Former dealers Jim Kevil and Mike Kevil, who are brothers, were ready to accept a lucrative offer to buy their dealership in the summer of 2011.
Then they changed their minds.
"You have something you built there for a while, and you don't just want to turn it over and give it up," says Jim Kevil, 56, former co-owner of Kevil Chevrolet in Bud Lake, N.J.
The partners decided to keep the store for another five years. Unfortunately, Mike died in December 2011. So Jim sold the store about a year later.
The Kevil brothers' initial cold feet and decision to back out of a deal are not uncommon among sellers.
Brokers say it happens more frequently than they would like. Some estimate it happens in about 10 percent of all deals, though usually early on. It's rare for a seller to reverse course after negotiations are settled.
When that does happen, it becomes difficult to reconstruct an offer with the same buyer later or even get as good an offer from a new buyer, brokers say. That's why many brokers watch for red flags in the beginning of a relationship with a seller that might indicate that a seller is not emotionally ready to go through with a deal.
"We get paid by completed transaction," says Alan Haig, managing director of brokerage firm Presidio Group in San Francisco. "If I have a client who changes his mind about a sale, especially when there is a very good price on the table, it's damaging to us as well, both financially and to the reputation of the company, because then buyers are hesitant to work with us if we haven't fully vetted a client."