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Buyers’ regret: Half of us live in homes we don’t like

Kate Hughes

The first few weeks after buying a new home should be filled with excited unpacking, musing over paint colours and working out what on earth that switch does.

But almost one in 10 of us are so disappointed with our purchase that we spend the first month after getting the keys searching for something better.

New research has revealed that up to 34 per cent of Britons have searched for another home within a year of buying property, including 7 per cent within the first month.

Most either regret their purchase, want to change location or wonder if they could have bought something more suitable for the same price.

And that’s just the people who have completed their purchase recently – those who haven’t had time to outgrow it, experience a change in circumstances or simply had the chance to work out the niggling details that don’t suit them.

The study, by glazing manufacturer Thomas Sanderson, found only one in six homeowners who bought within the last five years are content with their current living situation. More than half of homeowners are either unhappy or ambivalent at best – mostly because of their property’s location, neighbourhood and/or cost.

Worryingly, at a time of historically low rates of interest, almost a quarter of those who are unhappy say it’s because they are struggling with mortgage payments.

Despite recent changes to the way mortgage applicants are assessed for affordability, 14 per cent of those who have bought in the last year say they don’t think they can afford it.

In fact, fewer than half of all those who have bought property in the last five years got the home they actually wanted, the research suggests.

And while most of the remaining buyers have the age-old problem of not being able to afford the home they had their eye on, almost a fifth settled for less than perfect because they were outbid on the property they were really after.

“The housing market is a volatile beast, and the fear of missing out on a good house or deal can cause people to rush into buying a property,” says Richard Petrie, marketing director for Thomas Sanderson.

“It’s understandable to be nosy about what else you could have afforded for the same price that you paid for your property, but interesting that Britons are looking to move house so quickly after buying.

“Take your time when looking for a house and ensure that is 100 per cent right for you before you put down a deposit and go through the process of buying – it’s an expensive process to find out you don’t like the home you’ve purchased, and one that’s not easy or cheap to rectify.”

Based on average property valuations, the cost of selling one home and buying another in 2018 was more than £10,000, including mortgage valuation and stamp duty, estate agent, surveyors’, conveyancing and removals fees.

However, the news comes as figures from HMRC show the UK’s property market continues to stagnate, taking some of the pressure off would be movers looking for something that suits them better to act fast and risk regretting yet another property purchase.

“The property market has reached a stalemate as Brexit uncertainty causes homebuyers and sellers to put their property plans on hold,” says Shaun Church, a director at mortgage broker Private Finance.

“Both sides are waiting to see what the near future holds for the UK property market, before they make their next move.

“While 2018 saw the market flatten, 2019 should see small pockets of growth. Activity at the lower end of the market, particularly among first-time buyers, is likely to account for a large chunk of market activity. These buyers are unencumbered by the need to sell an existing property and empowered by easing house price growth and stamp duty exemptions.”

For those who decide not to let the nation’s relationship with Europe put them off taking their first step onto the property ladder, there could be good news too, he argues.

“In recognition of the flurry of activity occurring at the lower end of the market, lenders are offering competitive rates alongside relaxed lending criteria to attract first-time buyer business. As a result, market competition is bringing a further boost to first-time buyers, making owning a property more affordable once the initial hurdle of saving up a deposit has been passed.”