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Seller's Remorse

Most house sellers and home buyers suffer, to greater or lesser degrees, the ravages of a peculiarly debilitating distress during their transactions and for up to six months after their deals close. Depending on which side of the contract you happen to be on, it's either called seller's remorse or buyer's remorse.

  • Seller's remorse is a stupendously strong conviction on your part that you're about to sell your house for less than it's really worth. When you're in the cruel grip of seller's remorse, facts take a back seat to perceptions.
  • The buyers of your house probably have an equally strong conviction that they are paying you way more than your house is worth. Their doubts began when they signed the purchase contract. The only thing that counts is their perception that they're overpaying.
  • If you're selling your old house and at the same time buying a new home, you are most likely being devastated by the dreaded double whammy -- simultaneous buyer's and seller's remorse.

Confronting your fears

The first step in your recovery program is to see seller's or buyer's remorse for what it is -- plain, unadulterated fear. As a seller, you fear that you undervalued your property. As a buyer, you fear that you overpaid. By scrutinizing these hidden fears in the bright light of day, you can counter them with facts.

  • Discuss your deal with friends, neighbors, business associates, and folks standing in front of you in the check-out line at the supermarket. You ask anyone and everyone you can grab if they think that you're getting a good deal. This exercise is only good for venting your fears.
  • Read classified ads in the real estate section of your newspaper even more intently than you did before you signed the contract. As a seller, you circle all the ads for houses that aren't as nice as yours that have higher asking prices. As a buyer, you circle ads for houses that sound similar to or nicer than the one you're buying, but that have lower asking prices. Keep in mind, that most houses don't sell for the asking price. Conversely, most houses read much better than when you tour them.
  • Spend Saturday and Sunday touring open houses. The streets are filled with remorseful buyers looking for better deals and remorseful sellers searching for less-nice properties with higher asking prices. Seeing, after all, is believing. Touring property is the best way to determine if your fears are valid or groundless.

Facing the ultimate test

The faster you get your fears out in the open and confront them with facts, the less you'll suffer. Pricing and negotiation are arts, not precise sciences. If you have the time, energy, and skill to search long enough and negotiate hard enough, you may find a buyer who'll pay a little more for the house you're selling or, conversely, a seller who is willing to accept a slightly lower price for the next home you purchase.

Don't beat yourself up with asking prices. Asking prices are fantasies, sale prices are facts. You can sleep soundly if the price you got as a seller or the price you paid as a buyer is in line with the sale prices of comparable properties. Get on with your life and remember -- your home is an excellent long-term investment.