If all those excited home buyer declarations like “This place is just perfect for us” and “I have to have it!” were binding, selling houses would be a breeze. But, as with everything in life, it’s not what people say, it’s what they do that really matters.
Still, it’s hard for home sellers to not get their hopes up when a buyer’s gushing over their home—only to be disappointed when the buyer disappears without a peep.
It’s a good thing experienced Realtors® can tell the difference between the buyer who means business and the one who has no intention of actually sealing the deal—and that these pros graciously agreed to clue us in.
Do any of the following red flags sound familiar? Keep each in mind, and you can save yourself the drama of dashed hopes.
Sign No. 1: The buyer is flying solo
If a buyer doesn’t have a real estate agent yet, he probably isn’t serious about shopping for a home.
“Buyer’s agents come at no cost to the buyer, since the seller pays the buyer’s agent’s commission,” explains Daniel Bortz, a Realtor in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. Do you think a shopper who can’t be bothered to enlist free expert help is motivated enough to start putting papers in motion? We don’t think so either.
To put things in perspective, consider this: 87% of buyers recently purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker, according to a survey conducted last year by the National Association of Realtors® of recent home buyers and sellers. You do the math!
Sign No. 2: The buyer just began shopping
The old adage that timing is everything applies to selling homes as well. Typical home buyers take three months to buy, so if a seller is entertaining interest from someone on Day 1 or Week 1 of her house hunt, chances aren’t good that she’s the one.
“Many buyers look at a number of houses before they decide what they want,” says Bortz. “And if they’re at the early stages in their search, you’re less likely to receive an offer.”
Sign No. 3: You meet the buyer at an open house
It’s also less likely that a seller will score an offer from a buyer at an open house. According to a report from the NAR, only half of home buyers visit open houses—and those who do may be trying to avoid too much attention by hiding in the herd.
Serious buyers, on the other hand, will conduct their home search online, then once they spot a home they like, request a private showing.
It’s like dating: Asking to see a home one on one carries more weight than asking someone, “Hey, wanna hang out in a group?”
Sign No. 4: No pre-approval from a lender
There’s no need to read between the lines of this sign.
“You need to include a pre-approval letter from your lender when you submit an offer on a property,” says Bortz. “Without one, there’s no indication to the seller that you can actually afford to purchase the home.”
Sign No. 5: A speedy visit
Buyers who zip along while they’re checking out the property aren’t likely to cross the finish line with you.
“Rushing through an open house is a definite sign of lack of interest,” says Abigail Harris, a sales associate with Coldwell Banker residential brokerage in the Boston area. Breezing through without asking questions, however, isn’t necessarily a bad sign, she adds. “Many buyers feel that they have all the answers and don’t need to ask questions.”
Sign No. 6: All promises, no action
Call it a bait and … stall.
“You can tell that a buyer is dragging her feet if she says she’s very interested in making an offer but it is taking days for her to actually submit one,” says Bortz, who has encountered this phenomenon a number of times. “Typically such buyers are seriously interested, but they’re also strongly considering making an offer on another property, so they might be weighing their options before they make an offer on one of them.”
Sign No. 7: A (really) lowball offer
Everyone wants to score a deal, but if a buyer offers an “unreasonably low” sum, says Harris, that’s a “sure sign that they don’t really want the property.”
“Serious buyers in today’s market make their best offer right out of the gate,” explains Bortz. “So I’m honestly not sure why someone would throw out a ridiculously lowball offer. Maybe [it’s] just to test the waters?”
Sign No. 8: Lots of nitpicking
Even after the buyer has made an offer and you have accepted it, she still might not be 100% onboard with buying the property. Is she obsessed with finding faults and problems in the home?
“That’s a definite showing of disinterest,” says Harris. Bortz agrees, adding, “If she has a home inspection contingency and wants you to fix every single little thing that the inspector spots, such as a loose door knob, she might be looking for you to just give in and say, ‘No, I’m not fixing anything,’ so that she can back out of the deal.”