Jan 13, 2010

Why Home Buyers and Sellers Remain Cautious

Today we have a guest blog from George Devine, author of For Sale By Owner in California and co-author of How to Buy a House in California. George is also an adjunct professor in the School of Business and Professional Studies at the University of San Francisco.


When asked how I'd describe the real estate market as we begin 2010, the word that comes to mind is "caution." Both buyers and sellers are waiting to see what will happen next, and trying to avoid making impulsive or risky decisions.


If the current state of the economy and home prices weren't enough to make people cautious, anyone with friends or a newspaper can find instances of how overly eager buyers and sellers got themselves into trouble just a few years back.

For example, when Alan and Jill found their dream house in 2006, and figured  they could stretch their finances just far enough to make the payments, they decided to accept the inspection reports that had already been provided by the sellers and their agents. After all, they reasoned, why spend another several hundred dollars to reinvent the wheel?


Almost three years after closing, the home is worth 25% less than what Alan and Jill bought it for and they are saddled with a money pit in terms of needed repairs. Everybody is suing everybody else. Alan and Jill allege the structural pest control inspections were really cover-ups, and both they and the sellers claim their agents failed to protect them.


This kind of thing creates a lesson for present-day buyers who - usually with help from protective agents - now more commonly insist on "another set of eyes," by having their own inspections done. For a few hundred dollars, they're buying peace of mind, and possibly opening the door to negotiating an adjustment to the purchase price. With the market still slow, sellers have little choice but to go along with the buyers' wishes in this regard.