Some people desire a gorgeous partner. While others desire so much fame they can never walk around in peace. However, real estate might be the most desirable thing of them all since we are spending so much time at home. As a result, real estate FOMO could also be the hardest type of desire to overcome.
Real estate is obviously more desirable than stocks partly because it's harder to buy real estate. Anybody can buy a share or a fractional share of any stock. But not everybody can buy any real estate.
When it's harder to get what we want, we tend to experience FOMO. Therefore, real estate FOMO is even more intense than stock FOMO, vacation FOMO, or even six-pack abs FOMO.
In Search For A Nicer Home
With mortgage rates rising I decided to aggressively explore new real estate opportunities in San Francisco. I didn't expect great deals, but I did expect the bidding wars to die down. Maybe, there would be another forever home out there I could buy.
You see, in mid-2020, I didn't actually buy my true forever home. Instead, I bought a remodeled home that was about 20% nicer than the previous home we lived in once its remodel was complete.
With a growing family, I just didn't want to have to wait and live through the remodeling process. I had a feeling it would take much longer than expected. So I found a completely done house of similar size with a better layout.
This is a therapeutic post about how I found my true forever home and let it slip away. I will also attempt to address how to overcome real estate FOMO if you've been experiencing an extensive desire to own a nicer home as well.
Writing is therapy! So let's get to it.
Responsibility Of A Father: Provide A Safe And Wonderful Home
Ever since I became a father in 2017, the value of living in a nicer primary residence has gone way up. No longer was I just living for myself and my wife. I was living for people who depended on us to take care of them.
The best time to own the nicest house you can afford is when your children are at home. This way, the cost of the house gets amortized across more heartbeats. It's rare to want to upgrade to an even bigger home once they leave the nest.
As I was looking online for housing deals, I stumbled upon an incredible home on a 9,300 useable lot. For comparison, the average lot size in San Francisco is around 2,500 square feet.
I took both kids to see the house and they immediately loved it. They ran around the front yard with glee and giggles for 30 minutes. Seeing them so happy triggered an intense desire in me to buy the home, even though we had just bought our current home in 2020.
As a parent, all you want is for your children to be safe and happy. With a front yard that could be enclosed with a gate, I started dreaming about all the get-togethers we would throw with their friends.
I was willing to pay big bucks for the property. Real estate FOMO took hold. There was just one big problem, I didn't have the money!
Nicest And Most Expensive Home On The Block
Besides not having enough money to buy the home with cash, it also happened to be the most expensive home on the block. With a growing concern the real estate market could fade over the next 1-3 years, it didn't seem prudent to leverage up at what could be the top of the cycle.
To overcome my rational investor brain which is always focused on maximum returns instead of maximum lifestyle, I told myself several things in an attempt to convince myself to buy:
- I'm entering decumulation mode. Therefore, there's no better way to decumulate my wealth than by buying a more expensive property. Money is best spent on having a better lifestyle today. Otherwise, I might die with too much.
- I plan to own the property for 16 years until our daughter goes to college. Therefore, the property's value will probably turn out fine, even if it does lose some value over the next three years.
- To manage risk exposure, I can always sell my other rental properties. Not only would I be reducing risk, but I would also be improving the quality of my life by having to manage fewer rentals. The negative would be that my passive rental income would decrease.
- Another property like this with such a huge lot for this price is unlikely going to come up again. If I don't buy this house, years from now, I might lament about the one that got away.
As a father, my #1 goal is to provide for my family. Despite this house being 70% more expensive than our existing house, it still fell within my 30/30/3-5 house-buying guideline, albeit at the maximum limit.
With other people to care for, I no longer wanted to be so frugal, even though we were comfortable. Instead, I wanted to live it up!
Couldn't Get The Right Financing In Time
Alas, in order to purchase successfully the home, I felt I had to make a 100% cash offer. The home already had two existing offers, one of which was all cash for a slightly higher than asking price. The other offer was at an even higher price, but it had a loan contingency.
I spoke to the listing agent and proposed a dual agency, where she would represent me to save her client from paying the 2.5% commission to the buyer's agent. I have done dual agency purchases for the past three homes to great success.
In this case, the listing agent would earn 0.3% more commission on top of her already guaranteed 2.5% commission and I could save 1.1% off the asking price. The remaining 1.1% would go to the seller. This way, we'd all win.
Trying To Come Up With The Real Estate Funds Was Hard
The listing agent said if I did a 14-day close, all cash, I had a good chance of winning if I submitted an offer $40,000 under the asking price. If my offer was accepted, I estimated it would be about $100,000 below the competing all-cash offer. That felt great!
The problem, however, was that I didn't want to sell a ton of stock to pay for this house. The S&P 500 was down about 18.5% at the time and I also didn't want to pay capital gains tax. Keeping my desired ~30% of net worth in stocks as part of my ideal net worth asset allocation was important.
It is wise to do what billionaires do by borrowing against their assets at an affordable rate. However, given time was of the essence, I couldn't get a loan from the bank in time.
Finally, I didn't want to borrow money from a friend as that might create complications.
Lesson learned. Anticipate your desire for things. The more you want, the more cash or access to liquidity you need. The less you want, the simpler your life!
If you're serious about buying a new home, at the very least, you need to get preapproved for a mortgage. Otherwise, you will be uncompetitive in the bidding process.
Why Not Get My Financing Down Beforehand?
The obvious question you might be wondering is why I didn't get my financing down before finding the home. Wouldn't that have been a much smarter decision to conquer my real estate FOMO?
The first reason was that I didn't expect to find a new dream home so quickly. As a real estate investor, I'm always observing new listings on the market to get a proper estimate of my holdings. However, very rarely do homes pop up that elicit so much desire. You tend to get less emotional with real estate over time.
The second reason was that I was expecting the home to not get offers at its asking price. Since the S&P 500 was flirting with bear market territory and the NASDAQ was already well into a bear market, I didn't expect the home to get offers so quickly. But by the 12th day on the market, the listing agent decided to set an offer deadline due to the interest.
My hope was the deadline would pass with no offers, the house would sit on the market for a month, and THEN I could swoop in and purchase the home for 5-10% below its original asking price.
I had seen this happen to several other not-as-nice homes recently, where the listing agent shot too high. Unfortunately, this property was too hot for such a thing to occur.
Of the past four real estate purchases I've made, I paid below asking for each one. To pay asking in this market after a huge run-up didn't feel right. So I told myself I would only buy if I could get a discount. Discipline was in order!
Dealing With The House That Got Away
The house is currently pending and I feel sad to have missed my opportunity. Sure, maybe the house will fall out of escrow and I'll be given another chance. But mentally, it's important to move on and appreciate what I already have.
What's interesting is I had these exact same emotions back in April 2020 when I was considering buying the house I'm currently living in. I daydreamed about what it would be like to raise my family. I imagined the joy on my kids' faces as they ran around the deck and played hide and seek in the many new rooms.
Only with our current house, I actually succeeded in sealing the deal. When I asked my son which house he preferred, he said our current house. And when I asked him why, he said it was because of all the toys. In other words, he doesn't really care if the new house is bigger and nicer. He just cared about what was inside the house.
Meanwhile, more importantly, my wife wasn't enthusiastic about moving after only two years in our existing house. She liked the coziness of our house and didn't want to deal with all the minutiae of moving. Things such as getting cable, wifi, furniture, window treatments, and setting up the security system are a PITA.
Why change if things aren't broken right?
Controlling Your Real Estate FOMO
I allowed real estate FOMO to get to me because I'm a real estate addict. The thrill of a good real estate negotiation is more fun than any roller coaster ride! However, I also feel a little bit ashamed for letting desire get the most of me. I thought I was better than this.
Missing out on living in a nicer house made me appreciate our current house less. It's similar to seeing your neighbor driving a nicer car or going on a fabulous vacation. Suddenly, the things you have and your experiences don't seem as wonderful. Hedonic adaptation is so sad!
If you want to feel poor, the easiest thing you can do is look at real estate listings. There seems to be an unlimited number of real estate levels you can buy.
Once you think you made it buying a $1 million home, you peak over at the $3 million listings and start thinking yours isn't so nice anymore. Just when you're comfortable living in a $3 million home, you search for $6 million homes with more land and a view.
Here in San Francisco, there are $50 – $100 million homes as well!
