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

Richard L. Vanderslice, P.C. Sept. 19, 2023

Businessman rejecting offer and refusing to sign contractIf you’re buying or selling a home, this is likely one of the biggest financial transactions you’ve made. There’s a lot riding on getting it right, and it’s only natural to get cold feet and second-guess yourself at some point during the process. However, while there are situations in which a seller can back out without penalty, there can also be consequences of backing out of a sale after an offer has been accepted. 

To speak with a real estate attorney about this topic and get expert guidance on your options, call our firm at Richard L. Vanderslice, P.C. We’re able to help those in Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Montgomery County, and Delaware County, Pennsylvania. 

Reasons a Seller Might Want to Back Out

There are a few reasons why a seller may wish to back out of an accepted offer, and depending on the circumstances, they may or may not have to face a penalty for doing so: 

  • Haven’t found a new home yet or an offer fell through: Many sellers wishing to move into a new home will make their sale contingent on this. For instance, they may need the money from the sale to secure the down payment for the new home. When the timing on this doesn’t work out, it may mean they’ll need to back out of the deal.  

  • Low appraisal: Most lenders require an appraisal before they’ll finalize a loan to ensure they’re making a safe investment. If the appraisal comes in lower than the agreed-upon purchase price, this could cause the deal to fall through if an agreement can’t be reached. 

  • Changed their mind or their circumstances changed: Lastly, it could be that the buyer simply changed their mind or their circumstances changed. This may happen if someone was planning to move out of state for a job and needed to sell their home, but then the job offer fell through. Or, it could be that they received a higher offer after they’d already accepted another. 

Seller Backing Out Without Penalty

Even though it may be frustrating or inconvenient for a seller to back out, there are several scenarios in which they can do this without penalty. This could happen if:  

  • No contract was signed. 

  • The contract was signed but the buyer violated the terms of it. 

  • The buyer has made unreasonable repair requests. 

  • There was a contingency written into the contract that was not fulfilled. 

Possible Consequences of Backing Out

So, can a seller back out of a sale if they already accepted an offer? The answer to this isn’t always cut-and-dried, and there are many factors that could affect the consequences the buyer will face.   

One potential consequence is the buyer suing the seller either for monetary damages or for a specific performance provision. The latter essentially means the seller will be required by court order to go through with the sale per the original terms of the contract. The buyer may also wish to file a legal claim against the title, or in some cases, the seller’s agent can sue them for the commission they would have gotten had the sale gone through.  

Turn to Strong Legal Advice

No matter what side of this issue you’re on, you need to work with a qualified attorney to ensure your interests are looked after and you stay on the right side of the law. These cases can be incredibly complicated and are nearly impossible to defend on your own. By working with a lawyer, you’ll have a trusted partner who can educate you about the situation and advocate on your behalf for the best possible deal. 

Commercial Closings Attorney in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

To meet with a real estate attorney in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or Philadelphia County, contact us at Richard L. Vanderslice, P.C. We can help you better understand your options if a real estate sale falls through after an offer has already been accepted.