Why Things Go Wrong Between Buyers and Sellers


By Diane Saatchi

I’ve written before about how buyers and sellers have trouble seeing eye to eye.

Photo by Saunders Marketing 

In fact, it can feel like buyers are from Mars, while sellers are from Venus. Buyers and sellers have different goals surrounding the same property -- buyers want to pay as little as possible, sellers want to realize as much as possible on the sale -- and it puts them at cross-purposes.

Sometimes the different goals lead to the desired conclusion – a sale; and sometimes the differences derail the deal.

One party wants to sell, the other buy, they’ve agreed on price, so what can go wrong? Oh, so many things! 

It is common practice to keep the parties apart. While it makes sense for all sorts of reasons, in the absence of knowing the other party, it is human nature to make assumptions about them. And well, we all know that it then does not take much for us to react not to the other, but to the person we think they are.

When something, even something very small, goes wrong, we’re quick to think ill of the other side. Often, these things that go wrong have to do with timing and expectations. For example, the broker might say, “He loves your house! It’s an all-cash deal; they want to move this really quickly. It should be 10-14 business days to get a contract signed.” If by day 15 there’s no contract, the broker begins to hear complaints about the other side: “He lied. He said he would do it quickly, he probably does not have the money.”

Things can escalate without just cause.

As soon as there’s a perception on one side that the other person is being difficult, stingy, cheap, or greedy, it sets up a kind of tit-for-tat. “Well then,” says the aggrieved party. “If he’s not going to play nicely, neither am I.” Then there’s all-out war.

It’s up to the broker (and the attorney) to keep these sorts of tensions from escalating. Yet sometimes agents can inadvertently make things worse. For example, too often I hear agents -- while trying to reassure their clients --  tell a seller that the buyer is very wealthy, or report to a buyer that the seller doesn’t care about money. Such information can set in motion a chain of expectations that is not fair or relevant. 

It’s the broker’s job to absorb negative emotions and shield both parties from them as best they can. The buyer might say “I’m not going a penny above this offer,” or the seller might say, “That’s my bottom line. If he doesn’t come back to this in 24 hours, I’m pulling the deal.” 

In such cases I respond with, “It could be your last and final, but why tell him? There’s no benefit now to telling them. If they don’t come up, then there’s no deal. Why turn this into a power struggle where you might have to back down?” I often explain to both sides, “I hear you, but don’t think we should convey that. You don’t have take less or pay more than you want, but it won’t help to couch your message as a threat.” 

That’s why you have a broker, I tell them. If you want to have a fistfight, I’ll get out of the way.

In a more perfect world, the brokers can help both parties proceed in good faith and with kindness. Simple gestures can set a positive tone and go a long way to avoiding problems.

I’ve had buyers who were so thrilled to negotiate a deal that they sent flowers to the sellers with an appreciative note before the contract was signed, saying they were excited to work together over the next few months. For the cost of those flowers, these buyers established themselves as agreeable and easygoing people who want to make this deal happen and who will take over loving and caring for a treasured home. It turns what could be easily negative into a feel-good situation. On the other side, I’ve known sellers to offer to make a necessary repair without complaint or give the buyer an admired object to ensure goodwill. 

While this is business and the money matters, it’s also meaningful to know the next owners of your home will love it and that your last memories of the home will be positive. And on the other side, who doesn’t want to buy a house with good karma?

© 2017 Diane Saatchi