In real estate, there's always a nicer home to aspire to own. Whereas with stocks, it's not like owning 100X more of the stock makes you feel that much better. As an owner with one share, you still own the company. You also still get to participate in the annual shareholder meeting.
How To Overcome Real Estate FOMO
To overcome your real estate FOMO you must learn to feel grateful for the home you currently own. Here are some thoughts on how to feel more grateful.
1) Think back to the time right before you submitted an offer on your existing home. Remember the excitement you were feeling. Also remember the difficulty of going through the entire preapproval process as well as the anxiety of not knowing whether you would win or not.
2) If you want to appreciate your current home more, give it a good clean and declutter. When you're looking at new homes, they are often spotless and staged. It's an unfair comparison that can often make you feel less good about your house.
3) Buy new fixtures and appliances. You'll be amazed what buying new faucets, door handles, light fixtures, or a new dishwasher can do to spruce up your home. Changing your refrigerator and range will also help a lot. However, the removal and installation are much more difficult.
4) Paint and landscape. Painting the interior and/or exterior of your house is one of the easiest ways to freshen up your house. You can also paint accent walls or experiment with unique colors. Landscaping is also a fun way to spruce up your house as well with new plants, mulch, borders, and trees.
5) Think about all the money you'll save by not buying a nicer house. You will save on annual property taxes and monthly mortgage payments, if you take out a loan. Think about what else you could do with the money. You can reinvest more of your cash flow into passive real estate investments to live more free. Further, think about the benefits of having a lower cash burn to better handle any economic environment.
6) Appreciate a simpler life. Part of the reason why we suffer so much is because we keep on desiring more. By staying in your existing home you save a tremendous amount of time and headache. You also won't need to sell any assets, including your existing home, to afford your more expensive home.
7) Your happiness likely won't increase much. Unless you live in a total dump with rowdy neighbors and incessant noise pollution, buying a nicer house likely won't make you happier for very long. You may experience a temporary one point bump in happiness. But thanks to hedonic adaption, you'll likely revert to your baseline level of happiness.
8) Stop surfing the listings. Given real estate listings are endless, you will eventually stumble upon an amazing home you'll want. But if you focus your attention elsewhere, you won't want what you don't know. Alcoholics don't visit bars for a reason. My problem is that going to Sunday open houses has been a hobby of mine for over 10 years. It provides for good exercise, market insights, and design ideas.
Enjoy Your Existing Home More
If you're suffering from tremendous real estate desire, I feel you. It's such a weird feeling to want a nicer home despite already being comfortable.
Although I am sad to have missed out on a forever home, I'm also happy to have gone through this experience of self-discovery.
It's like window shopping at a very expensive mall. You want to splurge on a luxury watch, handbag, or piece of clothing because there's an emotional calling. However, when you don't, you breathe a sigh of relief thanks to all the money you ended up saving.
I'm surprised about how strong of a desire I had to leverage up to buy a much more expensive home only two years after purchasing our existing one. I thought I had my Desire Demons under better control. Alas, I've still got a lot of work to do to manage my wants.
The one positive about this experience is that I realize I'm absolutely serious about entering the decumulation phase of my life. Having kids accelerates time. As a result, I'm more cognizant of my mortality and will spend the time I have left more purposefully.
With the money I'm saving not buying this new house, I'm simply going to invest the funds in private real estate funds like Fundrise. This way, at least I'll keep up and down with the market.
After writing this post, I realized I've been trying to beat back real estate FOMO for years now. Below are a couple more examples when I was still focused on generating as much passive income as possible.
Don't Let Ego Make You Buy A More Expensive Home Than You Can Afford
How A Big Expensive Home Could Ruin Your Life
Readers, have you ever experienced real estate FOMO? If so, how did you overcome it? Is there any type of FOMO that's worse than real estate FOMO? Perhaps education FOMO or family FOMO?
My son told me something that has completely eliminated my real estate FOLO. He said, “I don’t want to move to that house because I can no longer see the sunsets.”
Invest In Real Estate For Capital Appreciation And Income
If you don't have the downpayment to buy a property or don't want to deal with the hassle of managing real estate, take a look at Fundrise, my favorite real estate investment platform today. Fundrise is a leading institutional real estate investor that primary invests in single-family homes in the Sunbelt.
