The Unexpected Consequences of a Cooling Market

Celine Damonte and Warren Ganda are in love, engaged to marry and ready to move into their dream house in Northern California. A five-bedroom home, with ample space to combine Damonte's two daughters and Ganda's three daughters under one roof, it's the perfect place to begin their new lives together.

But in today's cooling real estate market, there is one obstacle in their way -- or actually two. Damonte and Ganda currently live in separate three-bedroom homes in Antioch, Calif., and until they sell these homes they cannot afford the dream house. And like many other home sellers today, they are having no luck.

Damonte spent weeks primping her house for sale, but after 65 days on the market, she only had one visitor look at it.


Without a single offer, the couple has put wedding planning on the back burner.

"I just need one buyer," said Damonte. "How could it be there's no buyers?"

Her fiancé Ganda is also frustrated by the situation. "We never thought that the real estate market … was what would hold us back," he said.

'Lives in Limbo'

Suzanne Lambertson and John Anderson of Fountain Valley, Calif., are another couple whose life plans are being held hostage by today's real estate market. Lambertson and Anderson have decided to divorce but need to continue living together until their house sells.

Despite their home's stellar selling points -- it's a brand new, custom five-bedroom home near a pool, the beach and good schools -- they have not received a single offer.

"All of our lives are in limbo," said Lambertson. "We really are powerless and can't do anything about it."

"Every house sells," said Kirsten Kemp, a realtor who is host of the TLC show "Property Ladder" and author of "Flipping Confidential." Even in a tough market, Kemp is confident that there are buyers who have been waiting on the sideline ready to make a purchase.

"Sellers now really need to have a reality check and say, 'What is fair, what is the market gonna bear?'" said Kemp. "You can't just throw a For Sale sign up now and get it sold. It's not gonna happen in this market."

ABC News arranged for Kemp to visit both couples to show them simple steps to sell their homes, whether their goal is to move closer together or completely apart.

Kemp was immediately impressed with the physical appearance of the Lamberston and Anderson home. However, she quickly saw a problem in the marketing of the home. The flyer advertising the house was confusing, and did not give proper attention to the house's main attributes.

"You need the best person with a really good marketing plan that's going to generate the traffic that you need through this house," Kemp said.

Kemp was also concerned about the pricing of the house. Listed for $1.049 million, Kemp said that potential buyers who have a $1 million limit would not even take a look. "I think there's a bit of a psychological barrier in this area with the million-dollar mark," Kemp told them, suggesting they price the house at just under a million dollars.

Kemp also said that a house that has been on the market for a long time without being sold can be considered stale goods. She suggested that Lamberston and Anderson take their home off the market temporarily and relaunch it with a new marketing campaign.

"Maximize the attributes, minimize the flaws, and then hope for a sale," she said.

'What You Can Get Right Now'

Kemp's next stop was Antioch, Calif., to help Damonte and Ganda sell their respective houses. Kemp was impressed with the staging job Damonte has done on her home, but Ganda had just started preparing his home for sale and knew that he had a lot cleaning and decluttering to do.

But Kemp's main suggestion for both was to lower the asking price for each home. Damonte and Ganda had hoped to get half a million dollars per house to pay for their dream home. Damonte had already lowered her price three times, and lowering it again was a tough pill to swallow.

"The hard part is trying to overcome the idea that the houses were worth so much more a year ago than what they are worth now," said Ganda.

Kemp's words of wisdom? "It's not about what you could have gotten, it's what you can get right now," she said.

Since Damonte and Ganda worried they would lose their dream home, Kemp suggested they go to the builder and try to negotiate a lower price. "I think that we realize that what we committed to six months ago is just not realistic," said Ganda.

"Love will prevail," said Damonte. "Through these ups and downs of real estate, love will prevail."

Kemp is confident that both couples will be able to sell their homes and move on with their lives.

"It's just a matter of making sure that it's priced right and it's maximized correctly in terms of its physicality and that it has a marketing plan," she said.

Both couples are optimistic that affairs of the heart and affairs of the home will be resolved soon.