Four warning signs your buyer has cold feet

It’s a great feeling when you’ve worked hard to prepare your property for sale, and you see prospective buyers expressing a genuine interest in a purchase. You can start to imagine all the possibilities of finding your new home and beginning a new chapter of your life.

But you’re not out of the woods yet. You have to deal with the occasional time-waster, and negotiate a price that reflects the value of your home with those who are genuine.

Buyers will often ask you to insert contingency clauses in a sales contract, which allow them the opportunity to back out if they find fault with the property or fail to obtain a mortgage for the purchase. 

There are three other common contingencies: an unfavourable inspection of the building structure, the buyer’s lender refuses a loan because the price is too high, and the buyer does not need to purchase until their own home has been sold.

The buyer could legally exit the deal if one or more of these contingencies eventuates. When that happens, you’ll have lost time, money and, perhaps, a whole bunch of opportunities to sell. 

Of course, you don’t have to accept any of these conditions, and you can play hardball if you believe you have multiple buyers on the hook.

As an experienced real estate agent, I have seen many “contingent” contracts and then witnessed buyers try to use one of the conditions to back out when, in reality, they’d found somewhere better or changed their mind.

When this happens, you should ask the agents on both sides of the deal to start talking. Make sure you and the buyer are sent copies of any communication. At the very least, you should expect some guidance on the buyer’s intention. 

A deal can usually be saved if you understand the issues. Perhaps, the buyer thinks they’re paying too much, or do not want to go forward because of repairs they believe are necessary.

Make sure you have recourse under the contract so a committed buyer can’t just drop you. A penalty might be a small percentage of the asking price. A deadline should exist in the contract for the completion of the purchase to avoid a long-term stalemate. Another safety valve is to have your own escape clause to exit the deal.

Sadly, you have to watch for this type of buyer behaviour. Below I have outlined some of the warning signs. 

Contract requests – You get multiple iterations of the contract, each iteration requesting more changes to the wording or content of the contract.

Silent treatment – You’re not seeing the contract signed, completed as instructed or even returned.

Gone missing – Appointments to view the house, or times arranged for building or pest inspections come and go without apology. 

Voicemail – Calls to the buyer are not returned, and their agent has no update.