It is said that relocation is one of the most stressful life events, right up there on the short list with death of a loved one and change of job. Add the largest financial transaction of most people's lives, and the sale and purchase of real estate can be a huge tax on the nerves. I have seen the most stable, easygoing, mature people "lose it" in the process of a real estate transaction, and, given the stakes, that is quite understandable. Even before the decline of the market, buying or selling real estate was a great way to get frayed nerves. Today, emotions are among the biggest obstacles to a smooth transaction.
I see sellers get insulted by what they consider a low offer. It's hard to blame them. After putting your heart and soul into the care of a home, creating memories, and watching the market decline all the while, it is tough to have strangers walk through the place and pass on it or reduce the value as a cautious, dispassionate outside party. That is of course, when people are looking. If you aren't getting showings and face a reduction in price, that doesn't make for a warm fuzzy.
I see buyers jumping through hoops to get their mortgage, which is a result of the pendulum swinging the other way from the days when banks would loan money to anyone with a pulse. Facing a mammoth expenditure in the face of a shaky economy, a falling market and an uncertain future is never easy. Everyone knows someone touched by the housing meltdown in some form, either through a foreclosure, short sale, or loan modification nightmare. Renting another year is the easy way to avoid that stress, but the prospect of putting life on hold another year makes for a second choice that isn't palatable for some.
It all reduces the principals to dry, arid tinder that easily ignites when a setback occurs or an obstacle arises. A deck might not have a Certificate of Occupancy. An old debt might resurface and cause a headache for a loan application. An agent may have forgotten to specify that a chandelier is not remaining with the house. I have seen literally dozens of variations of the same theme, but it all boils down to the people being on edge-and not themselves-for weeks.
I am broker Phil, not Doctor Phil, so I don't have all the answers, except to say that knowing these things going in to a transaction can make a huge difference. We are a species that gets loses their cool over bad traffic or a slow check out clerk, so when the stakes are raised, our "fight or flight" reflex, which saved past generations from saber toothed tigers becomes the default setting. In most cases, it does help to have a good agent to act as a buffer and adviser to keep your eyes on the goal. But even as a broker who has held the hand of many a client, I'll never deny that the process can be difficult.
Breathe, keep your eyes on the goal, and recognize that the stress is temporary but a home is permanent.