When seller reneges, you have options


November 01, 1998

Dear Mr. Azrael:

My family and I spent many days searching and traveling all over Maryland until one day we found what we think is the perfect home. We made an appointment to see the place and fell in love.

To make a long story short, after several bids on the house we finally gave in to the owner's full price he was asking and signed the papers.

The same papers were signed by the owner, [and] he made a few extra demands that weren't on the original. But knowing how bad we wanted this place we gave in again.

[When] it was time to start the routine inspections all of a sudden we found out that the owner decided to take the house off of the market and keep it.

Well, we were very disappointed and asked for all the money we have spent on this deal up to this point. But we did not get a reply. So we hired an attorney who sent him a letter stating our demands. We learned that the owner of the house got himself a lawyer also and replies he wants us to leave him alone.

I just wondered how far could this go [and] if we take him to court?

Jerry L. Brancheck Jr.


Dear Mr. Brancheck:

This sounds like a case of "seller's remorse."

After the deal was signed and the seller had squeezed every possible concession out of you, he had second thoughts and now does not want to sell the property.

Your specific legal rights may be limited by the written contract you signed.

In general, when a seller refuses to complete the sale of real estate, as agreed in writing, the buyer has a choice of several remedies. They are:

The buyer can demand return of his deposit and cancel the contract.

The buyer can insist on performance of the contract. The buyer can sue the seller and ask the court to make the seller convey the property. This is called a suit for "specific performance."

The buyer can sue the seller for all losses and damages caused by the seller's failure to perform. These damages typically would include the deposit, as well as other out-of-pocket expenses incurred in investigating the property.

Bottom line: If you want this particular property, you may be able to get it through a court action against the seller for specific performance.

I suggest you consult your attorney and let him or her review all of the relevant documents and facts. You can then be advised about your chances of success, how long it may take and what the estimated legal fees and costs will be.

Pub Date: 11/01/98

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