Fundrise enables you to invest as little as $10 into various diversified real estate funds. Sign up and take a look at all investment opportunities Fundrise has to offer. It's free to look.
I've personally invested $810,000 into a variety of private real estate investments since 2016. Since then, I've received over $624,000 in distributions.
33 thoughts on “Real Estate FOMO: How To Overcome The Hardest Type Of Desire”
For the past six years, my wife and I have lived with our two boys in a small 1,000 square foot homestead cabin built in the 1800s. We bought the property with plans to build (following a seven year process to subdivide the land into two parcels). But I must admit, the forced wait has really made us reconsider our dreams of building.
Part of me feels proud to live in a small home. Partly due to the joy of stealth wealth, and partly due to the fact that I want our boys to appreciate the simple things in life. I don’t want them to ever think they need a million dollar home to be happy or to think they’ve made it.
I think there’s tremendous power in contentment, and if I hope to teach my sons about the joy of contentment, I feel I need to live my own life that way. I suppose fatherhood has helped to keep my FOMO in check.
That’s why I call myself Simple Money Man….keep your needs and wants simple and reasonably attainable.
Having said that I do plan to move in about 3-5 years hopefully when the market stabilizes a bit (been in the same town for over 15 years and want a change in overall scenery). And that will again hopefully be my forever home.
Great post Sam. Be careful, as the Dai Lai Lama said “Greed is not fulfilled by Acquiring”….so once you get that house, you will want a bigger one and it never ends. In these volatile times, they say the best thing to do is stay pat and don’t make any big moves. Just enjoy and be content with your current house. We moved from a 2400 square foot house to a 3600 square foot newer home 2 years ago here in the East Bay. When I ask my kids which house they preferred, they’re like “it’s all the same to us”….
I had a few moments of real estate FOMO when we were shopping in 2018/2019. I let one get away that had 40 acres and a 1 acre pond right next to the house! Fortunately an even better home came up. It had a smaller acreage and a smaller pond. I am actually relieved we didn’t get that larger property as maintaining that much acreage would be a part time job.
We have found a vaccine against FOMO, we search zillow with filters on based on how much we paid for our house. Since prices have skyrocketed what you can buy now for that amount is much less, and we feel proud that we “timed” the market right. I calculated that our house has appreciated by more than 2x our monthly mortgage including taxes/insurance!
Similar to you Sam I also upgraded and bought a “forever” or 10 year home in 2020 but am experiencing real estate FOMO now, especially seeing how much ours has gained in value in just two years. What’s keeping my thoughts away from selling and moving is my 30 year fixed rate mortgage that’s under 2.7% and would be absolutely painful to give up. I’m also a single family rental investor so I’m able to channel my home-buying energy towards that and away from my own personal house desires.
Can you elaborate on why you would be experiencing RE FOMO if your property has appreciated a lot in 2 years? Do you mean bc even nicer homes have also appreciated a lot, making them more unaffordable since they are at higher price points?
I’d say my home’s appreciation fuels my RE FOMO because like you said it makes me realize the nicer house I may have passed up on two years ago that was only slightly out of reach then has appreciated even more and may now be even further out of reach. The other reason is it’s easy to daydream about putting my home’s appreciation to work in the form of a down-payment on a new house were I to sell. I would have to add additional money to the sale proceeds to make this new, larger down payment.
I had these thoughts, when we bought a condo for $350k years ago, and a flats and houses across the street were only $50-100k more. Fast forward to now, and the condo sold for $900k, but the flats and houses are $1.5-3m.
Just makes us wish we had pushed it to the limit…even knowing how house poor we would have been. And that it wouldn’t have worked. The stress of self employment trying to make it through 9/11, the 2008 crash, and then the pandemic would have gotten us before we could have sold.
But the irrational little voice says “but if you bought the one across the street, you could be closer to retiring now…”
Maybe, but I doubt it. Still hard to tell that little voice the condo was the right choice at the time.
I hear you. But at least you’re up big and didn’t rent all those years!
There’s always more money to be made. We just have to figure out how much is enough.
Great post Sam, as always. I relate to it on so many levels – from obsessively scrolling zillow/redfin to being on the perpetual journey for my forever home.
