Ozaukee & Washington County Real Estate: When a Solid Deal Melts Away

Find out more about Ozaukee and Washington County real estate, including the cities of Grafton, Belgium, Cedarburg, West Bend, Jackson and Germantown.

When a Solid Deal Melts Away

It happened last night. I got that call every real estate agent dreads. "My buyer wants out."


It was a solid deal. There was no reason to think things would take a turn over the next few days. But then the phone calls start coming in from the buyer's agent, and you can just feel that this solid deal is melting away.

melting ice

Yet until you actually hear the words, you hold out every bit of hope that the buyer will see things clearly and meet you and your sellers at the closing table. But that just wasn't the case this time.

The phone conversation with my seller reminded me of the level and number of emotions that are wrapped up in every single real estate transaction.

Hope. Anxiety. Fear. Happiness. Relief. Frustration. Gratitude. Excitement. Anticipation.

It also reminded me that one of the most important parts of our job is to support our sellers and provide assurance that everything will be O.K. when we hit a bump in the road.

It's easy to make assumptions or pass judgment, but I think it's important and necessary for us to take the time to listen to our sellers. Let them vent. Let them be angry. And then help them to let go of this one and move on.

Help them to trust that a better buyer is out there. Assure them that you will do everything you can to bring that buyer to them. And then go out and do it.


Peggy Wester
Phone: 262-370-1757
Email: pwester@realtyexecutives.com
Website: peggywester.com
Blog: peggysblog.com

Peggy Wester - Realty Executives Integrity

Comment balloon 58 commentsPeggy Wester • March 23 2011 06:09PM


The agony of defeat.  I feel it so well.  But, then again, I am not the one with thousands of dollars on the line.  I feel your pain however.  And, you know that a better deal is coming down the road. 

Posted by Ron Marshall, Birdhouse Builder Extraordinaire (Marshall Enterprises) almost 9 years ago

Peggy: One of the things I always tell my seller is that nothing is "sold" until it records. Heard of one today where the seller had gone WAY down on his price, had multiple showings because of it, got an offer that went even lower. The seller had all expectations of it closing. But the deal fell apart anyway for whatever reason. It's tough to pick yourself up from that.

Posted by Hella Mitschke Rothwell, Hawaii & California Real Estate Broker ((831) 626-4000) almost 9 years ago

I don't mind a buyer skipping town, but when they want to run off with valid earnest money on the table I think Peggy the Listing Agent is not protecting the Seller's rights. So much whining by buyers to skip AND want their earnest money back TOO!! This is why it is called a CONTRACT. Serious business this buying and selling houses but each side has to have skin in the game and TRY best as possible to make the deal work. Buyers agents and Seller agents need to communicate TIGHT all the time what is going on.

Posted by Gary Woltal, Assoc. Broker Realtor SFR Dallas Ft. Worth (Keller Williams Realty) almost 9 years ago

Ron -- Yeah, this is a tough one. We really think it's a case of buyer's remorse. Back to the drawing board, but I agree with you -- there's a better deal out there. Thank you for stopping by!

Hella -- It is very tough to pick yourself up, especially when all indications were that the buyer was so excited about buying this house. But all will be well. Just need to assure my sellers of that.

Posted by Peggy Wester, Real Estate Agent Ozaukee & Washington County (Realty Executives Integrity) almost 9 years ago

I have my fingers crossed right now that my buyer is not going to walk away from our deal!!!! It is hard when it happens to sellers. Supporting them when it happens is so important and helpful for their peace of mind that another buyer will come along.

Posted by Terrie Leighton, Reno Real Estate Agent ~ Selling Homes in Reno (Ferrari-Lund Real Estate ) almost 9 years ago

Gary -- I agree wholeheartedly that without valid reasons for wanting out, the seller keeps the earnest money. Just is not okay to walk away because you have cold feet.

Posted by Peggy Wester, Real Estate Agent Ozaukee & Washington County (Realty Executives Integrity) almost 9 years ago

Terrie -- I'll keep my fingers crossed for you, too! We did have a lot of interest in the property so am hoping at least some of those buyers are still out there!

Posted by Peggy Wester, Real Estate Agent Ozaukee & Washington County (Realty Executives Integrity) almost 9 years ago

I think when the check is handed to you and you put it in the bank is the only time anything is certain. We earn our keep from contract to close not from listing to contract.

