But nearly 1 million in U.S. who bought homes in 2019 regret the purchase

A new LawnStarter.com survey of more than 5,000 recent homebuyers found that Iowans are the happiest with their home purchase in 2019 — but nearly 1 million homebuyers nationally regret their purchase.

The results are part of a large-scale “New Homebuyer Happiness Index” survey by LawnStarter, a national on-demand lawn and landscaping service company. We surveyed 5,672 people who purchased homes in 2019. All respondents answered 118 questions about various aspects of homebuying. Results were obtained from people in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. 

How We Created the New Homebuyer Happiness Index

The core of the survey was six questions related to how happy the homebuyers were with their purchase. 

We asked: 

  • If their neighbors were friendly.
  • If the neighborhood felt safe.
  • Whether the job market was good.
  • Whether the new location was a good place to raise children.
  • If they regret the purchase.
  • Would they buy the same house, knowing what they know now. 

Answers to those six questions were weighted equally and converted to a 100-point scale, with 100 being the happiest.

Key findings

Overall, homebuyers were happy. The national average score on the New Homebuyer Happiness Index was 81. While the answers showed a strong degree of satisfaction, many factors — some of them surprising — were associated with making people dissatisfied. Location played a strong role in happiness, but so did the price paid, square footage, number of bedrooms and even the architectural style.

Here are the key findings on what made people happy with their new homes, and what made them regret their purchases.

  • Iowans were the happiest, scoring 86.6 on the Home Happiness Index. Wisconsin, Nebraska, Alabama and North Dakota rounded out the top five.
  • Wyoming homebuyers were least happy, scoring 68.7 on the index. The other least-happy homebuyers were from the District of Columbia, Alaska, Montana and New Mexico.
  • More than 1 in 7 homebuyers (15.3%) say they regret the purchase. There were 6.02 million homes sold in the U.S. in 2019, according to data released in January from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Association of Realtors. That means that about 925,000 homebuyers regret their decision.
  • Bigger is better. Happiness rises steadily with the number of bedrooms: People with five or more bedrooms are 17 percent happier with their purchase than those with just one bedroom. Square footage matters, too: Those with homes of 3,000 square feet or more reported the greatest happiness. Those who bought tiny homes expressed the smallest amount of happiness.
  • Paying more does not lead to happiness. The unhappiest homeowners were at either end of the price scale: Those who paid more than $900,000 for a house, and those who paid less than $100,000 were both significantly less happy. The happiest homeowners were those in between, who paid between $100,00 and $900,000.
  • People who had to make significant sacrifices to buy the home ended up less happy. Those who had to take on a second, full-time job to pay for the home were especially disgruntled.

Why Iowans are Happy Homebuyers

Iowans reported satisfaction across the board, saying they were especially pleased with how Iowa is both safe and a good place to raise children. 

“The state and several of our cities are landing in lists of top places to live for a variety of reasons,” said Scott Wendl, 2020 president of the Iowa Association of Realtors, in a statement about Iowa’s homebuying market. “Iowa was ranked No. 1 for housing affordability. Iowa was also first in ‘best place to find a job.’ With high marks in education, cost of living and a growing high-tech startup sector, Iowa is an attractive place to work and raise a family.”

What Makes Wyomingites Unhappy With Their Home Purchase

Almost half of the homebuyers from Wyoming, on the other hand, regretted their purchase. They were particularly unhappy with the job market, and many gave their neighbors poor marks for their friendliness. 

Only homebuyers from Washington, D.C., found their neighbors less-friendly.

Homebuying Happiness by Home Size, Style, Price, Bedrooms

People who bought homes with more bedrooms and more square footage reported a greater degree of satisfaction. 

The more bedrooms, the more happy people reported they were with their purchase. Those with homes of six or more bedrooms were the happiest.  

Although buying a house with more bedrooms made people report greater happiness, more bathrooms did not. People with one bathroom were just as happy as those with five or more.

The age of a home also was associated with happiness. Those buying homes built after 1960 were significantly more likely to be happy than those who bought homes before that year.

Even the architectural style of a home made a difference. Those who bought Tudor and ranch-style homes were happiest. At the bottom end of the scale: Greek revival and pueblo revival styles.

The amount paid over or under the asking price also played a role in happiness, but there’s a twist: The unhappiest people were those who got the biggest bargains.  

 

Sacrificing Before Buying a Home

Homebuyers reported making significant sacrifices to before buying their homes — but that didn’t always make them happy. 

Three out of five respondents said that they changed their lifestyle while saving for a house. The most-common change was eating out less often (36%). Another 22% said they gave up eating out completely. About 7% sold off household goods — usually furniture and clothes, but some sold cars, antiques, collectibles and musical instruments to make their home purchase happen. A handful of people said they sold “everything.” 

Many took on second jobs:

  • 23% said they got another part-time job.
  • 11% said they got another full-time job. 

It didn’t end well for many of those who sweated the most for their home: The ones who got a second full-time job scored their happiness at 76 — five points lower than the national average.

What People Would, Would Not Give Up


Some features were more highly prized by home buyers. We asked people to name the item or items they gave up on in their homebuying process, and those they refused to give up. 

States varied greatly in what they were willing to yield on. But when it came to what they refused to give up, two items came up most often — number of bedrooms, and garage.

The data showed a distinct geographic tilt. Homebuyers in Southern and Eastern states would not yield on the number of bedrooms. People in the West and Northern Plains insisted on a garage.

Top Reasons They Bought, Ranked

The old saying in real estate is “location, location, location.”

We also asked people to rank the reasons they chose the house they did, from a list of eight potential reasons. Turns out it’s price, size and then location.

Here’s how respondents ranked the reasons for buying the house they did.

  1. Price.
  2. Size.
  3. Location
  4. Yard size.
  5. Kitchen.
  6. Bathroom.
  7. Landscaping.
  8. Pool.

Knowledgeable Homebuyers Ended Up Happier

A homebuyer’s level of knowledge about the homebuying process was directly correlated to how happy then ended up. People who reported they had little to no knowledge about the homebuying process ended up significantly less happy with their purchase. 

Having big surprise repair bills also tended to go with unhappiness.

Other Factors in Home-Purchase Happiness

  • Those who bought ready-to-move-in homes were happier than those who bought fixer-uppers.
  • People who bought homes before they were built — production or custom-built houses — were less happy than those who bought pre-existing homes.
  • Those who moved closer to family were happier than those who moved farther away.
  • People on active-duty military and in the reserves were much less happy than those who were veterans and those who never served.
  • The presence of a front yard and a backyard at the time of purchase added significantly to happiness. 

Things that made little to no difference in happiness: 

  • Political views.
  • Whether there was a pool.

See survey methodology.