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Most Common Home Buying Mistakes

In a bid to understand what it’s like to buy a home in the U.S. a survey on behalf of Self Financial surveyed homeowners from across the country to get a clear picture of the buying process in America.

The survey of over a thousand homeowners has uncovered the most common home buying mistakes, the biggest regrets Americans have about the process and how they are funding unexpected repairs.


Key Findings

Buying Property In America

In a bid to understand what it’s like to buy a home in the U.S. a survey on behalf of Self Financial surveyed people from across the country to get a clear picture of homeownership in America. 1,015 of the 1,554 survey respondents stated that they were homeowners, so the remaining 539 responses for non-homeowners were discounted.

The results found that the majority of the homeowners  surveyed, 41.5% were aged between 25 and 34, 56.9% were female and 79.6% were married. 

It Takes 3 Months On Average To Find Your First Home

The vast majority (81.4%) of homeowners that took the survey were parents. Data from BLS shows that the average mean wage across the U.S. is $58,260 [1] which aligns with the survey results which showed that the majority of homeowners surveyed, (30.5%) earn between $50,000 - $74,999 a year. 

When it came to their homes the survey results showed that 30% of the homeowners surveyed own their home outright, with the remaining 70% paying a mortgage on their property. Most people, 42% have bought one property to date, followed by 29.5% who have purchased two homes. According to Census Bureau data, over 38% of owner-occupied housing units are owned free and clear of mortgage payments. [2]

How many properties have you bought to date?
Number of properties Percentage of respondents
1 42%
2 29.5%
3 18%
4 7.6%
5 2.1%
6+ 0.9%

The majority of people (36.6%) said they found their first home within one and three months of starting their search. 

Over a quarter, 27.9% said that it took between 4-6 months to find their home, followed by 13.1% who said that they found their home within 10-12 months.

How long did it take to find the first home you bought?
Time period Percentage of respondents
1-3 months 36.6%
4-6 months 27.9%
7-9 months 8.8%
10-12 months 13.1%
2 years 5%
3 years 3.1%
4 years 1%
5 years+ 4.7%

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How Do Americans Feel About The House Buying Process?

To gain a full understanding of what it is like to purchase property in America the survey asked homeowners a number of questions about how they felt about the buying process.

66.8% of Homeowners Regret Their House Purchase

Keen to understand how homeowners felt after the house buying process finalized the survey asked respondents if they regretted a house purchase. A staggering 66.8% said that they have regretted buying a home at some point, while 33.2% said they were happy with their purchase.

Have you ever regretted a house purchase you have made?
Response Percentage of respondents
Yes 66.8%
No 33.2%

Expensive Mortgage Payments Are The Most Common House Purchase Regret For Over 50% 

To drill into this further the survey asked those who regretted their house purchase what caused them to wish they hadn’t bought their home. Expensive mortgage repayments came up as the common house purchase regret at 50.1%. 

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis (FRED) [3] the rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage is now 7.08%, up from 3.56% at the start of the year. This figure can fluctuate and was taken on October 27th. 

Unexpected costs were the second most common regret at 17.5% followed by 12.7% who said that they didn’t like the neighborhood their home was situated in.

Why do you regret the house purchase?
Reason Percentage of respondents
The mortgage payments are too expensive 50.1%
Unexpected maintenance costs 17.5%
Dislike the neighborhood 12.7%
The house feels too small 6.4%
The house feels too big 5.7%
Settled for a house that’s not quite right 3%
Faced a sudden loss of savings 1.4%
Could have had a lower mortgage rate 1.2%
Undesirable layout 0.9%
Overpaid for it 0.9%
Long commute 0.3%

83.5% Of Homeowners Would Handle The Buying Process Differently Next Time

Keen to understand how the buying process had been for the homeowners in the U.S. the survey asked a series of questions on the lessons they have learnt along the way and what, if anything, they would change if they bought a house again.

The vast majority, 83.5% of the homeowners surveyed said that they would handle the home buying process differently now having been through it before at least once.

Overlooking The Hidden Cost of Homeownership Is The Most Common Mistake People Make When Buying Their First Home

The survey gave homeowners a number of regrets to choose from, asking them to select those that they had personally experienced when buying their first home. Overlooking the hidden cost of home ownership was the most common mistake people regret making when buying their first home at 13%, followed by 11.9% who said the purchase had drained their savings. 

The third most common mistake (9.9%) was that people had made financial decisions about the house sale based on emotions. 