Posted by Cheryl Ritchie, Southern Maryland 301-980-7566 (RE/MAX Leading Edge www.GoldenResults.com) almost 9 years ago

Cheryl -- So, so true. I never count on that money until the papers are signed at the closing table and the checks are disbursed!

Posted by Peggy Wester, Real Estate Agent Ozaukee & Washington County (Realty Executives Integrity) almost 9 years ago

As tough as it is to be on either side of the phone, think about what must be happening to the buyer and that buyer's agent that has to make that call.  Yucky, but you are right that we get to experience a wide array of emotions in this business.  It is best to be empathetic and let them vent, make sure that they do not blame you, their trusted agent, and are willing to move through and find a new buyer. 

Posted by Karen Feltman, Relocation Specialist in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, IA KW Legacy Group) almost 9 years ago

It happens quite a bit especially when working with short sales. 

Posted by Christianne O'Malley, Exceptional Service - Delivering Results in Reno! (RE/MAX Realty Affiliates) almost 9 years ago

I never count on the commission check until I receive it in hand.  I've heard of so many deals falling through at the last minute.  It's such a different environment right now.

Posted by Trang Beuschlein, Campbell CA Real Estate - Campbell CA Homes for Sa (Homes for Sale in Campbell CA- Broker-BKR Realty) almost 9 years ago

Karen -- I've been on the buyer's side one time and had to make the call. Very difficult. But the professionalism and graciousness of the seller's agent taught me a lot. It's a tough situation on both sides and regardless of the reasons for the buyer wanting to be let out of the contract.

Christianne -- Agree. I have to say I have been very lucky with the short sales I've been involved with.

Posted by Peggy Wester, Real Estate Agent Ozaukee & Washington County (Realty Executives Integrity) almost 9 years ago

Trang -- Me neither. Learned that tough lesson early on.

Posted by Peggy Wester, Real Estate Agent Ozaukee & Washington County (Realty Executives Integrity) almost 9 years ago

Peggy - we have all been through it... I would like to feel that if we were with the buyer, could perceive them, see their emotions we would have known better but not so..as we all have been on the other side - making that phone call to the other agent... As you have just written, it is important to be gracious, apologetic... for there but the grace of G-d go we...and this just happens.... Best, Gay



Posted by Gay E. Rosen, As Real as Real Estate Gets! (Julia B. Fee Sotheby's International Realty) almost 9 years ago
You described the scene exactly. Your brain is telling you it is over and your emotions are saying it can't be. They were so honest, so convincing it can't be true they want out. You don't stop hoping even though you know it is over. You even get the cancellation of escrow and you still refuse it is true. It sinks in when the seller asks how is escrow going.
Posted by Robert Schmalz, Cal. Lic Broker (West Los Angeles Real Estate Group) almost 9 years ago

I always remind the sellers (and myself) there is a buyer for every property, and it's my job to find them another one. 

Posted by Norma Toering Broker for Palos Verdes and Beach Cities, Palos Verdes Luxury Homes in L.A. (Charlemagne International Properties) almost 9 years ago

I have been in this situation, and I realize that no transaction is over until settlement is over and the checks have been exchanged.  Disappointing, but true.

Posted by Michele Myers, Harrisburg/Hershey Realtor (Prudential Homesale Services Group) almost 9 years ago


We are seeing in MA a buyers market again. The first time buyers are a bit skitish and then we have few true upgrade buyers instead seeing condo owners hold their condos and try to buy a first home at the same time this also makes for some stress on deals.  Good work with your seller

Posted by Edward moloney, Loan Officer Providing 5 STAR SERVICE (Edward Moloney Loan Officer GMH Mortgage Services) almost 9 years ago

It's painful just to hear about.  All you can tell the seller is: 'it just wasn't meant to be', whatever the heck that's supposed to mean.  Or, 'all we can do is lick our wounds and find another buyer'.

A few times I've had to sell the same listing 3 times because buyers didn't qualify.  Best wishes...onward and upward.  That's another one.

Posted by Lloyd Binen, Silicon Valley Realtor since 1976; 408-373-4411 (Certified Realty Services) almost 9 years ago

Ouch that must have hurt.


