Why Seller’s Remorse Is So Common, and What to Do About It

Thinking of selling your home and worried you’ll regret it? Here’s how to cope.

It's normal to feel some sadness when your current house sells, but remind yourself of all the good times ahead in your new home. Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic

Selling your house can be scary: It’s been your home, where you’ve lived and made memories. Chances are good it’s your most important asset and your biggest investment so far. Wrestling with the emotional heft of putting your home on the market is a difficult byproduct of real estate — but once a closing date has been set, the hard work is done. Right?

Actually, it’s not uncommon for sellers to feel pangs of regret when a buyer gets serious. If you’re feeling remorse for your soon-to-be-former home, don’t panic: You’re far from alone.

“When you’re selling a house, you’re not selling an object,” says Bill Primavera, a REALTOR® in Westchester County, N.Y., and “The Home Guru” blogger. “A house provides shelter and is probably the biggest thing we ever acquire, so it has a bigger impact on our life.”

The Origins of Seller’s Remorse

Moving is one of life’s biggest stressors. According to Daryl Cioffi, a Rhode Island counselor and co-owner of Polaris Counseling & Consulting, it’s one of the biggest instigators for depression.

“There’s a lot of latent stuff that happens when change occurs,” Cioffi says. Are you feeling insecure? Are you wondering if you made the right decision? Those feelings are normal reactions to change — but when they get tangled up with the sale of your biggest investment, they can be downright terrifying.

Here are some things you can do to help you manage the emotional roller coaster that comes with selling your home:

Do the Emotional Work Beforehand

Doing the emotional work before it’s time to sell is the best way to avoid regret.

“Look at the flaws of what makes it not the perfect home for you,” Cioffi says. Is it just too small for your family? Does your Great Dane need a bigger backyard? Ask yourself, “How can I close this chapter?”

That doesn’t mean you have to develop negative feelings toward your current home. You’re just trying to remind yourself of why you decided to move on.

“Begin the detachment process by saying: ‘This works for me now, but it won’t work for me forever,’” Cioffi says.

Once you’ve processed your reasons for selling the home, give yourself space to grieve the house you’ve loved and the memories you’ve made inside its walls. It’s OK to be sad you’ll never step inside your child’s first bedroom again; conversely, that’s not a reason to stay in a home forever. You can even have fun with your grief. Why not acknowledge your feelings by throwing a goodbye party for your house?

Focus On the Future

Working through your feelings early will make the selling process smoother, but even if you spent time grieving before putting your home on the market, it’s still normal to feel some pangs of sadness during closing. While it’s easy to tell yourself you’re overreacting, getting past remorse isn’t a simple process.

How can you do it? Say goodbye to your old home and prepare yourself for what’s next. If you’re still feeling remorse after the sale has gone through, don’t overthink it: Even if you did make the wrong decision — and chances are good you didn’t — it doesn’t matter. The deed is, quite literally, done.

The next step is distraction. If you’ve already moved into your new home, throw yourself into fixing it up. Redo the shelving in the kitchen. Start a garden. Primavera recommends taking your mind off of homes completely by picking up a new hobby or exploring your new neighborhood to find fun activities, like yoga or pottery classes.

“Keep your mind focused on what’s ahead,” says Cioffi. “The fact is, it’s done. Now what? Look forward and focus on how you can make this new place something to be excited about.”

If you’re still having problems adjusting to your new life, your old home might just be a stand-in for bigger problems: Perhaps a depression worsened by moving, or it has triggered anxiety about your life in general. A long-term struggle to resolve your grief indicates you should speak with a professional counselor about your situation.

Cioffi says a good therapist will help you answer the questions, “What’s going on that you can’t let go?” and “What’s keeping you from moving forward?”

No matter how deep your seller’s remorse may be, uncovering the reasons behind it and focusing on the future are the best ways to let go of the stress of leaving a former home behind. Give yourself time to get used to the change and focus on creating new memories. After all, the happy life you had in the home you sold was the reason you loved it so much. Someday, with a new set of memories made, you’ll love your new home just as deeply.

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