Miami-based designer and author Marianne Cusato knows a lot about the touchy subject of buyer's remorse. She has spent years talking to homeowners about what they like--and don't like--about their houses. BUILDER talks with Cusato about what building pros can do to make sure their customers are happy after move in.

What are the top home buyer regrets?
Financial surprises are at the heart of most regrets. According to a recent Chase bank survey of recent home buyers, 90% of people felt prepared to make a purchase, but 56% admitted they wish they had more information about financial aspects before purchasing. 34% said owning a home was more expensive than they had planned. Hidden expenses beyond the monthly mortgage are typically to blame for these surprises. The expense of commuting, heating and cooling, and general maintenance can add up fast. Additionally, according to the same Chase survey, 80% of people thought they were buying a house that was move-in ready, yet 76% said they had already renovated or were planning to do so in the near term. 

What do buyers tell you are the biggest pitfalls to finding their perfect dwelling?
One of the largest pitfalls that I see is mixing up dreams and expectations. A dream is the vision, expectations are the strings we put on that vision. For instance, you might dream of having a big yard, that's fine. The trouble comes when you expect that your kids will spend time playing in that yard. The pitfall comes when you are frustrated mowing and paying to maintain that yard that your kids don't go in because they never have the time. Similarly, a dream might be a chef's kitchen. With this might come the expectation that you will have family meals every night. This adds many stresses when schedules don't align or preparing meals becomes a burden.  

How can builders avoid the issues that lead to these regrets?
Offer cost per month information. How much will it cost to heat and cool this home? How much will it cost to maintain the yard? 

What are some of the top features that buyers are looking for right now?
Americans want homes designed for people first, cars second--homes that are connected to walkable communities rather than auto-dependent mono-cultures. These type of communities have garages pushed to the side or back of the homes, sidewalks, trees, and a connection to walkable amenities, ideally shops and restaurants. 

Your new book is the Just Right Home. What is that?
The Just Right Home is one that strikes the tricky balance between function, cost, and delight. It must work for the way your customer lives, both in layout and location and it must be affordable for them to live in, maintain, and operate. Yet, beyond these purely functional features, your buyers or tenants must love the place. Balancing in all three requires trade-offs and a true understanding of not just your clients' wants and needs but also what they are willing to sacrifice and what they are willing to pay for.

Please tell us a bit about your new venture,
I am an Advisory Council member for the start-up, which is currently being tested. The long-term vision is to create a resource that plays matchmaker between an individual and their ideal neighborhood as well as ideal home. The site focuses on livability and comfort balanced with monthly expenses and cost of living to create Dwell scores for different homes and locations. The company is currently only in the San Diego area, but plans to expand.