Posted by Mary Lockman, Methow Valley Real Estate (Windermere Real Estate Methow Valley) almost 9 years ago

I can relate and I like the way you explain your self. I recently had a deal where it didn't matter whether they stayed or left.  The property was a little under market which always works very well for me and my clients. The buyers incentive to to not lose the deal provides a great incentive to stay in the game

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) almost 9 years ago

So sorry, Peggy! When I read the last line of your blog, i heard myself saying "& then still beat you up because it wasn't soon enough or they think you get paid too much", etc, etc. !!  :)

Posted by Brenda Mayette, Getting results w/ knowledge & know-how! (Miranda Real Estate Group, Inc.) almost 9 years ago

Everything happens for a reason. Maybe by losing this buyer, another buyer will come in at a higher offer?? Sending good thoughts your way!

Posted by Tricia DeSouza, Selling Scottsdale Luxury (HomeSmart) almost 9 years ago

Peggy -- I agree with Tricia #24.  When this happened to me once, the next offer was 5% higher!  Think positive and great things will happen!

Posted by Barbara Altieri, REALTOR-Fairfield County CT Homes/Condos For Sale (Kinard Realty Group Fairfield and New Haven County CT Real Estate) almost 9 years ago

What a heartbreaking moment. Kudos for helping your sellers through. Hope to see a follow-up that indicates a happy ending (closed deal at higher price?)


Good Luck!

Posted by Bob Sooy (Realty World Northeast LLC) almost 9 years ago

Peggy ~ Holding hands with and counseling our clients is one of the most vital parts of our job!

Posted by Sybil Campbell, REALTOR® ABR, SFR, SRES Williamsburg, Virginia (Long and Foster REALTORS® 5234 Monticello Ave Williamsburg, Virginia) almost 9 years ago

Peggy, we just had a short sale deal fall through that was solid and days away from approval. Buyers came in town and found another home they liked better. The left thier $500 deposit. It's very frustrating but we will sell it again...grrr...the sellers are taking it pretty well.


Posted by Sharon Alters, Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL (Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308) almost 9 years ago

sorry to hear.  Maybe there is hope that they will reconsider.

I've had a buyer cancel and then come back and put a contract on one of my listings weeks later.


Posted by Angelia Garcia (Pure Realtors) almost 9 years ago

Hi Peggy~  We've all had it happen.  It is inevitable and it is not fun at all!  Thankfully it doesn't happen too often! 

Posted by Vickie McCartney, Broker, Real Estate Agent Owensboro KY (Maverick Realty) almost 9 years ago

We have the same issues being the lender on a property. People state their hopes and dreams regarding a home and the payment. You deliver the dream and scratch your head when they walk away. There is hope, two walked back this month!

Posted by Matt Brady, Lending With Competence And Character (Finance Of America) almost 9 years ago

Yes, being on either end of THAT phone call is no fun! I'm surprised at how few sellers actually insist on keeping the EMD. Although I work primarily with buyers, I think they should keep the EMD to reinforce to buyers that ITS A CONTRACT and is NOT to be taken lightly!

Posted by Todd Merkle (Real Living Kee Realty) almost 9 years ago

Peggy, There is always a better buyer coming. This is a leap for a seller to grasp and embrace … we know it is true.

Posted by Kathleen Daniels, San Jose Homes for Sale-Probate & Trust Specialist (KD Realty - 408.972.1822) almost 9 years ago

Peggy, I'm so sorry for both you and the sellers. We recently had the same thing happen on a listing of mine.  The buyer (the wife), lost her job.  They could have still qualified to buy, but since both husband and wife worked for the same company and are older in years...they felt it would be smarter to stay put. Who can blame them??  I'm happy to say we now have another offer just a few weeks later.  Hope your sellers have another offer coming down the pike soon!!

Posted by Sonja Patterson, Texas Monthly 5-Star Realtor Recipient for the Hou (Keller Williams - BV) almost 9 years ago

When a deal melts away, I try to remember that everyone involved in the transaction is frustrated.  As several people have said above, the deal is not done until the loan is funded.  I hope that your 2011 is filled with successful transactions!

Posted by Sharon Parisi, Dallas Homes (United Real Estate Dallas ) almost 9 years ago


I know that feeling.  But at least you had some prior warning.  Your job is to sooth your seller's disappointment.  I hope you receive another better offer soon. 

