Real Estate Agent Holding House Key to His Client After Signing Contrac

Can I Back Out of a Sale If I Already Accepted an Offer? 

Law Offices of David W. Wilcox Oct. 12, 2022

Home prices across the country have increased, and the median price of a home now stands at nearly $400,000. Florida comes in at $395,800.

A seller, up until the recent rise in mortgage interest rates, could list a home one day and see it sold by the next morning or within days at most. Though it may take longer now, buyers are still out shopping, and sellers are still counting on rising home prices.  

That being said, what if you list your home for sale and receive an offer but later realize – for one reason or another – that you’re not ready to sell? Can you get out of a real estate transaction you’ve agreed to?    

There are legal ways to get out of a deal, but you’ll need to understand the laws governing real estate transactions – and contracts in general – to find your escape mechanism.  

If you’re a home seller in Bradenton, Florida, and want to back out of a sale, contact the Law Offices of David W. Wilcox.   

Real estate Attorney Wilcox has more than four decades of experience in real estate transactions and knows the ins and outs of every applicable law. He is also a licensed real estate broker. He can meet with you to discuss your options and explore legal routes for getting out of the sale of your home. He also proudly serves clients throughout the counties of Sarasota and Matinee, Florida. 

Reasons a Seller May Want Out of a Deal 

A seller may suddenly experience a sense of loss or remorse over leaving the comfort of a residence that has been home for many years or even decades. Circumstances in the seller’s life may also suddenly take an unexpected turn. Perhaps a personal health issue makes it more challenging to contemplate relocating, or a family member who grew up in the house suddenly needs a place to stay and wants to move back.  

Whatever the motivation or rationale, you – the seller – suddenly want out of a deal that you just agreed to days or perhaps even hours ago.   

If you conclude not to sell before you’ve signed the sales agreement – perhaps you just shook hands or reached an oral agreement – you are free to change your mind, but once the ink has hit the paper from the pens of both parties, backing out becomes a challenge. You will need the advice, guidance, and hands-on help of an experienced real estate attorney. 

Backing Out Without Penalty 

Naturally, if you seek to end a deal, you want everything to transpire penalty-free. Here’s where relying on a real estate attorney from the beginning can pay off. Your attorney can include contingency language in the sales contract. This contingency, for example, can be based on the seller’s ability to find suitable replacement property within a specific time frame, say 30 days.  

The contract can also be written to include a five-day attorney review period. Before the five days are up, the seller can back out by citing the results of the review. The contract can also include a “time-is-of-the-essence qualification.” This gives the buyer a specified time period in which to show he has locked in the necessary financing, placed money in escrow, and met other qualifying expectations.  

If you have none of these clauses added to the contract by your attorney, you are then forced into other considerations and potential options, none of which may be easy.   

You can claim fraud or deception, for instance. You can also hope that the buyer exercises his inspection clause and finds reason either to cancel the deal or to request repairs be made before the deal goes through. You can refuse to make the repairs in hopes that the buyer will then voluntarily opt out of the deal.

Beyond these steps, as a final resort, you can attempt to explain the situation to the buyer and hope to reach a consensual end to the deal, but buyers often will expect some kind of compensation to back out of a transaction. 

Backing Out Without Solid Justification 

If you as the seller simply cancel or back out of the contract, you can face legal consequences. Real estate contracts are generally constructed to protect the buyer, and if the seller arbitrarily backs out, they can be forced by the contract into what is called “specific performance,” in other words, into going through with the deal despite a desire to back out.  

The buyer can also file what is called a lis pendens, which is a lien on the home. If the owner tries to sell the home, the lien will first have to be paid, making a sale impossible. If the seller refuses to complete the deal and a legal tussle ensues, a court can order the buyer to sell and move out, as well as to cover attorneys’ fees.   

Get the Legal Support You Need 

If you’ve put your home up for sale and have received an offer, you need to get a real estate attorney involved to review the sales contract and propose and make necessary changes to the terms of the transaction. This is for your protection as a seller. You may find yourself in a situation where you’ve agreed to a deal but suddenly want out, or you need to get out because circumstances have turned against you.  

If you’re in Bradenton or neighboring areas of Florida, contact the Law Offices of David W. Wilcox as soon as you consider selling your home. Protect your interests and your rights from the beginning through the advice and guidance of an experienced real estate attorney with extensive knowledge and resources.