Helping a Client Through Buyer's Remorse

A small amount of buyer's remorse can be natural, but how do you help clients whose fears get the best of them? These four tips may offer solace.

August 13, 2013

Just how real is buyer’s remorse? Is it a natural occurrence, or have we projected this fear into the clients’ minds? Is this something that needs to be addressed up front, or should we wait until we see signs of a possible cancellation?

There are a number of opinions on these questions, so let’s look some of the fears a client may experience while making a buying decision to see if there are some clues about the validity of this phenomenon.

The Customer’s Fears:

Fear of change. This is one of the most serious issues that a customer will ever deal with, and it can have a crippling effect for some people. This explains why so many people don’t move forward at all, rather than deal with their discomfort.

Fear of commitment. There is no such thing as an independent financial decision. Every financial decision we make affects every other financial decision we make, and your customers know this at some intrinsic level. Once the decision is made, it rules out all other choices — and remorse is an immediate sign that the comfort level is not as strong as it needs to be.

Fear of a bad choice. There are so many decisions out there. Buy or rent? Cash or mortgage? New or existing? Neighborhood A or neighborhood B (or C or Y or Z)? Three bedrooms or four? Or five? I could go on. The sheer volume of choices makes for a difficult night’s sleep, with plenty of time in the dark to reconsider each decision.

Fear of being taken advantage of. No one wants to look the fool. No one wants to find out later that the smooth-talking salesperson who coaxed a buyer into a compromise was actually a shyster. They trust you now, but will you still be there for them down the road?

Fear of the unknown. This might be the most disturbing and distressing concern of all. The issue is not whether the buyers have all the right answers. The real concern is that they don’t even know the right questions. So much of the purchase decision is a great mystery. Within this understandable ignorance lies a great deal of apprehension and, left unattended, these fears can lead to a cancellation.

To fully understand buyer’s remorse we must first acknowledge that purchase decisions tend to be emotional. We fall in love with something and get that dopamine rush that is associated with anticipation of an event. We imagine the ownership and we look forward to how our lives will improve.

Because we tend to be emotional creatures making emotional decisions, we must also understand that emotions can be fleeting. As soon as the transaction takes place the emotions start to wane and we are left with our fears. Unless we have someone who can help us deal with this problem in advance, the issue will cause an otherwise successful transaction to unravel.

If you want to get your hands around this issue, you need to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Buyer’s remorse is a very real malady that must be dealt with. Here are a few suggestions:

1.      Educate the Customer: Your client needs to know how common buyer’s remorse is. Let them know that they are not alone in what they are experiencing, and that we all go through this to some degree. Then share a third-party story about another customer that experienced remorse but decided to hang in there and buy the home they love. You can also use this opportunity to remind them of all the positive reasons why they decided to purchase in the first place.

It’s okay to warn your client at the time of contract that buyer’s remorse really happens, just as it happens with every major decision we make in life. Most everyone who gets engaged, for example, at least ponders the permanency of marriage. The decision to purchase a home is one of the most important choices we will make in our lifetime — of course there will be second-guessing. That evaluation time allows us the opportunity to further cement into the logical side of our brains the conviction that we have made a good choice.

2.      Inform Them of the Consequences of Backing Out: If as a salesperson you have a hard-line philosophy on contracts, it is your responsibility to let the customer know this at the time of purchase. There’s no question that buyers can get cold feet as the process continues, with earnest money and deposits and inspections sometimes all seeming like reasons that purchasing a home can fail — and each one gives nervous buyers a chance to talk themselves into the notion that maybe they’re making a mistake.

The key is to adopt a two-toned approach. Firmly explain to the customer the consequences of a cancellation while they are emotionally tied to the transaction — that is, at the time of the contract. Don’t be wishy-washy, and don’t give them a hint that they can walk away without recourse. In the meantime, reassure them that all of the inspections and contingencies and paperwork are there ultimately to reassure them that they’re making a good purchase. As you draw out the issues they’re having, point out the remedies that are built into the process and build their confidence to the point where it drives away their fears.

3.      Reconnect with the Emotion: When a customer hints that they’re having second thoughts about the purchase, you’ll want to take them back to the frame of mind they were in when they decided to buy. That decision was made at an emotional high point in the interaction: when they fell in love with what the seller was offering. Try to recreate that in a description. Refresh their minds and connect them back to the moment they fell in love with the property, and remind them of their reason for making the purchase.

4.      Buy Some Time: Your customer made an emotionally based decision to purchase. That’s good. What you don’t want is for the customer to make an emotionally based decision to cancel the transaction. Fear-based cancellations are painful because the customer rarely makes a good decision under negative stress. Try to get your customer to take the time to allow the emotion to subside and balance it with logic.

I have an affection for the title of “sales counselor” as the most apt description for salespeople. Nowhere is this title more appropriate than in dealing with people who are thinking about walking away. This is where our role of counselor comes into play and helps us to act in the best interests of both our company and our clients.

Jeff Shore is the founder of Shore Consulting, which specializes in sales strategies for many of the country's largest real estate firms. He is the author of four real estate sales books, including his latest, Buying the Experience. To learn more, sign up for his weekly video newsletter at