The tendency for humans to make dumb or unknowable decisions has torpedoed countless real estate transactions. But while some silly, frustrating or nefarious behavior can’t be helped, real estate agents who know how human fallibility tends to manifest in their business can head off many snafus. From down-payment-draining boob jobs to botched faxes, here’s a list of some deal-breakers that have probably caused their fair share of frustration.

  • Clients don't always follow best practices when it comes to making big purchases before buying a home.
  • Pickiness can manifest in buyer qualms about things like ghosts and apple trees.
  • Sellers, negligent loan officers, romance, kids and the neighborhood atmosphere can also be reasons why deals go sour.

The tendency for humans to make dumb or unknowable decisions has torpedoed countless real estate transactions.

But while some silly, frustrating or nefarious behavior can’t be helped, real estate agents who know how human fallibility tends to manifest in their business can head off many snafus.

From down-payment-draining boob jobs to botched faxes, here’s a list of some deal-breakers that have probably caused their fair share of frustration.

1. Buying big-ticket items 

Perhaps it’s worth beating buyers over the head with the idea that purchasing expensive stuff can jeopardize a mortgage closing.

One of Walter Morris’ clients lost a loan because she paid for a boob job just before closing, the Oxnard, California, agent said in the Facebook group Lab Coat Agents.

Anne Thurmond, a Peachtree Corners, Georgia-based associate broker, said she also had a client who dropped her down payment on plastic surgery.

Shelling out on new cars and in-ground pools has also derailed deals, agents said.

2. Pickiness

Some buyers have quirky preferences or aversions that can be hard to tease out and may only surface just in time to knock things sideways.

Like fear of ghosts, for example.

Greensboro, North Carolina-based broker Stacy Hiers found a client screaming upstairs. A ghost had knocked the client down while she was sprinkling holy water on the premises, Hiers learned.

The client didn’t back out of an agreement to buy the property immediately, however. That only happened after she later learned that the home’s previous owners had frequently locked their kids in the property’s storage building, Hiers said.

Susan Goulding, a broker-owner in Tracy, California, had a deal collapse after her client decided a freshly built home didn’t smell right.

Like Goulding, Park City, Utah-based Andrew Diaz also has had a client who’s taken serious issue with something about a home that can often (although not always) be easily remedied: the Internet is too slow.

Even fresh fruit can be a deal-breaker. Maple Grove, Minnesota-based Realtor Eric Helmers said his clients backed out of a deal after taking issue with the apples deposited on a property’s lawn by a neighbor’s tree.

“They had no problem picking and eating a few apples during showing and inspection a month earlier,” he said.

Neighbors themselves can also present a problem. Revelations that a neighbor enjoyed singing Bruno Mars while wearing “minimal clothing” in their backyard was enough to scare away one of Chandler, Arizona-based Realtor Renee Montgomery’s clients.

3. Neighborhood ‘riff-raff’

The discovery of what much of society considers undesirables can also flush deals down the drain. Their ranks might include homeless people and prostitutes.

A home inspector checking out a home on behalf of one of Dana O’Brien’s clients found a homeless person sleeping in the property’s yard.

Asked to leave, the homeless person said he was there to tend the owner’s yard on the owner’s request. Then he left, came back with a rake and went to work.

The transaction was canceled that day, said O’Brien, a Rocklin, California-based Realtor.

Something similar happened to Houston, Texas-based Realtor Manuel Mata.

“Found a homeless man sleeping on the front porch during their inspection,” he said. “Ho[me] was in great condition, but wife couldn’t handle the idea of homeless people camping out.”

Realtor Alicia Skaggs from Bixby, Oklahoma has a more dramatic tale.

“I had a prostitute get knocked unconscious on the front porch with a crowbar … in a really nice neighborhood,” she said.

4. Romance

Love conquers all — including, sometimes, real estate transactions.

“Buyers went on a destination wedding/honeymoon. Married,” said Janie Davis, a Garden City, New York Realtor. “Returned home canceled the contract and annulled the marriage. Some honeymoon.”

The blossoming of romance can produce a similar outcome.

Cheryl Janetakos, a Hesperia, California-based Realtor, worked with a buyer client who backed out of a deal at the last minute after deciding he wanted to live with his girlfriend instead.

5. Kids

Children can punch above their weight when it comes to homebuying, sometimes delivering last-minute blows to deals.

A home inspector’s comment that faulty sensors meant a garage door could “fatally harm a dog or small child” spooked one of Amethyst Albert’s clients.

“My single mom client bolted,” said Albert, a Fayetteville, North Carolina-based broker.

Meanwhile, the location of a bus stop killed a deal for Oakdale, New York-based agent Christine Randberg-Drago.

Powder Springs, Georgia-based agent MaKay Wanson was dismayed to learn that one of her clients would cancel a transaction because the client would need another bedroom to accommodate a child who was moving back home after having just lost a college scholarship.

In a judgement that terminated a sales contract, the 14-year-old daughter of one of Realtor Brianna Moynihan-Sienkiewicz’s clients decided there weren’t enough windows on the east side of a house.

6. Negligent loan officers

Though tasked with helping bring transactions to fruition, loan officers often end up screwing the pooch, underlining the benefit of going above and beyond to make sure they’re fulfilling their obligations.

Take a loan officer working with one of O’Brien’s clients, for example. Only at the last minute did the officer reveal that he would have to bring additional cash to the closing table equal to 15 percent of the property’s sales price.

Honesty has also apparently been an issue with some loan officers.

Valencia, California-based Realtor Jean Sehic had constantly asked for progress reports from a loan officer assigned to the loan of a buyer under contract to purchase her client’s home. She was repeatedly assured everything was fine, despite two extensions.

“… something wasn’t right so I called the lenders boss and found out the the loan had been sitting in a desk drawer and no one even started the loan!!!!,” Sehic said.

Sacramento, California-based Realtor Dan Herbert recently discovered that a loan officer had lied about a buyer’s pre-approval and loan status throughout the 60-plus days the buyer had been under contract to purchase a home.

Perhaps agents should sometimes spend more time vetting the lenders they recommend to buyers.

Emmy Byrne, a Saint Paul, Minnesota-based Realtor, said a loan officer hadn’t prequalified a buyer and lied throughout the closing process.

“I asked buyers agent where she got this lender — are you ready? — he was her UBER driver,” she said. “Gave her his card and the rest is history. My seller is keeping the earnest money.”

7. Sellers

Homesellers can kill deals in myriad ways. Some are more aggravating or nonsensical than others.

For example, left by a listing agent to fax an accepted offer, a seller faxed the blank backside of the offer so that only a white page arrived. The buyer never received the offer, said Canadian Realtor Marianne Bournes.

Some agents said they’ve dealt with sellers who forgot to mention they didn’t have Social Security numbers, which apparently can muck up the paperwork situation.

Honesty can also be a problem. Realtor Katie Larson in Long Beach, California, said one homeowner selling a home as a for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) listing lied about a bankruptcy settlement, and the mortgage amount and homeowners association (HOA) fees he owed — which were higher than the home’s contracted sales price.

Email Teke Wiggin

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