In May of this year, the sellers of an architect-designed home in the hills above Oakland, Calif., received two offers in less than two weeks. They accepted the offer from the buyers who seemed most committed to buying the house.

In less than 12 hours, the buyers backed out. Although they had been looking for a home for months and thought they’d decided where they wanted to live, they had a change of heart — not about the house, but about the location. Buyer’s remorse is one reason transactions fail.

The enthusiasm that permeated the home-sale market when the federal tax credits were available has waned. Economic news has been mixed at best. This has led to an increased reticence on the part of some homebuyers.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: An easily avoidable reason why contracts fail is failure of sellers to disclose a significant defect in the property before the buyers make an offer. Some sellers resist having presale inspections done because they don’t want buyers to know too much about what’s wrong with their home until they fall in love with it.

This strategy might work for sellers in a hot market where prices are rising quickly. However, in today’s market, buyers are diligent and cautious; falling in love takes a back seat to practicality.

In one case, sellers withheld a report that revealed significant foundation problems that could be fixed only at great expense. The buyers, who were buying at the top of their price range, were furious.

They wouldn’t have made an offer had they known about the foundation upfront, particularly since the seller was unwilling to correct the defect. They wasted time and money on their own inspections. The deal fell apart and the sellers had to put the house back on the market.

Often contacts are so loaded with conditions unacceptable to the sellers that they don’t make it to first base.

One seller refused to respond to an offer because the price was very low, the offer was contingent on the sale of the buyers’ home that was not yet on the market, and the buyers wanted the sellers to take their home off the market until the buyers found a buyer for their home.

Another culprit that can rattle a transaction, even one that’s not full of unreasonable contingencies, are conditions pertaining to the buyers’ financing. Well-qualified buyers were recently told by their lender that they had to increase their cash downpayment from 20 to 25 percent because of one late payment on their credit report.

The buyers had enough cash to increase their downpayment. But, when defects were pointed out during inspections, the buyers didn’t have enough cash left to make the repairs. They asked the seller to credit them money at closing. The seller agreed and the sale closed. However, this could have blown the deal if the seller was unwilling or unable to pay for repairs.

Low appraisals have been a factor in keeping transactions from closing. The situation has improved recently due to a lift in home-sale activity in March and April. However, following the expiration of the tax credits on April 30, the National Association of Realtors reported a 30 percent drop in pending sales — accepted offers that have not yet closed — for May compared to the previous month.

If pending sales continue to decline, this could have a negative impact on home prices, which could lead to more low appraisals. Lenders want appraisers to use comparable sales that occurred within the last three months. 

THE CLOSING: Keep in mind that the home-sale market is a local business. Although national trends and consumer confidence impact local markets, prices tend to hold up well for well-priced homes in high-demand, low-inventory neighborhoods.

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