Posted by Evelyn Kennedy, Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA (Alain Pinel Realtors) almost 9 years ago

It is difficult for all parties involved but as the agent for the Seller(s) or the Buyer(s) we need to be supportive, understanding, and focused on moving forward to market the property and find the right Buyer for the property or the right property for our Buyer(s).

Posted by George Bennett, Inactive Principal Broker, GRI (Inactive) almost 9 years ago

As I read your post I could feel that awful feeling. And yes, it is our job to guide/lead/coax/drag our seller out of the funk and onto the next buyer.

I'm in the school of good karma where I suggest to just give the money back and get finalized with the cancellation. Nothing more fun than a deal crashing except finding out about a lis pendens half way through the next buyers deal..... joy joy

Posted by Pete Buckley (Independent Broker/Realtor, North San Diego County CA.) almost 9 years ago

I feel your disappointment in you post. I love how you choose t turn this negative in to a positive to show your clients how great an agent you are by being there when they need you the most.:) It's a tough pill to swallow, but unfortunately deals do fall through, sometimes with out reason.  Great post.

Posted by Traci Ferguson, Realtor, EcoBroker, LEED AP (San Luis Obispo Realtor & ecoBroker with Patterson Realty) almost 9 years ago

Better sooner than later.  The sooner a buyer is going to get out, the less the seller is likely to have been damaged by taking the property off market. 

Of course, if the buyer is simply DEFAULTING on a fully accepted contract, the seller is likely to be a bit more accepting with the receipt of the earnest money. 


Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 9 years ago

Cheryl, it is a tough call to receive as well as a tough call to make. Everyone working so hard to get it done and then a change and all is upset. The seller needs the assurance that it will be replaced with another contract soon. Good Luck

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 ) almost 9 years ago

That's what makes this business so unique.  It can be a roller coaster of emotions.

Posted by Bob Zorechak - ABR, GRI, e-PRO, Sells Homes in Morris/Somerset/Hunterdon Cos., NJ (Keller Williams Realty Metropolitan) almost 9 years ago

Gay -- I really do think this was a case of buyer's remorse. Thankfully, the parting of ways was peaceful and sellers are ready to find another buyer.

Robert -- I try to stay as optimistic as long as possible in cases like this when it looks like things are heading downward. But it just wasn't meant to be this time.

Norma -- Exactly. I reminded the sellers of the amount of activity we had and the number of interested buyers. We'll find "the" one.

Michele -- Something we all need to remember.

Ed -- We are seeing all sorts of interesting situations and circumstances here, too. Sure keeps our jobs interesting!

Lloyd -- Three times?!? Here's hoping we don't run into that. :)

Mary -- Yes it did. Not fun at all.

Richie -- I think this buyer walked away from an awesome house at an awesome price...

Posted by Peggy Wester, Real Estate Agent Ozaukee & Washington County (Realty Executives Integrity) almost 9 years ago

Brenda -- I have to admit my sellers were very gracious toward me and didn't blame me for the buyer's remorse. Now that the initial anger and shock has worn off, I think we're back on track and ready to get this house sold!

Tricia -- Thank you. We are hoping!

Barbara -- That's encouraging to hear!! Keeping my fingers crossed and thinking positively!

Bob -- I will work on that.

Sybil -- Sometimes I forget how much counseling we actually provide!

Sharon -- Buyers walked away from the earnest money. We were surprised but relieved!

Angelia -- You never know. I wonder, though, if my sellers would "take this buyer back." Would be an interesting thing to see!

Vickie -- You are so right! It is rare but when it happens -- ouch!

Matt -- I can only imagine the stories you have. I think there is just so much fear out there today that buyers sometimes get overwhelmed by it all.

Todd -- That's exactly what the sellers did in this case and buyer agreed! You're right -- buyers have to understand this is a contract.

Kathleen -- Thank you for your positive words and attitude!

Sonja -- Thank you, too, for your words of encouragement. I know we'll find the right buyer, too!

Posted by Peggy Wester, Real Estate Agent Ozaukee & Washington County (Realty Executives Integrity) almost 9 years ago

Sharon -- Thank you. I wish you (and everyone here!) the best, too, in 2011!

Evelyn -- You're right, and I am glad I was forewarned this deal might be coming apart. Certainly helped give me some time to prepare passing the news on to my seller.

George -- I agree. The best thing is to be there and move forward.

Pete -- Not that I've had a lot of deals fall thru, but I think this is the first time sellers asked for the EM back. And buyer agreed!

