Home Selling in Fairfax>Question Details

Randi King, Home Buyer in Fairfax, VA

The seller wants to back out on a ratified contract, & is willing to give back the deposit. My agent says look for another house. I want this

Asked by Randi King, Fairfax, VA Mon Apr 5, 2010

one! What recourse do I have? Can I force the seller to sell me this house? Can I get him to pay me the difference between his house and another one I may find that is comparable to his, but more expensive?

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Great answers from my colleagues below! The case on the surface seems simple..and in most cases you would be advised to walk away as the cost of any legal proceeding may well outweigh the benefits.

What would your damages be? If you did a home inspection etc. I would try to recoup these. If you can prove you bought the house for say 50k under market...then maybe it's time to get an attorney. If you need a good real estate attorney I am happy to make a recommendation. Best of luck to you.

Kind Regards,

Erik J. Weisskopf, ABR,CDPE,CRS,GRI
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 6, 2010
Basic answer, although you should consult an attorney for full details, is that a buyer can sue the seller for performance. Performance; not monetary compensation for you to spend on another home.. The longer answer is that you will incur attorney fees, court costs, and considerable time in pursuing this option. This will add considerable cost to the agreed upon purchase price, delay your closing for an extended period of time and most likely cause feelings which are not pleasant. I agree with your agent; it's not worth it.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Apr 5, 2010
Randi, there are a lot of variables here.
The term for this is a lawsuit for 'specific performance'; i.e. "Our contract provides for you to sell and for me to buy this house and now I'ma make you do what you agreed to."
HOWEVER . . . and you really need to talk to an attorney about all of this . . . what it might cost you to do something like that could wipe out any difference between this and another house that you don't know is out there yet . . . that you might REALLY think is 'the one.'
The question I'd ask is . . . if you want 'that house' but are willing to accept money in lieu . . . well how badly do you want it?
Once, we put a bid on a house and were outbid. I SOO wanted to start over and bid higher but the seller had already accepted the other offer. I was bummed and mad (yes, brokers get their heart broken too). Till I found my dream home which totally beat out the one I lost on . . .
Best of luck and keep an open mind! :)
Web Reference: http://RealEstateBHC.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Apr 5, 2010
Ask the right question , does the seller have a new condition unanticipated
medical , death in family etc?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 23, 2013
I agree with your agent, Randi. YOU can't force the seller to sell, nor can you force him to compensate you in any way. A judge would have to do that, by which time a lot o' things could change.

You might have some success in getting compensation with a strongly worded letter from your attorney, but the machinery for enforcement is out of your control.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 6, 2010
Hi Randi

You have gotten some really great advise below and just had one or two more thoughts.

Of course find out the reason the seller does not want to sell. If it is a short sale and the bank will not approve the sale, find out if they said how much they will approve. It is not uncommon for a bank to come back and say the want more money on a short sale.

If the Seller just has decided he does not want to move and you decide you do not want to fight the battle and legal costs, I would recommend putting something into any release that says the seller cannot sell the home to another buyer for at least one year (or some term you agree to). You don't want him telling you he wants to stay and then you find out 2 weeks later he put it back on the market at a higher price. That just wouldn't be fair.

Good luck

Kathy Stark
Weichert , Realtors
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 6, 2010
Good answers below.

One approach touched on below is actually trying to find out why the seller wants to back out. Seller's remorse? A change in life plans? Friends or relatives telling the seller that he's selling it too cheap? Not enough time to find another home? Each one's a possibility. If you really want the house, find out what the problem or difficulty is, and then try to address it.

For example, if the seller is concerned about not finding another home in time, your contract can be modified to give the seller more time.

For example, if the seller's friends or relatives are telling him he's selling too cheaply, your agent can put together a presentation including recent comps to demonstrate that the seller's getting a very good offer.

So, if you're really interested in the house, then you have to get to the root of the seller's concern.

It is true that you can try to force the seller to sell you the house. And you certainly should consult an attorney. But the harsh fact is that if someone really doesn't want to sell, it's almost impossible to make them sell. A lawyer and threat of a lawsuit might scare them, but if they really dig in their heels, you'd have a really tough job forcing the sale.

It's might nice of the seller to be willing to give you back your deposit. (Note hint of sarcasm there.) I'm not a lawyer, so this isn't legal advice. But if the seller absolutely refuses to sell, you might be willing to consider dropping that home for not only a return of the deposit but for some additional funds as well.

So, definitely see a lawyer. But also have your agent determine why the seller's had a change of heart. Then try to address that concern.

Hope that helps.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 6, 2010
Don Tepper, Real Estate Pro in Burke, VA
In short, you have good answers below. Hopefully, you have your own buyers agent, and are not going through the sellers agent. If not, then that's the first potential problem, so beware that the sellers agent can not really help you in this case. Any information from the listing agent should be viewed somewhat skeptically and you should go straight to an attorney...not because a listing agent would lie, but because they are REQUIRED to represent their client, and giving you advice that could potentially harm his/her client would be a violation of that agent's duty.

Assuming you have your own agent, he/she knows the situation (hopefully) and can advise you better than anyone here. If there was a contingency on the selling side (like 3rd party approval requirement or a clear title issue) and the seller is breaking the contract based on one of those issues, then you may be out of luck. If he simply doesn't want to sell it to you because he has had a change of heart, then that may be a breach of contract - an attorney can advise you better after reviewing the specifics of the case.

I know my brokerage has relationships with attorneys who will provide you a quick, free, consultation so you know if you want to pursue legal action; hopefully your agent has those kinds of resources available to him (her?) and to you, the client.

Best of luck!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Apr 5, 2010

Is this a traditional sale or a short sale? Is the sale contingent on the third party approval?

If it is a short sale, perhaps the lender did not agree to forgive the debt and the seller is not able to pay off the note. Your agent should contact the listing agent to find out the answer to those questions.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Apr 5, 2010
Hi Randi,

Good advice below. The conract gives you the buyer opportunities to legally back out without penalty, but it does not give the seller the same leeway, unless you have negotiated something unusual in your contract.

The seller will not however be responsible for for paying the difference in your cost if you wrote a contract on a similar but more expensive home. Having said that, you should speak to a neutral real estate attorney as your first step. You may be able to negotiate a settlement with the seller where they pay you some monetary amount in order to get your agreement to let them back out.

Good luck,
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Apr 5, 2010
Hi Randi

If you really want this house I think it is time for you to sit down with an attorney. This cannot be the company doing the settlement as that office cannot represent either party if there is a disagreement. He or she will look over your contract and help determine if the seller has any legal outs. If not, perhaps a letter from the attorney explaining your position will convince the seller to complete the transaction.

Best of luck

Kathy Stark
Weichert, Realtors
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Apr 5, 2010
What is the reason that the sellers is backing out of the contract? This is the main question that you have to ask your real estate attorney!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Apr 5, 2010
Tell your agent you want the house and your not interested in backing out.

If it would make a difference as to why they are asking to back out ask, but take it with a grain of salt.

You can try to force the sale or ask what coMpensation they are willing to give you.

Sellers seldom have options to back out as buyers do.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Apr 5, 2010
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