Seller Pulling Out of House Sale
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Seller Pulling Out of House Sale

The terms are set in your contract for when a seller may legally withdraw from the deal — but a lawsuit might be required for it to be enforced.

Just when you are on the edge of buying a home, how soul-crushing and challenging it can be to discover that the seller wants to call the deal off. Months and months of hard work, including untold meetings with attorneys and lenders, in addition to the stress of your personal finances – all of it in vain. Why would the seller change their mind so abruptly, and are there any legal remedies?

What Was the Sellers Reasoning?

Prior to you racing off to your attorney, think about the situation from a human aspect. If you’ve been totally clear about your finances and are obviously interested in advancing forward, maybe emotions or a change in personal circumstances are the reason the seller suddenly changed their mind.

When you still are intent on buying the property, you might need to get to the bottom of the seller’s emotions or motives. Do you know the reason why they put the home up for sale to begin with? If, for instance, the sellers were going to move to a senior community because one of them came down with a serious illness, but they made an incredible recovery, there could be little you can do or say to persuade them to sell right away.

One of the more common issues is when the seller, for some reason, does not trust the buyer to go through with the deal. Maybe the seller has reason to believe that you won’t be able to make the initial down payment, or you won’t be able to get a mortgage approval, and does not want the house off the market long enough to definitely find out. Under these circumstances, meet with the seller and offer any proof you have – for instance, your degree of savings or other capital – to alleviate their concerns.

Additionally, when a home is historic or maybe emotionally significant to the seller (it might have been in the family for generations). The seller may not trust that you’ll take good care of it or keep its historic nature. Once more, you’ll need to meet with them and explain that you would be an ideal caretaker of the home – and its historical nature is the very reason you want to buy the home. Try and persuade the seller that you want to improve instead of destroying the historical importance of the property.

Or maybe the seller was offered more money and would instead sell to them. It’s dishonest, but it does happen more often than you might think.

Your Possible Legal Remedies

Your legal remedies will depend mainly on where you’re at in negotiating. Think about these two very dissimilar events.

Are There Legal Remedies After a Handshake Deal Goes Down the Drain?

First, envision that you just got back from the open house, fell in love with the property, and each of you saw mutual interest in making a deal. The seller gave a price and you stated the price was within your budget. You shake hands, smile at each other, and go your separate ways.

You call them the next day to complete the deal, and the assumed seller suddenly hangs up. This definitely angers you, but sadly, you probably don’t have a binding “deal.” Covered by a legal code called the statute of frauds, any agreement for the sale of real property needs to be in writing. A simple oral contact and handshake are just not enough for something as complicated and vital as a buying a home or any real property. Even numerous discussions over an extended time period are probably not enough to persuade a court that the sale is binding. (Occasionally individuals to a home sale will create a letter of intent, dependent on the jurisdiction, but these aren’t as binding as full buying contracts).

This may certainly be disappointing for the buyer that fully thought that the sale was a “done deal.” Keep in mind, the statute of frauds is additionally a vital protection for you; a seller can’t claim that you need to buy a house after you express simple verbalized interest. It goes both ways.

Are There Legal Remedies if the Seller is Failing to Honor the Purchase Contract?

Think about a very different situation. You were at the open house, displayed mutual interest, and had a lot of follow-up discussions. Then both of you retain real estate agents and/or attorneys, you had a meeting with your lender, and both of you signed a purchase contract.

Typically, a scheduled closing date is in the purchase contract, normally for four to six weeks in the future. (The closing is, obviously, when the house legally becomes “yours,” after additional inspections, money exchanges, and title protocols). The purchase contract needs to have certain requirements expressing the circumstances in which either the buyer or the seller can withdraw.

Usually, the buyer has the option of withdrawing if, for instance, the seller can’t prove valid title to the house, or the house fails varied inspections. The seller can withdraw if the buyer can’t secure the promised financing or fails to make the required down payment.

A purchase contract sometimes will spell out severe financial consequences for a seller who withdraws for another reason (not placed in the contract), such as simply receiving a better offer from a different buyer. Under these circumstances, you should speak to your attorney.

In many states, buyers can in fact sue the seller for specific performance of the contract. Specific performance means a court can order not just monetary damages but can order that the seller goes through with the purchase and transfers the title to you. This is because property is thought of as fundamentally unique. You didn’t simply want to purchase a house; you wanted to purchase that house. Consequently, a court may establish that monetary damages by themselves wouldn’t give you the full benefit of your deal. Nonetheless, it’s not uncommon for buyers and sellers in these instances to come to a financial agreement.


  1. Farkas, Brian. “Seller Pulled Out of Home Purchase Deal for No Reason: Now What?”, Nolo, 28 Jan. 2015,

Real Estate Expert Witness Services by Craig Cherney, Esq.

Craig Cherney is a trusted client advisor and a sought after real estate expert witness who is hired by the nation’s top Real Estate Litigation Attorneys to help resolve their litigated real property matters.  Craig has appeared as a testifying expert witness before judges and juries in California, Arizona, Nevada and other jurisdictions across the country. Craig Cherney, Esq. Expert Witness Real Estate480-240-0040.

Disclaimer: This Post Is Not Legal Advice.

You should not ever depend on an online post for legal advice as the law and codes changes often, information sometimes might not be accurate, there can be exceptions to the rule, and wholesale reliance on such matters could be damaging. Always consult with experienced attorneys for current, effective, and factual legal advice.

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