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"They offered my asking price and said they could close in two weeks. I took the property off the market, took down my signs, stopped the newspaper ads and even turned away other buyers. Now three weeks have passed and I cant even get the potential buyer to return my call". I have heard similar stories many times.
There is a simple rule that we learned the hard way many years ago. Never take a property off the market without money in hand!
I don't mean $100 dollars for earnest money. A hundred bucks will not even cover your aggravation. Figure out what it is worth for you to take a property off the market and get at least that much earnest money. If I have a $1,000 monthly payment then I would never accept less than $1,000 as earnest money. At least, if the deal goes bad, I will cover a mortgage payment.
Get as much earnest money as you possibly can. Are they serious about buying the property? If so, they shouldn't mind coming up with some serious earnest money.
You can also have installment earnest money agreements. For example, let's say the buyer only wants to give you $500 today and you are giving them ten days to inspect the property. Negotiate another $500 in earnest money that is due and payable in ten days.
Make your earnest money NON-REFUNDABLE. In my contracts the earnest money is NON-REFUNDABLE. If the buyer does not close he/she will not get a refund. When I sell property "as-is", I tell the buyer to do their inspections "before" signing the contract, because once they sign the contract the earnest money is mine.
It is YOUR property and YOU must remain in control. Don't be fooled by someone who "appears" that they have it all together. Just get the money to protect yourself.