The flawless homes on real estate TV shows are enough to make anyone feel inferior. Here's how to conquer those feelings as a homeowner/buyer.
The Netflix hit reality real estate show “Selling Sunset” recently returned with its fourth season, and its luxury home listings are almost as engrossing as the interpersonal drama. Five-bedroom, seven-bathroom homes with interior waterfalls and sweeping views of Los Angeles are enough to make any homeowner, or homebuyer, feel inferior.
If you don’t follow “Selling Sunset,” there are plenty of other luxury real estate reality TV programs to make you feel serious fear of missing out (FOMO) in your own home. Are you really living if you don’t have at least 8,000 square feet and a pool that wraps around your home like a moat?
In addition to real estate shows, of course, there’s social media. If you’re not comparing yourself to that sort-of friend from high school who just built a brand-new, 4,000-square foot house on three acres, you might get caught up in the feeds of influencers whose brightly-lit, luxurious, spotless homes make you feel like you’re living in a hovel.
The combination of reality real estate shows and social media can cause even the most content homeowner to second-guess what they have — or what they can afford. FOMO is real, and so is the comparison trap. If you’re not careful, you could miss out on enjoying the home you have or on buying a house that’s actually perfect for you.
“House envy is absolutely a real thing and can affect anyone from the apartment dweller to the mansion owner,” says Allie Seibert, CEO and founder of the site Household History.
Fortunately, there are ways to combat real estate FOMO and be happy in your home. Here are some expert tips on how to do it.
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We all get jealous sometimes, and we all have a touch of FOMO now and then. Acknowledging those feelings can help you avoid acting on them or allowing them to cloud your judgment.
“It can help to start by recognizing and naming your feelings. Jealousy is a normal feeling, but know that just because you like something doesn't mean you have to have it,” Seibert says. “Are there parts of the home that you could emulate in yours? File those ideas away and use them as inspiration.”
“You should be aware that social and material comparisons are a natural thing we humans do, especially comparisons related to your home. We should put a conscious effort into noticing these thoughts and realize that comparison is the thief of happiness,” he says.
He suggests shifting your attention to your own circumstances, rather than fixating on what others have.
“You should put effort into improving your stature rather than just comparing yourself to others. Bigger homes don’t necessarily mean happiness. Don’t mistake grandeur for livelihood or peace,” he says. “Try to stay mindful of your thoughts and focus on your grass rather than peeking above your fence. Having this kind of mindset will help you avoid FOMO when buying a house.”
When you’re buying a home, the search can take over your life. You become obsessed with checking for new listings. You get hooked on real estate shows and social media feeds as you try to learn everything you can about home layouts, design, and which features are in demand right now. With so much input, it’s easy to assume you need a home that matches everything you’ve seen on TV or online.
But when you get down to it, most homebuyers will have a fairly small list of absolute must-haves.
Joshua Blackburn, a real estate agent and founder of the contracting company Evolving Home, recommends writing that list down and referring back to it whenever the scope of your search starts to exceed your budget.
“List the top five things you want in a house and go back to it every time you feel home-buying FOMO creeping in,” he says. “Narrow down to five the things that you want in your future home, but set realistic expectations to only attain at least two. Go back to this list to keep you grounded in your decision to buy a house.”
Having your list handy will help you choose a home because you can compare properties to that criteria. Then, when you finally do buy the house, you can feel confident knowing that it’s going to meet your needs.
Brian Burke, owner and managing broker of Denver-area luxury real estate company Kenna Real Estate, shares similar advice.
“It becomes easy for homebuyers and homeowners to avoid the fear of missing out and falling into the hot market competition by writing down their priorities earlier,” Burke says. “It lets them choose what they need and does not let luxury dominate their decisions. At the same time, it helps you not to choose any overpriced investment.”
The big stories in homebuying for the past year and a half have been the skyrocketing prices and how much the demand for homes has outpaced the supply.
But as Des Moines, Iowa, loan officer Tyler Osby recently told Home.com, real estate is local. Just because prices are soaring in Denver and Phoenix doesn’t mean the homebuying process will be grueling where you are.
Patrick O’Sullivan, a multifamily real estate expert in Gibson, Ariz., takes a similar view.
