Warning Signs That Your Client Is Getting Cold Feet

October 16, 2018

Some buyers and sellers may get the jitters during their last minute actions—or inactions—that could cause a deal to fall through. As a real estate professional, how can you tell that one of your clients may be getting cold feet?

Signs of clients getting cold feet

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“There are so many layers involved with mortgage lending and real estate,” Ayesha Kleinjan, co-owner of San Diego Real Estate Properties, told U.S. News & World Report. “The simplest things can make a deal go sideways in the blink of an eye.”

In a recent article from U.S. News & World Report, Kleinjan and other real estate professionals point to several warning signs that could show you’re up against a buyer or seller who may pull out at the last minute and not make it to the settlement table. Here are a few of the red flags to look out for:

The buyer who seems to be having financial issues.

Sellers should seek assurance up front from buyers that there won’t be any financial hiccups delaying or derailing closing. Kleinjan instructs her sellers to ask for proof of funds for a down payment before they make an offer to a buyer, or have the buyer get prequalified for a home loan. If proof of funds can’t be shown initially, they may be stalling—this is a red flag, Kleinjan says. “This happens often,” she told U.S. News & World Report. “Get proof of funds for the down payment up front, always.”

The buyer or seller is showing a lack of transparency.

The buyer or seller may not be forthcoming with requested information. “If there’s any attempt at anything less than full transparency, there’s generally a reason,” says Richard Damrel, a real estate professional with HomeSmart Evergreen Realty in Irvine, Calif. “I see this a lot in home inspections.”

They don’t seem to have very much enthusiasm in the transaction.

A homeowner who may not seem that excited about selling may be having a tough time saying goodbye to their home, among other reasons. You may need to offer them some reassurances. But a buyer showing a lack of enthusiasm, in particular, may be getting cold feet. “Sometimes clients themselves don’t know what they want and in the current frenzy to buy before rates go up, they put in offers without enthusiasm,” Damrel says. But sometimes buyers who are showing less enthusiasm may have found a different property.

Real estate professionals may have to step in to help clients manage the high emotions of a transaction, or help guide them in staying on schedule financially to buy or sell. Fortunately, most contracts do settle on time without delay. According to the August 2018 REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey—a survey of real estate professionals’ latest transactions—76 percent of contracts were settled on time, with only 20 percent delayed and just 5 percent terminated, in August.

For the transactions that did face delays, the holdups tended to be centered on finances. The survey says the reasons for the most common delays are:

pie chart


  • Issues related to obtaining financing: 36%
  • Appraisal issues: 18%
  • Home inspection/environmental issues: 17%
  • Titling/deed issues: 10%
6 Signs the Buyer or Seller You’re Working With Is a Flake,” U.S. News & World Report (Oct. 12, 2018)