What do you regret doing when purchasing your first home?
Regret Percentage of respondents
Overlooking the hidden costs of homeownership 13%
Draining your savings 11.9%
Making decisions based on emotion 9.9%
Missing out on assistance programs 9.7%
Assuming you needed a 20 percent down payment 9.3%
Talking to only one lender 9.3%
Fixating on the house over the neighborhood 8.3%
Looking for a home before applying for a mortgage 7%
Overlooking FHA 6.9%
Buying a house you couldn’t afford 6.4%
Getting mortgage pre-qualification without pre-approval 4.3%
Not checking credit reports and correcting errors 4%

38.7% Found Buying A House More Stressful Than Having A Baby

Buying a home is said to be one of the most stressful things people experience in their lifetime [4] With that in mind the survey asked respondents who stated they were homeowners how it compared to other important milestones. 

The majority (38.7%) said that buying a house was more stressful than having a baby, followed by 23.2% who said the process was more stress-inducing than wedding planning. A further 20.3% stated that buying their home caused them more stress than starting a new job.

Life events more stressful than a house purchase
Life event Percentage of respondents
Having a baby 38.7%
Wedding planning 23.2%
Starting a new job 20.3%
Bereavement 7.3%
Job loss 6.1%
Divorce or separation 4.5%

What Needs Repairing First In American Homes?

Buying a home is an exciting, but understandably stressful time. Once the sale is complete part of being a homeowner is often experiencing unexpected repairs. 

Research from Home Advisor shows that three in four homeowners stated that they were unprepared for at least one expense in the first year of home ownership. [5]

With that in mind the survey asked respondents a series of questions about the repairs needed in the first home they bought and how they dealt with them. Some repair costs could have been covered by insurance. The survey did not directly ask homeowners about their home insurance. 

Data from Bankrate states that in 2022, the average homeowner spends $1,383 on homeowners insurance per year for a policy with $250,000 in dwelling coverage [6] . However, it’s important to be aware that homeowners insurance costs depend on several factors like geographic location and coverage selections which help determine your overall house insurance cost.

1 in 5 (19.5%) Had To Fix Their Kitchen First 

At some point every home will need one or more minor or major repairs. The survey asked homeowners what the first thing that needed fixing in their first home they purchased was. 

It’s worth considering that home repairs could have been done at any point and can differ in severity and cost. Repair costs for first time homeowners may be lower, compared to those who have been in their property for a longer period of time. 

The kitchen was the most common answer at 19.5%, with research from Home Advisor from October 2022 showing that the average kitchen remodel cost is $25,896 or $150 per square foot [7] Data from Home Advisor [8] shows that kitchen remodel costs start from $13,377, and can go as high as $38,419. The kitchen is also the most expensive house repair from the list of things that commonly need fixing in the home. 

The bathroom was the second most-common household fix at 14.4% which on average costs $11,228 to repair with data from October 2022 showing that repair costs range from $6,617 to $16,657 [9] The total expense of the repair can vary depending on the nature of the repair, the size of the space, quality of materials used and if the room’s layout is changed.

Other repairs in the top five also included windows, the roof, electrics, and heating. An unlucky few, 7.6%, said that everything listed below had broken in the first home they owned and needed repairing, which could result in an estimated bill of $74,071 according to data from October 2022. Figures from Home Advisor in October 2022 show that fixing everything listed in the below table could cost between $42,851.00 and $104,599.00. However, the cost can differ depending on the nature of the repair and how much work needs doing. For example, new electrics in one room versus rewiring the whole house.

Most Common Household Repairs and Remodels
Rank Item Percentage of respondents Repair/Remodel cost range Average repair/remodel  cost
1 Kitchen 19.5% $13,377 - $38,419 $25,896
2 Bathroom 14.4% $6,617 - $16,657 $11,228
3 Windows 9.9% $2,990 - $9,861 $6,423
4 Roof 8.4% $5,693 - $12,258 $8,966
5 Electrics 8.3% $12,000 - $20,000 $16,000
6 Air conditioning 7.6% $168 - $619 $393
- Walls 7.6% $360 - $1,244 $801
- Everything 7.6% $42,851 - $104,599 $74,071
9 Plumbing 7% $357 - $1,998 $1,177
10 Front door 4.2% $472 - $1,633 $1,024
11 Boiler 2.8% $188 - $630 $405
12 Septic tank 2.7% $629 - $2,913 $1,758

Correct as of October 28th 2022. Prices are subject to change.

Fire Caused The Most Damage To American Homes

The top causes of property damage according to the Insurance Information Institute are wind and hail, followed by fire and lightning, then water damage and freezing , and lastly theft [10] .

When asked what caused the damage to their home, those who had experienced unexpected repairs said that fire was the main cause at 44.1%, followed by water damage and freezing at 38.6%.

