Seller's remorse is a feeling of regret you experience during or after selling your home.
Doubt or concern about selling a home is fairly common. According to Clever's survey of 1,000 homeowners, 69% of sellers state they're worried about getting the right price for their home. Another 66% have concerns about having enough time to move.
A real estate agent can help you weigh all of your options and make the best, most responsible decision as you consider selling your home.
Plus, a good agent can help you avoid severe legal and financial consequences — like the buyer suing you for damages — if you try to back out of a sale.
How an agent can protect you from seller's remorse
A good real estate agent can be your best ally in a number of ways:
- Providing market information and context, such as local selling times, prep work for the sale, and cost and earnings estimates
- Helping you decide if you're serious about selling your home
- Producing a purchase agreement that addresses your concerns and maximizes your home's price
As a potential seller, talk to multiple real estate agents to find one right for you. This will boost your own understanding about the sale and give you a wider array of advice. Just make sure to share your thoughts and fears about the sale so an agent can be as helpful as possible!
Understanding the market
Real estate agents have unique access to information on the market — info they can use to help you understand how your sale might go.
Here are some resources an agent can share with you:
📊 A comparative market analysis (CMA) provides an estimate of your home's value compared with other homes recently sold in your area. CMAs do a lot of heavy lifting: they can help you and your agent set a reasonable price for your home AND determine the right time to put your home on the market.
💰 A seller net sheet estimates how much you'd earn from the sale. It provides the gross amount you'd make from the home, minus expenses like realtor fees — giving you a better picture of every dollar involved in the sale.
🗓 Local selling times tell you how long sellers in your area take to sell their home, on average. You'll have a more realistic timeline of the sale process and can better plan your own move into a new home.
Assessing your finances
With a better understanding of your financial situation, your agent can help you weigh the pros and cons of selling your home, as well as other options you might not have considered.
If you're in a pinch money-wise, alternatives to a sale could include refinancing your mortgage or a short sale.
Refinancing your mortgage
Refinancing your home loan might help you improve your financial outlook while keeping your home — and avoiding seller's remorse.
You can significantly reduce how much you'll pay each month on your mortgage through refinancing. Your lender may be offering loans with lower interest rates, no private mortgage insurance requirements, or other beneficial differences.
Work with your agent to find a new loan that's right for you.
» MORE: How to refinance your mortgage
Some homeowners only consider selling because they have no other choice. Poor financial health and the threat of foreclosure may be forcing them to think this over.
If foreclosure is a real possibility for you, a real estate agent might suggest a short sale.
If you owe more on your mortgage than what your home is worth and you can't afford your monthly payments, you can work with your lender to sell your home and ultimately get out of that mortgage.
Although you'd sell your home for less than what you'd bought it, a short sale is still preferable to a foreclosure for a few reasons:
- You can buy your NEXT home much more quickly since you're walking away with some cash (unlike in a foreclosure).
- A short sale has fewer penalties for your credit history than a foreclosure.
- You have more control over the terms of the sale and your move.
Including contingencies in a purchase agreement
A real estate agent can include contingencies in a purchase agreement that could provide a way out of the sale if you get cold feet.
Contingencies are common in purchase agreements, though most benefit the BUYER rather than the seller.
Including a home of choice clause in your purchase agreement would let you cancel the sale if you can't find a new home that fits your needs and preferences.
However, home of choice clauses aren't very common or popular. Buyers usually aren't keen on signing a purchase agreement with that level of uncertainty baked into the contract.
You should talk to your agent about your concerns and get their advice BEFORE the purchase agreement is put together.
Helping you make the most money
A great real estate agent can make sure your home sells for a great price. Things might turn out differently if you try to sell without an agent.
A home for sale by owner (FSBO) means you're handling the entire sale yourself — there's no listing realtor involved.
Selling FSBO makes the most sense for those selling to friends or family, or if they have prior experience in real estate. In these situations, forgoing a realtor means you save money on commission and other fees that come with relying on an agent.
However, selling FSBO has its drawbacks. On average, a FSBO home actually sells for 26% less than a home sold with an agent!
And if you're unsure whether or not you want to sell, the FSBO route means going without the advice and institutional knowledge that a real estate agent brings to the table. Paying a bit more for an advocate like this could be worth every penny.
