The rebound of the real estate market in the Ozarks seems very real, judging from the calls I get from stressed out buyers and sellers who are approaching closing dates.
Buyers sometimes want break contracts, and sellers want to force the buyers to close.
If the buyer has not made objections to the condition of the property in the proper time, or if the reason for wanting out seem weak (by “weak” I mean petty or based on alleged fraudulent concealment that shouldn’t have fooled an inspector), I tell them to either close or buy their way out with money. It is difficult for a buyer to prove that a seller has breached a contract, and spending two or three years in a lawsuit is a very expensive way to not have fun.
If a seller calls me because a buyer is threatening to walk away from the contract, I tell the seller that a suit for specific performance (asking the judge to force the buyer to close) is unlikely to be successful and would result in the property being taken off the market while the suit is pending.
The seller’s other alternative is to sell the house to someone else, then sue the buyer for damages, which are the difference between the contract price in the first contract and the price at which the property actually sells. In a rising market, there’s a good chance of finding another buyer and perhaps getting a better price, so litigation is unnecessary.
When I get these calls, here’s what I’m really thinking. I might have been able to prevent this situation if I had been asked to assist in the preparation of the contract. I would get to meet the client when the client was happy, rather than angry.
I could have looked at the title history to the property. I could have given advice based on my long experience in this market and knowledge about such things as:
- subdivision covenants,
- the developer of the subdivision,
- the builder’s reputation,
- how well the HOA is functioning,
- drainage and road maintenance,
- past or pending litigation involving the property or the subdivision
Instead, I speak to people who are already upset, who seem to resent that I don’t see the other party as a villain, and who have to make a decision in the next 24 hours.
It’s a joke among lawyers that a friend or client will call a lawyer to complain about a $200 traffic ticket, but will not talk to the lawyer about a $300,000 real estate contract. So when I get the call, I have to work really hard to be sympathetic.