When sellers try to help: Good deal or cynical ploy?

Job insecurity and low consumer confidence has some retailers, car companies and home builders getting creative in their efforts to bring buyers off the sidelines: Hyundai will let you return your new car if you lose your job and can't make the payments. Keller Williams is experimenting with a plan to provide payment assistance to buyers who lose their jobs within six months of closing. Now a Seattle real estate developer is offering mortgage assistance to condo buyers who subsequently lose their jobs -- and getting some good press for it too.

These all sound like good deals, but consumers should be cautious: They're mostly gimmicks. The only reason that companies offer promotions is to move inventory. The Thornton Place condominium complex has had 109 units on the market since the summer, and hasn't been able to sell a single one. The market's saying that the prices are far too high, but instead of being realistic, the developers are trying to generate headlines with a promotion that will benefit only a very small percentage of people.