Talking about real estate desires: One of my long standing desires is to be able to build my own ‘forever home’ in the bay area. Not anything super/ultra luxurious (relatively speaking for the bay), but something $4-$5M range with a decent lot size and view in the East Bay.
Sam, curious if you have ever thought (or know anyone) of purchasing land and building your customer ‘forever home’? If so, do you have any pros/cons to share on the feasibility of building your own home in that $$ range in the bay?
We do have a decently sized primary today (9k sq ft lot / 3.5k sq ft build) which we purchased new, however we don’t like the new build designs of most/all big name builders.
I know someone who did so in SF. Lovely new home build. But it ended up having a lot of problems bc it was custom built. So when things leaked or cracked, it would cost a fortune to replace and take a long time. Just beware. The more custom your home, the more painful it will be to fix.
Such a great post. I’ve suffered from this for the last two years during the pandemic, going between buying a beach house or upgrading to a much larger primary home in Manhattan or nearby suburbs. The choices are endless but the rapidly rising market just leaves us feel like we are two steps behind on every bid. It’s my life long goal to find my forever home and I so want to get there but you are absolutely right to stay disciplined!!!
Hopefully we will have more opportunities over the next 24 as the housing market slows.
I’m pretty sure there will be!
Interesting post and good life lessons! You know one important point is that for young kids EVERYTHING seems big.. I remember growing up we had a pretty small back yard with Jacuzzi. We still had so much fun back there, it was best of times. I actually went back to check it out during an open house recently and as an adult the back yard looked tiny! For kids it really doesn’t matter, as long as they have a fun place to play they can make good memories and have good times in almost any space. In fact a small space may make them become more creative and inventive. I am sure your current place is super nice… I always like this quote:
“People borrow money they don’t have, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like.”
Make your home your home and enjoy the time you have. Use the present to build good memories that you can look back on in the future.
Totally agree on things seeming much bigger as kids.
I bring my boy to the hot tub at least twice a week and we have a great time. It’s such a blessing to spend time with our children before they leave us.
I still have fomo from passing up on a house in Vegas in 2015. It was going to be an investment property. I live in NY, but do have a friend in Vegas and was traveling there for work a couple of times a year. The house has now doubled in price and I’m still kicking myself for not buying it. I’m sure if the house lost half its value I’d feel otherwise. I guess in the end I didn’t want to have a property manager and if something went wrong I’d be a plane ride away to address an issue. I still think about it.
It’s tough to miss 100% return opportunities. But hopefully you reinvested the down payment or full payment money into something else that appreciated a lot in value.
It’s just the leverage component with real estate is so powerful a wealth creator. Tough to beat for the average person.
Finding a home with a layout you love is something to truly cherish. Maybe it’s not as fancy as some other places but if the space works, enjoy it and make the most of it. Decluttering and finding ways to maximize the space, or changing up some decor is a great way to re-appreciate your home. Doing yard work and putting up fresh paint is another way to make you feel better about your home and super satisfying.
Ah yes, yard work and fresh paint. Forgot about those! Just spent the past four days slowly touching up and painting a rental property. Feels great to get those nicks and scratches and make things look great for the next tenant.
Will be writing about layout next!
My kids go to a school with incredibly affluent families. Son is currently making the rounds attending grad parties and the pics and videos of the homes are just unreal. Honestly, it does give some FOMO despite being completely comfortable (almost paid off) and living in a great neighborhood.
Maybe think of it as getting good value? If your kids can still get the same education while you live in a less expensive house that you enjoy, that’s a win!
Back in 2011, I found a nice big house in a great area for a great price. I went by to take a look and it was in terrible shape. It needed a lot of work. I got scared and didn’t proceed with the offer. I was preparing for early retirement at the time so I didn’t want to tie up a lot of money in a house. It’d require a lot of funds to fix and update too. Oh well…
Good luck finding a great house. I don’t think a front yard is a big deal. A nice big backyard is way more important, IMO. Nobody spends any time in their front yard. Although, that might be because the front yard is usually tiny.
Did you ever calculate how much that home would be worth now?
True on the front yard, but this place is special and it is totally private. It also has a backyard. Having more usable land outdoors is so much more valuable to me now.
