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A Huge Example of Buyer's Remorse (and How to Avoid It)


This is a guest post from Len Penzo from (where else?) www.lenpenzo.com. Len just wrote a piece on his blog asking other pf bloggers to share their biggest ing remorse. In this post, he is going to share with us his biggest ers remorse. And man is it a big one! If you like what you read, I suggest you subscribe to his blog here.

Almost everybody has suffered at one time or another from a case of er’s remorse. The symptoms of er’s remorse can vary from person to person and are usually dependent on the amount of money spent and the circumstances surrounding the purchase; the most severe cases can result in the inability to sleep and even emotional distress.

The worst case of er’s remorse I ever experienced occurred about six months after I bought my very first house. I moved into my cute little World War II era starter home of barely 1000 square feet on a Saturday morning and me and my folks immediately starting getting the house cleaned up and renovated.

The first innocent pangs of regret occurred several days later while I was sitting in my freshly painted living room. That’s when I began to hear what sounded like the dull rumble of a large herd of stampeding cattle. As the roar got louder my cute little house began to shake, and the wall hangings vibrated against the wall. The dreaded cacophony quickly became so loud that I could no longer hear myself think; for a moment I actually thought the nut-cases were right and California was finally slipping into the Pacific.

The truth is that cute little house happened to sit less than 100 yards from a set of railroad tracks. And so it was, with each train that passed by my cute little house, those innocent pangs of er’s remorse quickly turned into something more sinister. On the weekdays I was treated to the blaring noise of over a dozen trains a day. Nobody could converse in my cute little house when the trains were thundering by.

Watching television at night was also always a sadly comical affair: A three-minute audio gap in the middle of a show was virtually guaranteed thanks to the blasting horns and clacking wheels of one of Santa Fe’s hourly 2000-car freight trains headed for Albuquerque. “Why is the weatherman talking about ‘a Pheasant Island cheese?’ Where’s Pheasant Island?” I’d ask the Honeybee with genuine curiosity as the 25th train of the day rolled by. Of course, she was rarely any help. “Are you deaf?” she’d reply in total amazement. “He said ‘a peasant elephant breeze.’ Clear as a bell, Len.”
That’s why before I met the Honeybee, I tried to date women who were adept at American Sign Language and lip reading. It’s not as if I didn’t know the railroad tracks were there when I bought that cute little house, but I never thought to consider the impacts of living so close to them. Prior to signing on the dotted line, every time I visited that cute little house, there were no trains in sight – probably because I did my house hunting on the weekends when the train traffic was minimal.

Within six months, my er’s remorse went code blue and I was ready to move – stat. All I needed was to find another sucker who was looking to a cute little house – preferably on a weekend. Unfortunately I bought that cursed – I mean cute – little house at the very top of the southern California real estate market in 1990. I was hopelessly stuck.

By the summer of 1991, my cute little house was so far under water Jacques Cousteau wouldn’t touch it. I was in so deep that director James Cameron briefly considered using my house as the set for his movie Titanic. And things stayed that way for the next seven long, noisy, years. Not good times. In fact, this was easily one of my life’s ten biggest money mistakes. So how can you minimize the impacts of er’s remorse? Here are the five most important steps that should help you avoid similar nightmares:

1. Do your due diligence – be informed!

Knowledge is power. Being informed is your greatest defense against an acute case of er’s remorse, so shop around to find the best prices. Get multiple contractor estimates. Use the Internet to research products you are not familiar with. Check the Better Business Bureau if you have any questions about the reputation of a particular dealer, or your Contractor’s State License Board if you are concerned about a particular contractor. Oh, and be sure to carefully monitor the rail traffic near any home you are thinking of ing. πŸ˜‰

2. Avoid impulse s!

You say somebody is offering a new cell phone for $1.99? Right. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. That’s why ing on impulse greatly increases your risk of contracting a case of er’s remorse. Remember, the amount of time you take before finally pulling the trigger should directly correlate with the purchase price.

3. Evaluate the long-term impacts!

Determine whether the purchase price fits within your short term budget and your long-term strategic plan. Remember to evaluate any potential hidden costs that you may not normally consider. For example, if you are ing a new car, are you thinking about the costs of maintenance and insurance too?

4. Check the return policy!

Always evaluate the retailer’s return policy before making a purchase and carefully consider an extended warranty. How long do you have to return the product if you discover the product isn’t exactly what you wanted? Will the vendor give you your money back, or will he only provide a credit for a future purchase at his store? Check to see if there are also non-refundable costs. Finally, ALWAYS keep your receipt and the original packaging so you can return the item.

5. When in doubt, walk on out!

There is no shame in walking away, people! If you have any doubt at all, go home and think about it. Resist high pressure sales tactics. In fact, whenever I am pushed by a high-pressure salesman I immediately tell the guy to back off. Refuse to be bullied and remember that it is YOU who has all the leverage.

In the end, I take solace knowing that I’m in pretty good company: If you don’t believe me, check out this collection of scary tales of er’s remorse from other personal finance bloggers!.

October 13, 2009 @ 12:54 pm

I wanted a house so bad back in 1990 that I just couldn’t stand it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford a house until 1996 when they hit the bottom. So, I got quite a bit luckier than you on buying my first house.

Being trapped in a house that is under-water has to be a nightmare. I think that’s why so many people are just walking away right now. I know a couple who foreclosed around summer and they are already shopping for a new house. These are crazy times we live in.

October 13, 2009 @ 1:11 pm

Oh my gosh, what a story!! I had a very similar incident, but the girlfriend and I at the time staked out in front of our house we ended up purchasing on 5 different nights for 30 minutes at a time to see if we could bear the traffic noise from the street around the corner.

We decided we could, and we still upgraded the windows to double and triple panes. The house was about $250,000 cheaper than comps due to the road noise, and we new we could improve the insolution and sound since the windows were 80 years old and single paned.

Great story! And thank goodness, housing prices around the nation have rebounded SHARPLY since this summer.

October 13, 2009 @ 11:36 pm

@Bret: You are very fortunate, my friend! I was only 24 at the time, and I wasn’t wise enough to understand that the price increases were just not sustainable – I believed that I would NEVER be able to buy a home if I didn’t jump in when I did. What a dolt!

@Samurai: You and your girlfriend were smarter than me. You did your RESEARCH! Good for you! πŸ™‚

Not me. I was oblivious, and my ignorance cost me dearly. πŸ™

    October 13, 2009 @ 11:48 pm

    Real estate booms always kills the young folks who are told “it always goes up”. Problem is because the cycle is so long, it seems believable! What nobody says is that the down cycle is long as well.

October 14, 2009 @ 4:37 pm

Oy! Tell me about it, Mr CC! During the down cycles you are constantly being forced to consider whether you want to ride out the storm or sell at a loss and cut your losses. It is frustrating, to be sure. πŸ˜›

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