Top Reasons Homeowners Sell, Sometimes with Remorse


By Bill Primavera

The Home Guru

Today we in the real estate business hear a lot about buyer’s remorse, which means either that a buyer regrets a housing purchase after the fact or walks away from a deal before it is consummated. The latter happens frequently in the current market.

But what about seller’s remorse?

One might think that any seller would be glad to find a buyer among a much smaller pool than we had during the real estate bubble. But sometimes sellers change their minds about selling for reasons other than the current state of the market. I have heard it said that if a homeowner is experiencing seller’s remorse, it is probably because he or she is really not motivated enough to sell.

Readers who caught my last column would know that my wife and I decided to list our home for sale just last week. Barely had the listing appeared on the Multiple Listing Service when I received a call from an agent asking if she could bring a client to the house that very afternoon.

As it happened, I couldn’t show the house that day because one of our suppliers was delayed in finishing a carpentry job in a bathroom, and that part of the house was somewhat in disarray.  I asked for a delay of one day for the showing. During that time, as I continued my last minute touch-ups, I suddenly realized that I was experiencing a certain sense of sadness. Oh, my, I thought, is this the feeling of seller’s remorse?

I have observed the phenomenon just once when making an offer to a seller on behalf of a client. At the height of the market, I had found a perfect buyer who offered full price for a home, but the seller dragged his feet in accepting the offer until, finally, his agent told me that he was just not able to deal with selling at that time and was withdrawing the listing.

Actually, in such a case, the listing agent could have demanded her full fee since she had brought a buyer to the table who was ready, willing and able to purchase at asking price.

A while back I read something about seller’s remorse on, and I looked it up to refresh my memory.  The website attributes the cause of seller’s remorse to the homeowner just not being motivated enough to sell in the first place, because they don’t have a good enough reason to do it.

It is suggested on the site that a prospective seller check with the list of reasons most homeowners sell to see if the motivation is really there. Just for the heck of it, I checked the list and annotated it for my own personal score.

Here are the top reasons homeowners decide to sell:

  1. Home is too small for a growing family. (Nope. Mine is too big for just my wife and me);
  2. To upgrade, based on the premise that people long for a bigger, more expensive and grander home. (Are they kidding? In today’s market? This is outdated information probably left over from the height of the bubble. We all seem to want to live smaller now);
  3. To fix a mistake in buying the wrong kind of house. (After many years of happy ownership, there was no mistake here);
  4. Job transfer. (Nope, I work for myself);
  5. Personal relationships, divorce. (I’m happily married, but sometime soon I want to do a column about divorce as a primary catalyst in the real estate business);
  6. Neighborhood changes. (My block has remained pretty much the same, and has even been upgraded with renovations and reconstructions);
  7. Empty nest. (Score one reason for me to sell, but just one so far);
  8. To see family more often. (My immediate family lives no more than 20 minutes from me, so no problem);
  9. See family less often. (Some people actually want to put more distance between themselves and relatives. Not applicable here);

  10)  Retirement. (That will never happen with me);

  11)  Health problems. (Not yet. Healthy as a horse);

  12)   Deferred maintenance. Some homeowners prefer to buy a new home rather than fix what needs to be fixed. (No on this point too. It isn’t an option when you own an historic home. If it needs to be fixed and you love living with history, it gets fixed);

  13)  Home improvement perfection. A segment of the population loves to fix up a home, and once it’s perfect, they grow restless and want to start the process all over again. (Not me. My brother-in-law is that way. I don’t know where he gets the energy. As for me, I just sit back and enjoy my handiwork);

  14)   Some people can’t stand sitting on equity without having all that money in their pockets. (That’s less an option in a depressed market than it was five years ago.  What this list doesn’t mention is that a shocking number of people today owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.  And, it doesn’t mention the heartache for those people whose homes are offered in a short sale or in foreclosure, where there is no choice);

  15)   Lifestyle change. Some mature Americans want to cash in and buy a co-op or condo with less maintenance and then travel or find some worthwhile work. (This is at least half true for me. I would probably like less maintenance, and the opportunity to travel more would be fine. But, we realtors, anchored as we are in our communities, are actually surprised when one of us gets to go on a real vacation).

As I survey the reasons that most homeowners decide to sell, I find only two points out of 15 that apply to my wife and me, but they are important ones. So I doubt that we will be victims of seller’s remorse.

That feeling of sadness I experienced is probably a normal reaction to having sweet memories of our long term living experience in this special place. But, my wife and I are ready.

And, maybe it’s a good thing that we’re in a slow market right now. A longer process, rather than a quick one, should allow us the time to have our hearts and heads catch up with this pending new chapter in our lives.


Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® (, affiliated with Coldwell Banker, and a marketing practitioner ( For questions about selling or buying a home, he can be reached directly at 914-522-2076.