All of the home improvement and property TV shows make it all look so easy, don’t they? Buying a brand new home in Sydney should be like a dream come true. With house prices high over the last few years and vacancy low, your sanity might even be called into question if you’re telling friends, “I bought the wrong house!”. And after all, you’ve just bought a home, which is no mean feat. Because when you’ve saved for a home deposit for years, paid a small fortune on stamp duty, and got your mortgage application approved, throwing in the towel relatively soon would feel like you’ve been defeated.
Which is when the horrible truth might begin to dawn.
Did you just buy the wrong home?
Sometimes, it’s just a simple matter of getting your head around the fact that you own your own home. For home owner Glenda Bishop, a nutritionist in Melbourne, it was all a matter of mindset.
“When I first bought my house, I felt a bit uncomfortable in it,” she explains. “It took me six months to realise that it was because I was living in it like I was still renting. I didn’t adjust the space to suit my needs, and made do with the furniture I originally had at my rental property, which was wrong for the space. Years of experience is hard to break. So I got a stylist in and focused on the main living areas, and then got new furniture and decorations. It made a huge difference and then I felt at home and stayed for six years.”
- Glenda Bishop
For others, a sense of unease can’t be solved by a new sofa.
A few other signs your new house is not your home:
- The commute. Perhaps you bought further out in an effort to secure more space for half the price. In reality, you’re spending loads on public transport, fuel and Uber to get back home, costing you more time, energy and money.
- It’s a pandora’s box of problems. There can be a number of small problems with a house or a unit that aren’t immediately evident when you inspect the home. This is when you discover that electrical outlets don’t work, gutters need to be replaced, and bugs need to be exterminated. If you didn’t hire a third party to perform a home inspection, you might have been at the mercy of a real estate agent who uses their own. This is when problems can arise, as there’s a conflict of interest.
- It’s pretty, but it’s not child-friendly. One word: marble surfaces. They sure look good on Instagram, but they can cause some serious harm if someone has an accident.
- The area is almost too new. You were won over by the idea of moving to a family-friendly estate with all-new townhouses. The catch? The services and amenities are awful. You can barely get phone reception or Wi-Fi, taxi drivers refuse to take you there, and there’s little to no public transport.
- It’s too big or too small. You decided to get a larger home to grow your family, but do you really need a four-bedroom house in Sydney for a family of three? Who’s going to take care of that lawn? Or perhaps you opted for a smaller home closer to Sydney CBD and work, and find that you can barely breathe in the cramped conditions without knocking over a book or a glass.
- You can’t afford it. The only way to qualify for a loan you can’t really afford is to pay through the nose in Lender’s Mortgage Insurance. You might then get to a point where you’re betting on rising house values and falling interest rates, which is putting a lot of risk on the line. Which brings me to…
- You didn’t stick to your budget, and not having a known budget in the first place is the ultimate case of this. It’s essential you figure out how much you can afford, and a genuine Sydney mortgage broker will help you figure out your budgetary limit. Then, they’ll advise you to shop by purchase price, not payment. This doesn’t mean you need to spend the maximum, but don’t shoot yourself in the foot by falling in love with a property that’s too expensive. If you’re working with a real estate agent who insists on showing you a home outside of your budget, fire them. Or, if the asking price is slightly higher than your limit, make sure they understand that if you can’t negotiate on price with the vendor, you’re not interested.
The psychology of buying a home
The first thing to do is to understand why you made this poor decision.
As author John Lehrer and professor Ap Dijksterhuis note in one book on decision making, it all comes down to what people call a ‘weighting mistake’. This is where a person puts more importance – emotional weight – on one thing over another thing. For example: perhaps you’ve considered the trade-off of a large McMansion in the suburbs with a one-hour commute over a smaller home that’s closer to work.
“People will think about this trade-off for a long time,” Dijksterhuis writes. “And most them will eventually choose the large house. After all, a third bathroom or extra bedroom is very important for when grandma and grandpa come over for Christmas, whereas driving two hours each day is really not that bad.”
- Ap Dijksterhuis
But in reality, that extra bathroom will only affect your lifestyle for a few days of the year. As for that hour-long commute each and every day? That’s quite a burden you’ll deal with 5 days of the week, 48 weeks of the year.
For instance, one 2007 study found that when a person travels more than one hour in each direction, they have to make forty per cent more money in order to be as “satisfied with life” as someone with a short commute.
To sum it up, you haven’t accurately ‘weighed’ your priorities when it comes to where you want to live.
Bought the wrong home? What’s a first homebuyer to do?
Let’s jump six months into the future after you’ve purchased your home in Sydney. You feel anxious waking up in it every day, and you hate asking people to come around because you take zero pride in home ownership.
It’s time to make a decision.
Here are your options:
- Is it a matter of personalizing the home to suit your needs and tastes? “A stylist is a great way to make your home feel like yours,” says Brandi Straka of Straka Homes, a building company in Brisbane. “They can use your products, existing furniture and then add other products to add to that ‘homey’ feeling.”
- Is that daily commute draining you of your energy every day? It might be best to rethink relocating and putting your house back on the market. In a town like Sydney, selling quickly for a profit all depends on the timing of the market. It’s best to speak to a few real estate agents, and find one through a referral from someone you trust.
- Rent it out. Whilst we don’t always recommend renting out your home, if it’s not the right time to sell you can put a tenant in the property and rent yourself.
I want you to take a deep breath, and know that everything will be okay. It’s true that a house isn’t as easy to re-box and return to the shop as a pair of pants. But your decision won’t kill you. Help is always on hand, and sometimes it can take having a ‘transitional’ home to find the right one for you. Explore your options, talk to an expert, and know that you can solve this problem.