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Two things dawned on me in quick succession after I completed on my first flat (‘completion’ being jargon for the date on which the property you’ve been agonising over for months finally becomes yours).
The first was that it’s entirely feasible to spend more time deliberating over a pair of shoes than it is the place you’ll call home for the next while. The second was that my new abode, which had seemed so retro and iconic as a first-time buyer, was actually in a state of repair that was both horribly dated and going to cost me a fortune to fix. For a couple of weeks I lived miserably between my crumbling new pad and my comfortingly familiar shared house, one foot on the property ladder, the other firmly planted in Rentsville. I only left because the new tenant was hovering politely, wanting to unpack in her (my!) room (I came to love said flat, of course, although it took me a while).
“This is a classic case of buyer’s remorse,” says psychologist and CBT specialist Anna Hamer. “It’s something that is particularly powerful when the purchase item requires high levels of commitment, in terms of either finances or time (or both). It’s often brought on when our behaviours or purchasing decisions are inconsistent with our beliefs about ourselves. For example, if I think of myself as someone who is frugal or who makes considered, well thought-out decisions and I then buy a house (an expensive item which often requires relatively quick decision making to beat the competition) there will be a discrepancy between my actions and my self beliefs. This is called ‘cognitive dissonance’ and it creates great discomfort, most commonly manifesting in anxiety and despondency.”
Mark Hayward, CEO of NAEA Propertymark, the professional body for UK estate agents, sees this all the time. “Buying a first home is a huge financial commitment and most first-time buyers have been renting, or are used to low-cost, low-risk living,” he says. “It’s normal for…