Can I back out of a sale?
Yes, you can back out of a sale, but it isn't easy and can come with significant financial implications. If it's not done properly, the buyer AND the listing agent can sue the seller.
Whether or not you can legally cancel the sale depends on where you are in the process:
- If you've signed a listing agreement, you can probably back out of this and only have to pay a cancellation fee or some of the commission your agent is forfeiting.
- If you've signed a purchase agreement, walking away from the sale can be very difficult and incur severe penalties.
Backing out of a listing agreement
A listing agreement outlines how an agent will list, market, and ultimately sell a property. By signing this, you agree to the payment covering the agent's work. (Listing agents usually charge 5–6% of the final sale price. They split this with their broker and the buyer's agent.)
Share any concerns you have about selling your home with your agent BEFORE signing a listing agreement. Not only will being straightforward help your agent be a more effective ally, it can also help you avoid penalties if you have a change of heart and decide not to sell.
As soon as you agree to the terms, your agent is entitled to any commission they'd make on the sale. (Many listing agreements also include cancellation fees.)
Backing out of a purchase agreement
A purchase agreement is a contract between the seller and buyer outlining the terms of the sale.
Purchase agreements frequently include contingencies, though they usually favor the buyer over the seller. For example, many purchase agreements include inspection contingencies: the sale goes through as long as an inspector finds the home has no surprise issues.
For sellers, a purchase agreement offers few options for reconsidering leaving their homes.
Walking away from a purchase agreement can result in a series of penalties for the seller:
- The buyer will likely sue to recover earnest money, cover temporary housing costs or court fees — or for the home itself.
- The listing agent can sue for the realtor commission included in the listing agreement, which the seller is also canceling in this scenario.
- The buyer can also file a lien against the property, making it very hard for you to sell in the near future.
The best way to avoid these penalties is to walk away before agreeing with a buyer on the sale!
Causes of seller's remorse (and how to deal with them)
Seller's remorse can creep in for a number of reasons.
You might have second thoughts because of your emotional attachment to your home, or you could be worried about selling the property for a price below what you'd like.
Or perhaps you might be forced to sell due to a life change or financial trouble.
Emotional attachment to your home
You need to be certain that you're serious about selling. But, naturally, you're probably attached to your home. It's a place full of memories, where significant events in your life took place.
Parting ways can be hard. The last thing you want is to let this attachment get the better of you and prompt you to back out of the sale.
Here's where a real estate agent can provide some support. For instance, if you make a pros and cons list to decide if you want to sell, an agent can supplement each of your points with market information.
You can also take some steps yourself to "detach" from your home:
- Make changes to your home before selling. Updating parts of the property can help you distance yourself from your home — and boost its value before the sale.
- Make post-sale plans. Focusing on a goal or event after you sell your home can help you move past any potential grief or regret. Consider throwing yourself headfirst into personalizing your new home or making travel plans.
Fear of a low sale price
Concerns about a home's sale price are common: 69% of sellers say they're worried their home will sell for a price below what they'd like.
From here, talk to an agent to find out if the price you're expecting reflects the current market.
» JUMP: Understanding the market
The sale is not by choice
Even if you love your home, you may still need to move. You might be moving for a job or to avoid foreclosure — either way, it can throw an additional layer of stress onto selling your home.
If you're moving because of a bad financial situation (such as to avoid foreclosure), work with a real estate agent to find a solution that works for you.
Frequently asked questions about seller's remorse
Seller's remorse is regret after selling your home. Your emotional attachment to your home, the stress of the sale and move, or the circumstances for why you're selling can all cause seller's remorse.
A great real estate agent can make all the difference in avoiding seller's remorse by helping you decide if you're serious about selling, providing crucial market context, or including contingencies in the listing and purchase agreements to give you peace of mind — and a potential way out of the sale.
Backing out of a sale can have major consequences for the seller.
If the seller gets cold feet before signing a purchase agreement, they'll have little trouble canceling the sale. However, they likely need to pay cancellation fees or realtor commission to the agent or broker, per the listing agreement.
If the seller backs out after signing the purchase agreement, they could be sued by the buyer or agent for damages, commission, and other penalties.
Clever Real Estate. "Role of the Realtor in 2022: Expectations and Misconceptions." Updated (April 27, 2022).