Q: I'm in Virginia. Entered into contract to sell my house. Buyers have now indicated that they no longer feel happy
about the purchase. They want out of the contract. They are pressuring me to sign a document basically stating a mutual agreement to break the contract and forfeiting their deposit. What alternatives do I have?
A: First, you need a lawyer, not an internet advice board. This forum is designed and good for simple, general questions that will get you to the 'next step' for legal situations. Sometimes all people need is a simple answer. From the facts you’ve given, it seems that you need a lot more than an internet answer. Find and sit down with an experienced attorney in your area – there is a ‘search’ feature that can help you.
Second, they are bound by the contract and are liable for whatever damages you have due to their breaking the contract. Damages could include 1) interest on your existing mortgage after the anticipated closing date; 2) costs to market the property again and find a new purchaser; 3) any difference between the amount they had agreed to pay and what you are able to reasonably sell the property to next purchaser; 4) your attorneys fees for breaking the contract (assuming that's put into the contract). Also, as they broke the contract, they are probably responsible for real estate commissions.
Practical - you'll be in court for a year or so trying to sue them for the damages. What is their breaking the contract worth, today, in dollars in your pocket to let them out? How much can they pay? If it was listed, how much money do the agents want? If you do settle, make sure everyone with their fingers in the deal is considered.
A: The contract of sale with you both executed with governor as to whether either party has the right to cancel the contract. Unless the contract contains a specific force majure clause, the virus alone would not be grounds to cancel the contract.
A: You have to start by reading your contract, and they are not all the same. In what is probably the most common version of purchase and sale agreement, in the event of a default ... which, without hearing more facts and the other side's version ... is what your buyer is proposing that he do, the seller (that's you) may either accept the deposit or file suit for any remedies available at law. Usually, you cannot do both, but this in entirely controlled by the contact, and you need to read it. In litigation, if there are specific damages, that can be pled, but the usual suit is specific performance, that is, to complete the sale and go to closing. In a few versions of the contracts, attorneys fees can be awarded to the prevailing party, but that is probably fairly rare, and, in one version I read, the only fees protected are those paid by the brokers. In some versions, the deposit forfeited pays the brokers before it mays the seller, but you reviewed the contract before you signed it, so you didn't sign that version, right?
The uncertainty and delays of all of this, particularly during the current quarantine, are often considered not worth the cost. But, that's your decision. You should start with a contract review by a lawyer.
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