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What if a buyer or seller backs out of a home sale contract?

On Behalf of | Feb 14, 2024 | Real Estate Transactions |

When a homebuyer or seller backs out of a sale contract, the consequences can vary based on the contract terms and the specific circumstances of the withdrawal. Real estate contracts are legally binding, so backing out can have several legal and financial implications.

Learning about these potential outcomes is crucial for buyers and sellers who want to make informed decisions and appropriately handle such situations.

Role of contingencies

For homebuyers, backing out of a contract can result in different consequences depending on the transaction stage and the reasons for withdrawal. Most real estate contracts include contingencies that allow the buyer to cancel the contract under specific conditions, such as:

  • Failing to secure financing
  • Finding significant issues during the home inspection
  • Unsatisfactory appraisal

If a buyer backs out of the contract for a reason covered by a contingency, they can do so without penalty, often getting their earnest money deposit back.

Consequences for homebuyers

If a buyer backs out without a contingency-related reason, they may lose their earnest money deposit. This deposit, which is often thousands of dollars, is a sign of good faith when an offer is made and is typically held in an escrow account.

In some cases, the seller may also pursue further legal action against the buyer for breach of contract. This could involve suing for specific performance, such as forcing the completion of the sale or seeking damages for the financial loss incurred due to the contract breach.

Consequences for sellers

For sellers, backing out of a real estate contract can also lead to serious repercussions. If a seller decides to withdraw from a contract without a valid legal reason or contractual contingency, the buyer may take legal action. This can include a lawsuit for breach of contract or specific performance compelling the seller to complete the sale.

Additionally, the buyer could seek monetary damages from the seller if they incur additional costs due to the seller’s withdrawal. These costs might include temporary housing expenses, storage fees or additional costs associated with finding a new property.

Breaking a real estate contract is something that must be carefully considered. As such, seeking legal assistance to learn about the possible outcomes is beneficial in these cases before anyone involved commits to a particular approach.