Why Housing Deals Fall Through

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Why Housing Deals Fall Through

Selling a home is usually not a simple process. However, it can become even more complicated and expensive if a deal progresses but eventually falls through. Therefore, as a seller, there are some things you need to know about late-stage exits. If you’re thinking about selling your home, find out what you can do to protect yourself if you’re not able to close the transaction.

Key Takeaways

  • There’s no way to guarantee a home sale will close, even if both parties have agreed on an offer and are under contract.
  • Buyers often have contingency clauses written into the contract, which are legal ways of “backing out” of buying a home.
  • The most common types of contingencies include home inspections, home appraisals, sale of the buyer’s home, and the buyer’s ability to secure a mortgage.
  • If an offer on a home sale falls through, the seller loses time, money, and misses out on other buyers who were ready to close.
  • An escape clause helps sellers since it allows the seller to entertain offers from other buyers despite contingencies in the original offer.

How a Home Sale Can Fall Through

In a typical home sale, buyers will make an offer on a seller’s home. When an offer is accepted, a contract is signed between the two parties. At that point, the property’s status typically changes from “for sale” to “under contract” or “in contract.” The change in status tells other buyers and real estate agents that the seller has a buyer and is in the process of closing the deal.

A home sale or purchase, however, isn’t complete until both parties have formally agreed to the transfer of ownership of the house at the closing. Contingency provisions, which are legitimate means for buyers to “back out” of contracts with no penalty or little expense to them, are often included in the contracts that buyers sign.

The sales agreement has a contingency provision requiring the consent of both the buyer and the seller to its conditions. The following are some of the most typical contingencies:

Mortgage Contingency

The purchaser of the property must be able to get a mortgage. It is possible to include a clause in the contract that states it will be void if the funding fails. It’s crucial for sellers to get a letter of mortgage pre-approval from the buyer. The criteria for mortgage contingency often include:

  • Timing. The mortgage contingency period outlines how long the buyer has to secure a mortgage. The contingency may include an extension option if the buyer fails to secure a mortgage in the original allotment of time.
  • Mortgage Type. Both parties must agree on the type of mortgage the buyer will pursue as part of the closing process. The buyer may opt for a conventional, fixed-rate, adjustable-rate, or other loan.
  • Loan Amount. There are often clauses within the mortgage contingency outlining the specific loan amount a buyer must be approved for.
  • Fees. The lender will often charge origination fees, processing fees, or underwriting fees. Because these may not be known in advance, the mortgage contingency establishes who pays these fees and what happens if a party is unable to do so.

The buyer may have up to two months to arrange financing before the contingency clause kicks in since the loan contingency term is typically between 30 and 60 days.

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Home Inspection Contingency

If all parties agree on the outcome of a house inspection, a home inspection contingency is included to a possible transaction. This clause, also known as a due diligence contingency, allows the buyer the right to have the house examined within a certain period of time. Depending on how serious the facts are, a buyer may be allowed to revoke their offer.

The opportunity for a price renegotiation is another result of the house inspection. A buyer may try to bargain for the seller to address some or all of the report’s complaints. The buyer might also withdraw their first offer and make an effort to negotiate a lesser price.

This condition also depends on the seller’s participation. The present owner often gets a certain length of time after the inspection to address any concerns raised in the inspector’s report. If you choose not to implement the recommended remedies because you disagree with the results, the buyer can opt to withdraw their offer.

Home Sale Contingency

A house sale condition stipulates that an agreement must be completed if the buyer sells their existing home. The house sale contingency benefits purchasers since it gives them the option to cancel the agreement if their home doesn’t sell, forcing the seller to resume the transaction from scratch. Although there is often a specified time period when the seller may opt-out of the contract if the house doesn’t sell, the seller may miss other bids from possible purchasers who are prepared to close.

In particular, if they want to use the money from the sale of their present house as part of the down payment for your property, buyers often press hard for home sale stipulations. Additionally, the buyer often wants to make sure they won’t be required to pay mortgages on many houses at once.

Appraisal Contingency

The appraisal condition enables the buyer to get an evaluation of the property to ascertain its worth. The home’s price must either match or be less than the amount of the certified evaluation. The buyer may either go on with the purchase or request that the seller reduce the price of the house if the appraisal shows a lesser value.

Lender requirements often cause the occurrence of this situation. Financial institutions often seek to ensure that the house being sold and the mortgage being underwritten are for houses that aren’t being sold for more than they’re worth.

The lender may provide unfavorable loan conditions or demand extra payment to make the deal fair if the appraisal turns out to be much less than the price for which the house is being sold. Depending on the outcome of the evaluation, a buyer may be able to withdraw their offer. Due to the absence of a lender, appraisal conditions are often waived in cash deals.