“Doing some research can be pretty helpful when it comes to buying a house. However, it does not mean that you need to read the media stories regarding the rising property prices, which can facilitate your FOMO.” he says. “To study the market effectively, you should research the areas you are interested to buy in, look for property sale histories in those areas, and identify the value you can enjoy for the money.”
Hutz says focusing specifically on your market, and your budget, can help avert FOMO and the misguided decisions it can inspire.
“Look at the market you’re buying into to avoid FOMO,” she says. “Now, this does not mean that you start scrolling through social media stories about real estate properties and their high expenses. This will only increase your fear of missing out. Instead, what you should do is research the areas where you want to buy a house. Look at property sales, the history surrounding the house, and figure out what value you can get for your money.”
We all know that Instagram posts and even "reality" don’t depict reality -- real estate TV shows are no exception. Carefully staged sections of a home, good lighting, and strategic photography can make properties seem larger and more appealing than they actually are.
“Remember that social media is not always the reality,” Hutz says. “The pictures and videos are highly edited to make them look as luxurious as they do because it allows Realtors to sell more property advertisements.
Because pictures can be deceiving, Connecticut real estate agent Mike Gregor advises that you always see properties in person. Don’t rely on virtual tours or videos that can gloss over less-desirable features of the home and inspire a feeling of urgency and FOMO that drives you to buy a home that doesn’t really meet your needs.
“Virtual tours or watching only photos of the property on a sale is a major reason behind homeowners feeling FOMO,” Gregor says. The best is to go by yourself on foot and observe the property very well.”
He says to view the property several times before committing to buying it.
“It will help your feeling of FOMO vanish away,” he says.
Having options is great, but sometimes too many choices can lead to indecision and dissatisfaction. And when you find a home you like, stop scrolling through listings or booking additional showings.
“The more you see, the more you are confused,” says Nashville Realtor Matt Ward. Too many alternatives are not [necessarily] a good thing. If you have found what you desire, stay with it.”
Once you’ve put in an offer on a home, stop scrolling through other listings and focus instead on your ideas for the house. Watch YouTube videos on DIY projects and home decor, spend time getting to know the neighborhood and local community. That will get you excited about the home you’re buying rather than wondering whether there’s something better out there.
Whether you’re a homeowner feeling dissatisfied with your house or a homebuyer wishing you could afford a larger or newer home, envision what the home could be instead of focusing on what it lacks. You might be surprised by how much even small changes make to your enjoyment of the space.
“The best way I have found to avoid FOMO when it comes to home décor is to first declutter,” says Catt Fleetwood, a branch sales manager with Fairway in Wake Forest, N.C.
Getting rid of items you no longer use and organizing especially messy spaces can make those rooms feel like new. Plus, once they’re tidied, you might get ideas for new ways to decorate or use the spaces that will make you happier in the home.
Fleetwood also suggests painting your walls a fresh, neutral color and adding seasonal decor items such as throws and pillows to prevent getting bored in the space.
“I personally love rugs and love switching them out, so I go to Rugs.com and can get very affordable rugs that don’t break the bank so I can have a variety of them,“ Fleetwood says.
If you’ve found a home that meets your needs but is a little outdated, think about what it would take to make it feel more modern.
“Subtle changes can make a big impact,” says Joe Pessolano, also a Fairway branch sales manager, based in Garner, N.C.
He suggests upgrading light fixtures, paint, flooring, and furniture.
And if a house seems perfect for you except for one substantial renovation, you might consider a mortgage that allows you to finance some renovations along with the purchase of your home.
If you own your home, there’s a reason you chose to buy it. And if you’re putting in an offer on one, there’s a reason you went for that house in particular.
When you find yourself looking at other properties and feeling insecure about your own, or all you can see is what the home lacks, ground yourself in why it caught your eye in the first place. Think about its unique charms, the memories you’ve made there, and the potential to transform it down the road.
“Keep in mind that every single home has something special to offer,” Seibert says. “Yes, that luxury home on TV might be gorgeous, but more than likely it's lacking something that your home has, whether it's a century-long history, a cozy reading nook, or even something as simple as the color you've painted your walls.”
Focusing on what your home has, rather than what you think it should have, will keep feelings of FOMO at bay.