For the past week, before and after buying a condo up the street, I've had an intense case of "buyer's remorse," a form of cognitive dissonance that causes anxiety relating to purchases (the fun includes nausea, night sweats, insomnia, clammy hands, and a lots of unpleasant thinking, fears, regrets, etc.).
According to Wikipedia, cognitive dissonance is:
the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.For about six years, I've wanted very badly to move.* It's lucky because we had to move when my husband got a nice relocation package with his new teaching job. Oddly enough, I've wanted all along to move to the place we bought. We saw it when it was for sale at the very beginning of our search, in 2009–10. We knew it met many of our needs and wants, and we got that "This Is It" feeling that happens when you find a good place. But by the time we were in a position to make an offer, it had been sold to investors who rented it out on two-year leases. Even though it was a 4th-floor walk-up (53 stairs), I had our agent ask the owners if they wanted to sell each time the tenants' lease was expiring. Finally they agreed. Since there were tenants, we made our first two offers without even seeing it again. Then, before we made our final, scary-high offer, we were taken to see it.
It was painted badly and messy, but it still had the features that had drawn us in the first place. These include: a great location on our favorite street, much more space, a private roof deck, two living rooms with fireplaces (one works), central air, a cat-friendly owners' association (very rare if you have more than one or two cats), hardwood floors, no upstairs neighbors, and several long walls without radiators that can hold bookcases (also rare). We still admired it and we were sick of house-hunting. So we bid high and bought it.
Only after we signed the purchase-and-sale agreement did I start focusing on its drawbacks, which turned out to be numerous (who knew?). I've been obsessing about its low ceilings, since it's a top-floor. Our current place has 10' ceilings almost everywhere and I have always loved and valued high ceilings. So, what was I thinking buying the new place? Its ceiling range from 7.5' high in the foyer to 9.5" in one living room and bedroom. It's hardly like living in a basement, but you'd think so from the amount of time I'm spending fretting over those ceilings. I hope I get used to them.
Add to the list of drawbacks that runs constantly through my brain, and especially from 2 to 5 am: skimpy moldings, smaller windows, shiny walls in ugly colors, two very skinny bedrooms, two tiny and cheap bathrooms, much less storage than we have now (due to lower ceilings and tiny baths), and a tired kitchen.
Then there's the frat house across the alley. It's an MIT frat, which makes a difference — they are more considerate of their neighbors and less rowdy than other frats. And their lounge is on the other side of the building. But still...
The buyer's remorse began when the closing was a few days away. Those drawbacks that had been previously unknown, ignored, or seemed unimportant suddenly they popped to the foreground and refused to move.
How can I reconcile our decision to buy, which took place over many weeks, with apparent deliberation and many steps in the process, with the regret, revulsion. and fear I'm experiencing now?
Don't ask me.
I know my distress is intensified by several factors:
- We spent years trying to buy a place, which increased the pressure and raised the stakes for "perfection" enormously. No place is perfect but I can't help feeling we made a poor choice because we rejected so many other, possibly better choices. Hundreds of them.
- We have just wiped out most of our savings, and I'm not convinced the price (beyond my comfort zone but my husband and our banker persuaded me) was justified. I'm a careful spender and saver... a bit of a miser. The amount we spent upsets me. I don't believe anyone else would have paid so much (At some level I do realize that it could be worth our paying that much because it met our very unique set of needs. But its high price still rankles and makes me feel like a loser.)
- We need to sell our current place and it needs work, painting, and staging. I'm not convinced it will sell for a good price because it has a tiny, enclosed kitchen, an "unusual" bathroom, and other issues beyond our control. People tell me I'm crazy to worry in this market. But some local properties don't sell for months and go through price reductions. And until it's sold we have three mortgages and two sets of condo expenses, taxes, and possible assessments. That terrifies me.
- Historically, I don't handle home-buying well. My husband reminds me that I loathed our current place before we painted it and moved in, too. It helps to know that but it was a long time ago and I don't remember much.
- In the past, I've enjoyed the chaos of packing, unpacking, and then organizing and decorating the new place. But I'll still miss and mourn my current home. (It seems I only wanted to move to a very similar place.) It's been home for 17 years. It's "me" and has the high ceilings, graceful proportions, and Victorian detail I love. It will take a lot of effort, time, and money to make the new place feel like home. Wish me luck.
- Talk myself into getting a grip and liking the new place again (this rarely works for me)
- Ignore the whole problem (I'm no good at that, either)
- Give myself an escape: we could fix it up to sell in two years, hopefully breaking even or making a tiny profit (this all depends on the RE market staying strong... and it would cost lots of money)
- Find new ways to view the situation ("It's a challenge: let's see just how good I can make it look.")
- Take deep breaths and every small, affordable step I can to make the place seem better, in hopes I'll eventually succeed in feeling happy again — and at home.
* You could say I am moving "very badly" indeed. Hey, at least I finally managed to joke a little.