It was a typical Thursday. We put a handful of listings on the market and activity started right away. A couple of properties were hit with immediate showing requests (priced right). A couple drew rave reviews from the local crickets (priced wrong).
But there was one property that received exactly one showing; followed by exactly one question (do you have any offers?); followed by exactly one offer.
And, the offer was a good one. 5% over list price. Pre-approved buyer. No inspections. Not the Holy Grail of offers, but not bad for a Thursday, and the seller snatched it up in a flash.
We buttoned up the paperwork and were on our way by closing time. All’s well that ends well…until the next morning.
Yep–you guessed it. The buyers woke up with the mother of all hangovers and wanted out; like right now. The digital ink was barely dry and I had a dozen texts and emails from the frantic agent telling me the bad news.
As crazy as things have been since the pandemic, we should be used to this by now. I warn sellers every day not to get too pumped up. I give them the same old adages:
- “After the wedding (contract) the marriage begins (closing).”
- “Getting it sold is easy–keeping it sold is work.”
- “Don’t spend your proceeds before they hit the bank.”
- “Never order seafood on a Monday.”
That last one has absolutely nothing to do with real estate, but it’s solid advice nonetheless.
Anyway, in today’s market, buyer’s remorse is not uncommon and sellers need to be prepared to clear this hurdle or maybe avoid it altogether. How do you do that? I’m glad you asked.
Avoiding the hurdle
When you get a great offer, always push back a little. Don’t be too hasty to accept. If you immediately snatch up an offer 100% “as written”, well…what would YOU think if you were the buyer? Right–you just overpaid.
I know you are eager to accept before they get away, but at least act like it was an agonizing decision. Even if you don’t ask for more money (which buyers are fully expecting), at least ask for something to be different. Maybe change a date or a deadline. Maybe balk about the home warranty or concessions request. Anything.
Rather than doing this in a counteroffer, play some verbal tennis. Send an email saying you like the offer, but have some concerns. Ask if they would consider (insert something for them to consider). You can always sign their original offer if they seem put off by your question.
But if you quickly accept with zero resistance, you are begging for buyer’s remorse. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Moving on…
Clearing the hurdle
If you’re already under contract and the buyer wants out for no other reason than they are regretting their overly generous offer, you may not be able to stop them, but you should spend a little effort trying.
My first piece of advice is to immediately do nothing.
Stall. Ask things like, “What’s making them feel that way?” or “Wow–they seemed so excited. What changed?” Push the discussion ball back over the net and wait.
Also, taaaaakkkee your tiiiiimmmmeee responding to messages. Don’t start a chat…let the air come back into the process. Acknowledge that they want out, keep the lines open, but don’t “do” anything yet.
And for the love of Pete…please don’t take an unscheduled phone call from the buyer’s camp. Stick to email and texts to avoid this pitfall.
Yesterday the pendulum was all the way to the “LOVE this house” side. This morning, it has clearly swung to the “OH $#[email protected] what did we just do?” side. Later, it may very well end up near the center.
Second, don’t respond with anger or snark. It’s highly unproductive and besides, we live in a small world with people who love to talk. Be professional and empathetic.
Acting like an ass right now might make you feel better (probably not), but it won’t help you sell your house. Emotions are expensive. Never forget that.
Furthermore, it’s really difficult to rebuild a bridge you torched with a flamethrower of pithy retorts. Keep your words soft in case you have to eat them later.
Last, RTFC. For the uninitiated, that’s a term we use daily in the office. The PG version is “Read The Freaking Contract.” Does the buyer have a legal off-ramp or do they need to cough up the earnest money to cancel?
The most common “get out of the deal” contingency cards are:
- 24/48/72-hour spouse/partner approval walkthrough
- Attorney/CPA review
- Property disclosure review
- HOA document review
- Rescind clause
- Vague inspection or financing language
The only way to know whether a buyer can walk scot-free is to RTFC. Study the specific doorways your buyer can use. If it’s early in the process, chances are they have several choices, but if you solidified your contract by eliminating these easy exits, the buyer may have to pay you to get out. Small consolation, but it’s better than a sharp stick in the eye.
I’m not suggesting you start WW3 to keep your buyer around, but giving a buyer something to think about may pull them back to reality long enough to remember why they fell for your house in the first place. As long as you’re not a jerk about it, a little resistance can often snap them out of their remorse so you can move ahead together.
If after a day or so, you still can’t win them over, your best bet is to cut bait and move on to another buyer. Yes, it sucks going back on the market and having to explain what happened, but you’ll survive. I promise.
For extra credit, check out Chapter 9 of my book “You Can Sell It”. It’s called the Rebound Playbook and walks you through my exact process for regenerating buzz and maximizing offers on your home if you have to go back on the market.
On the other hand, if you think I’m full of it or have a different take, let me know. If you have your own horror or success story, let me hear you. Hit me up HERE with your thoughts and comments. I read and respond to every email…eventually.
Thanks for hanging out with me today and remember, you can sell it…we can help.
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