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Lita Smith-Mines Headshot

Home Sellers Push Back

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The undercurrent of disgruntlement running through residential real estate these days is decidedly different. Like the flowers that bloomed early, a number of sellers are trying to burst out of the basement and make their way above ground.

As an attorney focused on real estate, I represent buyers or sellers. No matter which side of the transaction I've been on lately, I've observed that a number of sellers have ceased being submissive. "Whatever you say, buyers," is gone. Now it's more like, "No way you'll rip me off."

I'm not looking into the wallets or checkbooks of everyone participating in the spring 2012 real estate marketplace, and I'm certainly not a fan of a lopsided market that's tilted precariously towards either side. Believe me, these last five years or so of buyers singing, "My way" hasn't always orchestrated harmonious deals. There's been more resentment, reneging, defiance and downright cheating than could fit on a country album. However, the burgeoning sellers' chorus, belligerently belting out "We're not gonna take it," is not sounding any less discordant.

A stubborn seller is often at a disadvantage in our regional market. Unless a house is pristine and underpriced, or the buyer is completely besotted with it, that home is competing with plenty of others for sale on the street, in the community, and throughout the school district. In one recent bungled deal, a buyer held up signing the contract until the sellers agreed to take care of some pre-closing repairs that I'm told totaled $2,500. The sellers flatly refused because, per their attorney, "They've been as flexible as they are going to be." Did those sellers expect the buyers to reduce their demands or even drop them altogether? I don't know, but I'm sure that they didn't anticipate seeing the taillights of the buyers' car in the driveway across the street (and eventually their moving van, as the neighbor-seller agreed to make very similar repairs).

Another seller adamantly said, "No!" to a buyer's offer, though it jived with market value comparisons for the area. The seller made it known that he wasn't "some desperate guy who'll undersell," even though he was advised all mortgage lenders take other closing prices into consideration. Did those buyers make another bid? No, they moved on. So while this seller sits amidst the "For Sale" signs on his block and waits for another offer, he keeps paying on his mortgage and will soon pony up a hefty sum for real estate taxes.

I have a couple more tales of buyer-repelling sellers. I could also recount the buyer, hat in hand, who recently accepted a seller's cantankerous blast-back (only to have the appraisal come in lower than the contract price). None of these anecdotes predictably pinpoint where we're ultimately heading, but they bolster my belief that a stable real estate market has yet to arrive. Until both sides have realistic expectations, the market is only a temper tantrum or two away from sputtering out again.