Warning Signs

There are also further indicators that a buyer may decide not to complete the transaction. Be alert to certain occurrences when you and a potential buyer try to close a deal, such as:

  • Failure to return paperwork that has been duly signed, dated, and finished
  • not making the necessary payments to third parties (i.e., inspectors)
  • Not returning calls
  • Missing appointments
  • several demands for contract modifications

If you encounter any of these, your customer could be losing interest. You have the freedom to negotiate a deal that you believe is acceptable to both sides. Although it seems sense for a buyer to desire the best possible bargain for themselves, it’s also a red flag if they refuse to make any compromises throughout the negotiating process.

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An offer’s acceptance may be revoked by the seller. However, if you decide to back out of the agreement, you could have to pay the buyer damages.

The Costs to Sellers

If you have a contract in place to sell your house, there are a number of expenses you’ll have to pay if the buyer decides not to proceed.

Opportunity Cost

When your property gets “under contract,” prospective buyers who may have been considering placing an offer on it start looking at other houses on the market. When your house is under contract, you can miss the chance to sell to those purchasers since they might have found another place to live.


The time lost as a result of a failed house sale is one of the most aggravating things. The seller is told to start the procedure all over again and locate a new buyer. Your property may often need to be relisted with a reduced list price in light of information from the unsuccessful transaction that has been made public. Additionally, the delay can cause you to reschedule your move-in date or abandon your plans to buy another house.

Your Next Home

You may not be able to purchase the property if you had a contract in place to buy another house, but that deal required you to sell your existing home first because you needed the cash. As a consequence, you may need to cancel the purchase or locate an other financing option.


Should your transaction fail, there are a number of severe financial losses that might happen. You could have to keep paying your mortgage on the house you’re trying to sell, which would mean continuing to pay interest and other non-recoverable costs.

If the acquisition of a new house is put on hold, you may need to rent a place for a while, particularly if your move has a set deadline. Furthermore, you can be forced to violate a contract with a possible seller of another property, which might result in charges or fines.

You could still be obligated to pay expenses like property taxes, electricity, and upkeep of the yard. As an alternative, you could need to pay for selling many times. For instance, you may need to sign a new contract or renew your current one with a home staging business.

Earnest Money

Earnest money deposits are one method a seller might use to protect themselves. Frequently, the buyer is required to make a good faith deposit into an escrow account. You can be eligible for a portion of these monies if the buyer cancels.

Saving the Deal

You have options if your buyer decides to back out. First, check to see if the real estate agents working on your behalf and the buyer are properly communicating. Make sure copies of all written interactions are sent to both you and the prospective buyer. Try to communicate with the buyer directly to understand their objectives or concerns if you or the buyer are not using an agency (or if you are uncomfortable with the degree of contact).

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Find out if you can make any adjustments to keep your buyer on pace for a closing. Some of the aforementioned factors may provide challenges; as a result, offer cash or a price decrease to make up for a subpar appraisal or negative inspection.

Whether the buyer cancels, go through the contract to see if you have any remedy as the seller. Is there, for instance, a provision in your contract that would allow you to legally sue your borrower for breach of contract and recover a portion of the sale price? Or does the contract include a provision that declares the buyer in default if they fail to terminate the arrangement within a certain amount of time after signing it?

Use an Escape Clause

Even if the buyer has included restrictions or contingencies in the contract, an escape clause enables the seller to consider and accept bids from other purchasers.

The initial bidder would be informed by the seller if another offer had been made on the house and given a certain amount of time to meet the conditions or waive them. In other words, an escape clause protects sellers by preventing them from losing out on sales chances while they wait for the buyer’s conditions, such as the sale of the buyer’s house, to be satisfied.

Can a Buyer Back Out After an Offer Is Accepted?

Yes, once an offer is accepted, a prospective buyer might decide not to purchase the property. For the transaction to finalize, a number of conditions must be satisfied. The buyer has the ability to withdraw their offer if certain requirements are not satisfied.

How Can a Buyer Back Out From a Home Purchase?

Contingency provisions safeguard both the buyer and the seller. For instance, if a buyer and seller agree to a house inspection, the buyer has the right to change their offer in light of the inspection’s results.

What Happens If a Buyer Breaches Contract?

A buyer is held liable if they breach contract during the sale of a home. A buyer will likely lose any earnest money, good faiths deposits, or escrow funds. A buyer may be forced to pay additional penalties and fees making the seller whole if additional damages are incurred by the seller.

How Can I Make Sure My Home Sale Closes?

Oftentimes, working with professional real estate agents boosts communication, proficiency, and trust within a real estate deal. Though there’s never any guarantee that a deal will close, leveraging the expertise of others that manage these deals frequently will increase the odds that your deal not only closes but you receive what you consider fair value for your property.

The Bottom Line

There are a number of factors that can cause a home sale to fall through, including the failure to satisfy one of the contingencies or clauses in the contract or the buyer has a change of heart. Although there are downsides to this happening, there are ways you can increase your chances of closing and protect yourself in case the deal does fall through.

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