Now You See It, Now You Don't: Offers to Purchase Disappear

Last Updated May 20, 2009 1:20 PM EDT

My friend Doug was so happy last week: He thought he had sold his home. By the end of last week, after he had returned from a house-hunting trip in his new city several states away, he wasn't so happy. His buyers flipped out, yanked their contract, and walked away. Word on the street is they didn't even tell their agent, who had to find out from Doug's agent.

So it goes in the new world of real estate, where things change on a dime every day. For an industry that's supposed to be relatively illiquid, people seem to be making impulsive decisions that don't make a whole lot of sense.

What could have flipped these buyers overnight? Let us count the possibilities:

  1. Job loss. For most folks, buying a house means not only having a job today, but expecting you'll have one going forward. If you feel as though your job is in jeopardy, making a 30-year commitment doesn't connect.
  2. Buyer's remorse. If you feel like you've paid too much for a home, or if you make an offer on the very first house you look at, you may experience a phenomenon known as buyer's remorse. That's where your gut tells you there was a better deal to be had on a better house somewhere else. Buyer's remorse can really gnaw at you if you let it. (Seller's remorse seems to hinge on how quickly you got your offer - some sellers feel that if you sell the home immediately, you priced it too low and left cash on the table.)
  3. A house they liked better became available. If you have your heart set on a particular house, and then lose it in a bidding war (I know, unimaginable these days) or because the sellers take it off the market, you'll be tempted to cancel a deal if the house suddenly becomes available again.
  4. It was personal. Sometimes people get sick, or they die, or they inherit enough cash to afford a much nicer house (with staff).
I'm sure there are other reasons why someone might pull out of a deal. Feel free to post them here. In the meantime, I've promised that I won't jinx Doug and his house sale by posting anything more until he has actually closed the deal.

But I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

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    Ilyce R. Glink is an award-winning, nationally-syndicated columnist, best-selling book author and founder of Best Money Moves, an employee benefit program that helps reduce financial stress. She also owns ThinkGlink.com, where readers can find real estate and personal finance resources.