The seller pulls out – what to do?


The single most common reason for sales falling through is a simple change of mind by one side or the other.


If you’re on the receiving end of such a reversal of fortune all you can reasonably do is find out what motive lies behind their decision – which may not actually be as simple as it sounds. If their estate agent doesn’t know, or pretends not to, contact the sellers direct.  The trouble is, there are a zillion reasons why we humans change our minds – not all of them entirely rational.

One common reason for sellers pulling out is that they’ve hit problems with the property that they’re buying. Perhaps they couldn’t get the mortgage they’d anticipated (see ‘Mortgage problems’ in a later post).

Or maybe their survey has frightened the life out of them with the careless use of killer words such as ‘asbestos’ or ‘ beetle infestation’.

            So to stand any chance of solving the problem, you first need to get to the bottom of things and ascertain their true reason for withdrawing.

In order to elicit a more fulsome response and avoid ‘yes’/‘no’ answers, it can help to ask ‘open questions’ – ie ones that begin with ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘who’, ‘when’ or ‘why’.


            To see through superficial excuses and ultimately ascertain the truth, it may help to employ ‘digging techniques’, a method hailing from the world of advertising sales.

For example, suppose the sellers initially say the reason they changed their mind is because they now won’t be able to move out in time to meet the agreed completion date.

This can be tested to see if it’s true or just an excuse by replying ‘I quite understand, but if this wasn’t a problem and you could move out in time, would you still want to proceed?’

If they then come up with another possible excuse, try the same technique: ‘…but suppose this wasn’t a problem, what then?’


Ultimately it should be possible to identify their real reason for pulling out.

Hopefully this can then be addressed and it may be possible to work out a solution.

If the moving date really is the big issue, then you could perhaps offer to go into a hotel for a few days perhaps sharing the cost 50/50, or move in with friends or relatives.

A good estate agent can be invaluable in holding deals together in these circumstances.


Our next blog – coming soon …….

Disaster Scenario 2: A break in the chain


Check out our Rightsurvey blog page for more industry tips and secrets written by property professionals to help put you in control.