This post was inspired by Colleen Kulikowski's blog post: http://activerain.com/blogsview/18266/Congratulations-Carol-Williams
Buyers often compare buying to renting as if the two were different sides of the same coin. But buying is a very different proposition than renting, and the benefits and drawbacks can not be contrasted with renting, as if one was making a decision over which of two luxury cars to purchase.
For Buyers on the fence, I have my own theory.... I don't think a client who wishes to own a home would postpone a purchase simply for market concerns. In fact, if the client is holding off, my thought is that they are viewing a home purchase as an investment and not simply for their desire to own a home. The idea of buying a house for investment purposes is a fairly new idea. Maybe only 50 years ago people viewed the land purchase as an investment but the house itself more as a personal need and/or indulgence. The benefits intrinsic to owning can not be taken away even if the market tanks for a bit.
What the recent several years boom in real estate has shown us is that people who did not feel the motivation to buy a property for intrinsic ownership reasons can be motivated to buy for investment reasons. These buyers are a different type of buyer than those who simply, in and of itself, wish to own a home.
For example, take the idea of an American Kennel Certified purebred dog. Some buyers will buy a champion's puppy simply because they like the lines of the dog, and they wish to enjoy the experience of having their own dog with such a fine temperment, etc. Then there are those (such as dog trainers/competitors) who simply buy AKC champion puppies for the purpose of raising, training, and competing with them, for the intention of turning around and breeding and selling its puppies. The second buyer purchases the pup for financial gains, whereas the first buyer could care less if the total "monetary worth" of their dog lowers in correlation to the dog's age.
In a down or holding market, "on the fence" buyers are not qualified buyers. There could be a variety of motivations that could bring them to adopting the latter view of valuing home ownership for its intrinsic value, such as marriage or a pregnancy, or achieving a certain level of security in their work (for example, for a professor, this would be tenure).
Importantly, don't feel like a lemon for not knowing how to persuade an investment-minded buyer to buy. The means for bringing them to that point are, more often than not, not in your control. I would touch base with such buyers off and on and keep them informed of market progress, without stressing too much or internalizing it to believe it is a reflection of my ability as an agent.