What is the law if buying a house and the seller backs out 2 weeks before closing?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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What is the law if buying a house and the seller backs out 2 weeks before closing?

My wife and I were buying a house and everything was done except for the final walk-through and

closing. The seller backed out with the excuse of loss of income due to a position change. What can be done?

Asked on June 13, 2016 under Real Estate Law, Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

You can sue the seller: a contract is enforceable in court, and the seller cannot get out of the contract. due to some adverse change in his or her life circumstances (e.g. "loss of income"). The seller could only get out of the contract if either you violate your own obligations, like not being able to close financially; or if the terms of the contract itself give the seller the right to pull out of the sale at this time. You can sue for "specific performance," or a court order requiring the seller to go ahead with the sale, and/or for monetary compensation for your costs, both incurred to date and projected future if the sale does not close. Given the time line, you'd want to file your suit on an "emergent" (think: "urgent" or "emergency") basis, to get into court faster. Doing so can be procedurally complex: while you should be able to get instructions and likely sample forms from the court and/or the court's website, you are strongly advised to retain an attorney to help you.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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