Buying a home is a huge investment. It may be the single largest purchase you ever make. It’s also can be an emotional decision. People don’t buy a house because it has 4 bedrooms / 2.5 baths . They buy a house because they imagine their children playing in the yard, cooking dinner in the kitchen and watching football games in the man cave. They may rationalize the purchase somewhat and vocalize why it’s a great move — but the decision is pretty much made in the heart, not the head.
When I’m working with a buyer, I watch carefully as they first walk into the house. The look on their faces as they enter the house and move through the first room or two tells me if this is a yes, no or maybe. Instant delight or a wrinkled up nose say more than their words could express. A shrug of the shoulders or indifference is probably a no. You aren’t buying a house but a home. There is a difference. A house holds people and their stuff. A home is where you write your story.
So, when we’re making an offer on a property, and the buyer is trying to come up with the offer price, or when we’re negotiating over a few thousand dollars, I ask, “If I call you tonight and tell you another buyer got the house, what will you do?” Will you say that’s okay, find me another one? Or will you burst into tears? Because how you answer affects how I’m going to advise you on pricing and negotiating.
Sometimes the buyer gets the house and the first reaction is bliss. You tell your friends and relatives you got the house! You start picking out furniture. You stalk the paint chip aisles at the hardware store, collecting sample color palettes. You move through the inspection and financing steps one by one, getting closer and closer to that day of closing.
And sometimes along that way you start to have nagging doubts. Is this truly “the one” for you? What about the house that just went up for sale a block away that’s a bit lower priced or has an extra garage (you always loved the thought of having an extra garage for your workshop). What did the lender say the final closing costs would be again? What if you don’t have quite all of those funds at the closing table? Or what if you move in and the roof leaks and your savings just went to pay the closing costs with none to spare?
Cold feet. Buyer’s remorse. It happens with lots of high end purchases, not just houses. But when you’re making a huge purchase that will take perhaps 30 years to pay off, and you are not 100 percent certain this is the right thing to do, emotions run high.
If you’re the buyer — breathe. This may pass. Cold feet is normal. Talk to your buyer’s agent right away, to verbalize how you are feeling. Know that the agent should not push you or try to convince you to buy something you are uncomfortable with. If they do, they’re not truly on your side. The agent will give you your options and — depending on where you are in the timeline — advise you how to proceed. Talk to an attorney with any legal questions regarding your contract. If you’re terminating and have no contract outs (you’ve passed inspection period, you’ve gotten your mortgage commitment) know that the seller may fight to keep your deposit and may pursue legal action. Proceed carefully.
If you’re the agent — take a time out. Do not push the buyer to move forward no matter what you are thinking or feeling. Yes, your payday depends on getting to closing but this is not about you. It’s about the buyer and what is best for him/her. Talk to your broker. If the buyer truly wants to terminate, there’s not much you can do. Advise them of the consequences (potential loss of earnest money, for example) and advise them to consult an attorney.
Buying a house is a huge step. Nobody should be pushed into doing something they are uncomfortable with.