Brokerage

Affluent buyers can afford to be fickle

Nervous Nellies with money to burn not afraid to back out of deals, lose earnest money

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Think it’s easy representing buyers of high-end luxury properties, cashing five- or six-digit commission checks every time you close?

One problem with wealthy buyers is they’re not afraid to walk away from a deal — even if they’ve already signed a contract and stand to lose thousands in earnest money or a down payment.

That’s something that seems to be happening more often these days, as fierce competition for scarce listings sometimes results in buyer’s remorse, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Rounding up war stories about “nervous Nellies, fault finders and overbidders” in high-end markets, the Journal documents instances where agents spend months or years house hunting only to back out at the last minute — leaving the agent with nothing to show for their work.

“Few professions demand as much upfront time and legwork with the risk of zero return on the effort as real estate sales,” Nancy Keates reports.

One agent showed a client 130 houses before she settled on a $1.4 million home in San Francisco — only to back out at the last minute after claiming she saw a ghost, forfeiting her $21,000 deposit.

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If buyers haven’t signed a contract, they can change their minds without losing earnest money. But sometimes buyers who get cold feet after signing a contract are able to get their earnest money back, if they can come up with a “valid-sounding reason” for changing their minds, the Journal reports.

Another couple in San Francisco who’d been looking for a home for two years pulled the trigger on a $1.1 million house — or at least the husband did. When his wife came back from an overseas trip, she decided it wasn’t the right house for them. The couple backed out of the deal and got their $33,000 deposit back by citing a leak found in the inspection process.