Most common causes of damage to homes
Cause of damage Percentage of respondents
Fire 44.1%
Water damage and freezing 38.6%
Wind and hail 10.5%
Animal or rodent damage 3.6%
Theft 3.2%

45.2% Used Savings To Pay For Household Repairs

The survey asked respondents how they paid for their unexpected household repairs asking them to choose the primary source of funds. The most common answer at 45.2% was using existing savings. A further 15.5% said that they had to take out a loan to cover the expenses connected with repairing their home. What’s more, 13.2% got a credit card in order to pay the repair bill.

Insurance proceeds were not an option to select in the survey, however some homeowners may have used their home insurance policy to cover the costs. According to Bankrate two out of three homes are underinsured, leaving them financially vulnerable if unexpected repairs occur [11] . This highlights the importance of home insurance being part of your financial plan.

How homeowners paid for their first household repair
Payment option Percentage of respondents
Used savings 45.2%
Took out a loan 15.5%
Got a credit card 13.2%
Added to the mortgage 10.5%
Repaired it themselves 6.7%
Cut back on essentials 4.7%
Borrowed from family and friends 4.2%

Saving For Unexpected Household Repairs

An inevitable part of being a homeowner is household repairs that need addressing. Keen to understand how the property owners surveyed  are managing these expenses the survey asked a series of questions about their savings habits.

33.7% Put Money Aside Monthly For Household Repairs

The survey asked respondents how often they put money aside to cover unexpected household repairs. 

Of those who put money aside for repairs, the vast majority of homeowners, 33.7% said they put money into savings each month for household repairs, followed by 12.8% who put money into savings every 3 months. 

How often homeowners save for household repairs
Frequency Percentage of respondents
Weekly 12.4%
Bi-weekly 10.8%
Monthly 33.7%
Bi-monthly 5.6%
Every 3 months 12.8%
Every 4 -5 months 5.3%
Every 6 months 7.3%
Every 7-11 months 2.8%
Annually 9.3%

1 in 4 Save $100-$199 Each Month For Unexpected Household Repairs

With the most common savings frequency being monthly, we asked homeowners how much they put aside each month on average for household repairs. 

The most common answer at 25.6% was between $100 and $199 each month, followed by 13.8% who were able to save $25-$49 on average monthly. However, it is worth noting that a further 13.8% said that they were unable to save any money at all over the month to put towards repairs for their home. 

How much homeowners save for household repairs monthly
Amount Percentage of respondents
$0 13.8%
$1-$24 7%
$25-$49 13.8%
$50-$74 13.2%
$75-$99 9.8%
$100-$199 25.6%
$200-$299 7.5%
$300-$399 3.4%
$400-$499 2.1%
$500-$749 2.2%
$750-$999 0.4%
$1,000+ 1.4%

Data from Home Advisor states that average home renovations and repairs cost homeowners $13,048, ranging in price from $3,982 to $22,234 depending on if the work was a minor or major repair. [12]

However the survey on behalf of Self Financial shows that 47.8% of homeowners wouldn’t have the savings to fund this, saving less than $1,000 throughout the year. What’s more, 13.8% stated that they are unable to put any money aside for repairs each month meaning that they would struggle to pay the average bill and keep their home in a good condition.

Lack Of Funds Is Stopping Over 75% Saving For Household Repairs 

The survey asked the 13.8% who said that they were unable to put aside any money each month for household repairs what was causing this. The most common response was lack of funds at 75.2%, followed by existing debt at 6.6%. 

In joint third place at 5.8% existing debt and other monetary commitments like household bills were shown to be common reasons why people were unable to put money into savings for household repairs. 

Reasons homeowners cannot save for household repairs
Reason Percentage of respondents
Lack of funds 75.2%
Existing debt 6.6%
Cost of living 5.8%
Other monetary commitments 5.8%
Hadn't considered saving for household repairs 5.1%
Don't earn enough to put money into savings 1.5%


The survey was conducted via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform collecting responses from 1,554 Americans from across the country between September 1st and 5th 2022. 1,015 of respondents are homeowners. The survey targeted a range of respondents from aged 18 to 65+, to those with different living and relationship statuses to ensure survey responses were representative. 

The demographic breakdown of respondents is as follows: 



1,015 (65.3%) of respondents stated that they were homeowners. To establish how they felt about the home buying process, the survey asked a series of questions about the homes they have purchased, the unexpected repairs they encountered along the way and how they funded the fixes to understand what homeownership looks like in the U.S.

Average repair costs were taken from Home Advisor. These figures are subject to change and are correct as of October 28th 2022.


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