This comes at an excellent time – just this past week I almost bought a large property because of FOMO. On paper it was a great investment opportunity (large amount of land which developers were interested in), but the work required to make it worthwhile was too much for me.
My wife and I talked about it at length and decided to hunker down and wait to consider moving again until the growth of our family requires more breathing room. Besides, if we moved now then we could no longer afford to meet our current retirement goals.
My personal problem isn’t coveting the higher-end houses going up in my South SF Bay community, as I just need to remind myself of the $4k-per-month (or more) property taxes associated with them. Rather, my problem is fantasizing about how much better a house I could get were I to relocate to the areas around Portland, or Seattle, or Denver, … So much more and nicer house, more land, schools just as good as here, and a couple $M left over after the transition. If you or your readers have a solution to that problem, please let me know :-)
I sometimes feel myself trapped in this cycle: Why does our family work such demanding but high-paying jobs? — to make money, of course. Why do we need to make so much money? — so that we can afford the high cost of living in the Bay Area, clearly. Why do we need to live in the Bay Area? — because that’s where the high-paying jobs are!
Ah, the cycle is real! Reminds me of the post I wrote on scraping by on $500,000 a year.
And then working things out:
For some reason, I don’t have that urge to relocate to a cheaper city to be able to own a nicer piece of property. I think the reason why is that I’ve been everywhere, and I truly believe San Francisco is the most beautiful city in America with plenty of opportunity.
To leave friends and our network and schools would be tough, hence why we don’t move even though we could.
I don’t even have a job in SF and I’ve made way more than I would have saved if I relocated due to the investment opportunities I’ve come across from my network.
I also get to see the Warriors play every so often thanks to a friend. Just went to game 5 of the Western Conference final. Priceless fun moments!
I would try before buying in a new city and working remotely. We have it better than we think we do in the Bay!
This is a very timely post. We have been looking for a house in Philadelphia suburbs for a few months now and the market here is crazy. Most listing agents set an offer deadline of 2-3 days after listing and the houses are getting multiple offers 5%-10% over asking price. We are trying to stick to our budget given the higher mortgage rates, but might cave in at some point if we can’t find a house that doesn’t go under contract within 3 days of listing.
I really encourage you to remain disciplined in this market. The housing market could fade for the next 1-3 years. I would put on my vulture investing hat, not FOMO hat.
Hey Sam, I know this reply was a few months ago. Since you’ve written about foreigners coming to buy coastal real estate. I’m starting the pre approval process now. Plan on making some 5-10% offers below asking. Have you moved away from the 1-3 years wait an see on real estate?
I’m looking aggressively over the next 12 months.
Bloomberg recently reported an uptick in foreign demand and I know more outlets will report this rebound.
I kind of have the opposite reaction when looking at real estate listings. We’ve been in the same place almost 23 years. When I look at current listings, I see how much more money they are and the ones that look nicer are 3-4 times what we paid. We bought new so I know the condition and history of this home. We are in an area where the newer homes are 5 times what we paid. No FOMO for me.
Great post. I have never suffered FOMO related to possessions – house, fancy car, clothes, etc. – but I kinda get it when it comes to the house. We just moved from our house where we raised the kids and were in for 26 years. LOL, just going through the buy/sell process once in 26 years makes me never want to do it again!!!!
However, we actually spent less on the new house than the sale but got significantly more house. Kinda didn’t make rational sense since we are now empty nesters, but I can tell you I am fully appreciating more space, newer house, etc., and glad we weren’t “rational.” I don’t know if I would have done it differently because staying away from high debt levels just suites me, and to buy a large house where we were, when the kids were small, would have added alot of stress for me moneywise, and likely taken away from enjoyment of the house. What I did do at the last “small” house what added a very nice deck and patio with top-of-the line hot tub, to increase the living space for not a ton of money. A full-on addition we priced at $350k, while redoing the exterior was 50k.
Anyway, like everything with money it seems like there are trade-offs. For me money is more about security, so never want to get close to being over-extended financially, probably to a fault.
I always thought your dream house was in Hawaii? It might get harder to move as your kids get older, and they want to be with their same friends at school. My daughter really hated us moving when she was 12yo, even though she stayed at the same school.