It happens all the time. A buyer likes what he sees online or on a home tour. He's ready to make an offer And then he doesn't. What went wrong? 

There are multiple explanations possible. Perhaps his Realtor talked him out of it, convincing him the price was too high, the neighborhood was iffy, the floor plan was problematic, or the necessary repairs make it a poor buy.

Sometimes family members throw cold water on the idea of a purchase offer. A spouse is uncomfortable about the location. A brother-in-law says he knows of a newer property. Or the prospective buyer simply has a difficult time making a commitment. These are situations that you as a seller can't control

But often the reason is something the seller did or didn't do. I don't want you to be guilty of any of these mistakes. They are easily avoided once you are aware of how they can ruin a home sale.

You meet the buyer

Smart real estate agents know that preventing sellers from interacting with buyers is just better business. Keeping buyers from meeting face-to-face increases the likelihood of a smooth sale. I know that some people will disagree with me. Some buyers insist they need to hear about the finer points of a home, its history and quirks. Some sellers insist they can convey the subtle amenities of their house in a way that the MLS writeup or the agent cannot. 

Since you want to sell your home for the most money possible, and your buyer wants to buy it for the least he can pay for it, consider yourselves adversaries. That's why I like the idea of brokers being buffers between buyer and seller. 

Rather than sitting down with your buyer, let your home speak for itself. Photo: Annette Tatum

Also, there is always the chance that personalities will clash. Research shows that people make a decision about whether they like or dislike someone during the first five seconds of meeting the person, and that decision does not usually change. A buyer may have a bias against your ethnicity, appearance, race, gender, age, or attitude. In any business deal, it always helps when both parties like and trust each other.

In addition, you may be so emotionally attached to your home that you don't want to learn that the landscape will be changed and the rooms will be repainted. This info doesn't have to be shared, but it often is when the parties meet at a showing. Don't stay home when your house is being toured! As soon as you decide to sell your home is the time to think of it as an investment that you are cashing in. 

A meeting can lead to casual chatting, and then result in information being passed that is not part of any legal agreement. Why endanger the sale? Any important information -- care of the pool or your recommendations for lawn service -- can be presented after closing. The buyer does not need to know that you laid all the bathroom floor tiles yourself, that you added ceiling fans because the AC couldn't keep up, that someone died in the home, or that the neighborhood isn't what it used to be. 

You chose the wrong Realtor

When I recently sold a home, all the paperwork was being done online, using DocuSign. In one of the multi-page transmissions, a page was omitted by my agent. As a result, I unknowingly signed a document that was incomplete on my end. Because of my Realtor's mistake, I had to pay for unnecessary updates that I would never have agreed to.  

Choosing your listing agent is probably the most important decision you'll make in the whole selling process. You need an agent who is skilled in the latest technologies so she can work with your buyer smoothly, accurately, and professionally. You want one who understands your needs, budget, and schedule. An experienced one will know how to handle a difficult buyer, work well with the buyer's broker, understand the latest regulations, and be a clear, prompt communicator. It's a tall order! 

I've blogged about how to find a real estate agent who's perfect for you and your property. Avoid these pitfalls when choosing a listing agent.

Home staging is what will distinguish you from others in your market. Photo: Bria Hammel

You won't negotiate 

There is almost always some back-and-forthing between when an offer is first presented and when final documents are signed by both parties. Terms, price, timing... it all has to be nailed down. 

Negotiation experts explain that the longer the ball stays in the air, the more time spent working out the details of a sale, the better the chance that the deal will go through to the satisfaction of both buyer and seller. Of course, this fact assumes that neither party is being obnoxiously demanding.

Be the good guy during negotiations. Let your Realtor go to bat for you. Show data like a home inspection or appraisal or comparables or receipts to defend your position. Read what I've blogged about the nine ways to have a successful home sale negotiation.

You didn't spring for a home inspection

Once you and your buyer sign a purchase offer, it is a binding legal contract. If a buyer wants to back out, it has to be because of a specific contingency (inspection, financing, or other) written into the offer. Otherwise, he is obligated to follow through or forfeit his earnest money or due diligence deposit. Laws vary by state -- one more reason to work with a knowledgeable real estate agent.

Effective, unique and photogenic home staging keeps your home in the mind of a buyer all through the negotiating process. Photo: Lindsey Brooke Design
Purchase offers often dissolve when an inspection reveals problems your buyer doesn't want to deal with. That's why I always suggest a seller have her house inspected before listing it. That's the best way to prevent surprises when the seller hires his own inspector. Be proactive. Make the repairs that might scare off a buyer. Today's buyers are spoiled. Most of them want move-in ready. 

Small fixes needn't be expensive and knowing that you've taken care of any delayed maintenance issues will give you confidence and peace of mind while your home is on the market and during negotiations. 

If your inspector finds problems you don't want to fix, you'll be able to get quotes from contractors or tradespeople that your Realtor can supply during talks with a prospective buyer. If a buyer complains about the condition of your roof, you can say, "A new roof will cost $3,000, so I will deduct that from my selling price for you," and then show the lowest bid you received. 

The inspection will go with few if any hiccups if you've read my tips for a successful home inspection.  

You didn't stage your home appropriately

Your home staging goal is to make your home so sweet and comfortable and spacious and luxurious...that a home shopper can't forget about it. Your staging should seduce a buyer, capture his imagination and desire to the degree that he prefers your home over others he's considering. 

Therefore, it can't be staged with outdated or beat up furniture. It can't look skimpy or cheap. It can't be crowded with oversized pieces. It needs to be clean and uncluttered. Read this blog and my eBooks, and click on the icons below to peruse my Pinterest boards or see what's new on the Facebook page. Study the look of luxury homes because that is the look you are selling, even if your home is a woodsy cottage.    

I've made your home staging projects easy for you. Follow the advice I give in my eBook, DIY HomeStaging Tips to Sell Your Fast and For Top Dollar. It will steer you through all the questions you have about the way to make your home irresistible in today's real estate market. You can download the 150-page pdf now and -- on a budget --begin to make your home worth more!