Traci -- Thank you for your kind words. You made my day.

Lenn -- Agree! We didn't miss too much time between the acceptance and release of the offer, so we are very grateful for that!

Ed -- So true. I have to believe we'll find another buyer soon!

Bob -- Sure can be a roller coaster of emotions! I would like to get off the ride for a little while, though. ;)

Posted by Peggy Wester, Real Estate Agent Ozaukee & Washington County (Realty Executives Integrity) almost 9 years ago

Peggy, sorry to hear that this has happened. Best to march forward and move on. Hope everything works out for you.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA almost 9 years ago

Letting go and moving on to the next one is always easier said than done, especially if there has been little activity.  Emotion is such a major player in this business!

Posted by Kevin Kueneke, San Diego Mortgage Banker (Caliber Home Loans) almost 9 years ago

Oh yes....it ain't over till it's over.  Don't count your chickens before they hatch.  All those great sayings fit this story.

When all is said and done at the closing table, signed, sealed , delivered.....then you can breath a sigh of relief


Patricia/Seacoast NH & ME

Posted by Patricia Aulson, Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes (BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOME SERVICES Verani Realty NH Real Estate ) almost 9 years ago

Oh yes....it ain't over till it's over.  Don't count your chickens before they hatch.  All those great sayings fit this story.

When all is said and done at the closing table, signed, sealed , delivered.....then you can breath a sigh of relief


Patricia/Seacoast NH & ME

Posted by Patricia Aulson, Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes (BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOME SERVICES Verani Realty NH Real Estate ) almost 9 years ago

Beautifully put, Peggy. It can be a pretty scary scenario for sellers, and the best Realtors can help them pull through.

Posted by Aaron Seekford, Ranked Top 1% Nationwide 703-836-6116 (Arlington Realty, Inc.) almost 9 years ago

Michael -- Everything will work out -- I'm sure. :) We have a showing tomorrow!

Kevin -- We've been fortunate with this one as far as the level of activity. Hopefully more showings will be scheduled and an offer in hand soon!

Patricia -- So, so true.

Aaron -- thank you, Aaron. I was very lucky to have the supportive sellers I have.

Erica -- It is a tough situation, but thankfully we were still a ways from closing and the house hadn't been "off the market" for too long. I think we'll be okay. :)

Posted by Peggy Wester, Real Estate Agent Ozaukee & Washington County (Realty Executives Integrity) almost 9 years ago

That is a tough call to handle - been there myself. So brush off your feet and get work finding another buyer.

Posted by Joyce Herr, Lancaster County & Beyond (Prudential Lancaster Real Estate) almost 9 years ago

Bummer, that's always a tough one for sellers. But they are in good hands.

Posted by Tammie White, Broker, Franklin TN Homes for Sale (Franklin Homes Realty LLC) almost 9 years ago

Very common in short sales for the buyer to walk away, or change their minds, usually right at the time of short sale approval. I remind my sellers, everything has to be just right. I assure them we'll find another buyer. We always do. Not fun having to put the home back on the market though. Good luck to you.

Posted by Pamela Seley, Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA (West Coast Realty Division) almost 9 years ago

It's definitely up in the ranks with messages you prefer not to hear. Although I try to remind myself it's probably better now than at the Closing Table.

Posted by Mike Mayer (Mike Mayer, Broker/Owner - i List For Less Realty, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Sometimes you get those tough ones but it is business. At the end of the day I just keep a mindset that it just wasn't ment to be and the right one will come along....

Posted by Cory Barbee, Broker (760) 563-4022 almost 9 years ago

Joyce -- You're right -- that's really all you can do. Fortunately, we've already had a few showings on it, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we'll get another AO soon!

Tammi -- Well, thank you. I'm lucky to have such understanding sellers!

Pamela -- I have seen this happen quite a bit with short sales, too.

Mike -- You are so right! And as I've mentioned, we were still 2+ months out from closing, so we were grateful he pulled out sooner rather than later.

Cory -- Exactly. Better things are ahead.

Posted by Peggy Wester, Real Estate Agent Ozaukee & Washington County (Realty Executives Integrity) almost 9 years ago

congrats on the feature!  It hurts even more when its a lame excuse!

Posted by Pat Tasker, Your Milwaukee Metro Area Agent (WI) (Shorewest Realtors) almost 9 years ago