Telltale signs of a buyer’s market–and what sellers can do about it

Recently, I represented a seller in San Francisco who had had his roof inspected. The inspection came back clean, no problems. And yet, during escrow, the potential buyer wanted to get his own roof inspection.

The buyer’s inspector uncovered some minor issues. Even so, the buyer asked the seller for a $5,000 credit. The seller–not understanding that the market has changed dramatically–thought the buyer was bluffing and said no to the credit. The buyer walked away, and we had to put the house back on the market. (It eventually sold.)

And there you have it: a snapshot of what it’s like to try and sell a house today.

Homebuyers are anxious

For many buyers, sellers, and agents, the current real estate market is unlike any we’ve seen since the ’90s.

We’re absolutely in a buyers’ market now, whether you live in San Francisco or San Antonio. A recent New York Times headline nailed it: “Housing Market Slows as Buyers Get Picky.”

Think about it: The federal homebuyer tax credits are history. The Dow Jones keeps dipping below 10,000. Consumers are tightening their belts again, and the job picture isn’t exactly rosy. Short sales and foreclosures are still way too prevalent. The euro is faltering, further rattling international markets. And there’s that endless oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

All this negative news is having a noticeable impact on homebuyers. Some have simply dropped out of the real estate market altogether, waiting for the coast to clear. Those still in the game are more demanding than they used to be.

But really, underneath it all, buyers are just plain nervous.

They’re double checking everything because they have to be certain they’re getting the absolute best deal possible. They need to protect their real estate investment from future price declines, and they can’t do that if they pay too much. For buyers, there seems to be no margin for error, and the stakes are huge.

What sellers can do about it

So what can you, as a seller, do about it?

Just understanding what it’s like for buyers right now is a start. Don’t put pressure on them. Instead, give them time to think about what they’re doing. Make them feel as comfortable as possible about your home. Take buyers—and the scary economy in which they’re operating—very seriously.

And what if, during inspections, a buyer requests a credit, even if you don’t think it’s justified? Honestly, I’d give it serious consideration. Because if you lose an otherwise credible or desirable buyer, in this market, it may take a while to find another.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *