as “Friends tell me the market is slowing, so now might be the time to sell?”
  • Make another list: jot down the pros to selling your home and then the cons. If the cons list is longer, you may want to hold off.
  • If you’re concerned about not finding a suitable new home to buy, start perusing listings now. You’ll feel more confident about shopping when you know what’s out there.
  • Imagine meeting with potential buyers and reviewing offers. Would you feel the need to impose conditions? If they tell you they want to renovate the entire home, paint every room red, or take out the landscaping you worked so hard at, would that prevent you from accepting an offer? You need to be prepared to accept that while your house is yours, but others will be imagining how they can make it their own.
Jaclyn Tersigni

Jaclyn Tersigni is a Toronto-based writer and editor. She's written on everything from tea sommeliers to motorcycle-riding granddads to regifting etiquette. With a journalism degree from Ryerson University, she got her start at ELLE Canada and The Globe and Mail. Her interests and hobbies include all things ocean-related (notably, the beach, oysters and surf culture), overbuying used books and clothing, riding her bike all over town and, most importantly, music old and new.

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