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Seller Pulling Out of House Sale: What Can I Do?

Estimated reading time 7 minutes

There is nothing worse than the move to your dream home falling through because the seller has pulled out. You immediately start to wonder if the chance to secure the perfect property will present itself again.

Often, the decision for the seller pulling out of a house sale is one that has not been made lightly. A host of reasons could have presented themselves that make the move no longer possible, but what can you do as the frustrated buyer?

Why would a seller pull out of a house sale?

Reasons for a selling pulling out of a house sale could be varied and unfortunately, a pull-out is normally something they are not going to renege on. The reasons for them doing so could be brought on due to circumstances that have altered their living situation, their earnings and more. The most common reasons for a seller pulling out of a house sale tend to be:

  • Changes in circumstances can often mean a house sale slips right down the list of priorities. A new job, financial issues or a family trauma for example could all see a sale either no longer necessary or delayed until another time
  • A chain collapse is perhaps one of the most common reasons for a seller pulling out of a house sale. If someone further along the chain pulls out of their house purchase, it has a reverberating effect that can result in other sellers no longer being able to buy.
  • You’ve been gazumped – whilst deemed as wrong, there is nothing illegal with being gazumped, it’s just extremely frustrating. Gazumping is where another buyer may step in with a better offer and see the seller back out of a sale with you and instead pursue a sale with this new, higher offering bidder
  • Conveyancing issues may have become apparent and put the seller in a position where a sale can only proceed if they correct them. If they are unwilling or unable, they are likely to pull out of the sale instead

Until the contracts are signed and exchanged, a seller can pull out of the house sale without any concerns about legal action being taken against them. With no contract, there is no legal obligation for them to sell and they can pursue alternative avenues of sale or remove the house from sale altogether.

The disgruntled buyer will get any money back that has already been paid out for the property, but any solicitor fees and other associated costs will still need to be covered for work already completed. This could include searches and conveyancing, for example.

If the contracts have been exchanged and the seller pulls out, though, they will be breaking a legally binding contract, and the buyer can commence legal proceedings if they wish.

What to do when a seller is pulling out of house sale before exchange

If you are at the stage where contracts have not yet been exchanged, there could be a few things you can do in order to find a solution. Before taking any action, speak with the estate agent and solicitor to find the reasons why the seller has pulled out. In some situations, being fully informed of the reasons why a seller is pulling out may give you more opportunity to win them over.

Consider making a higher offer

If the property is one you have set your heart on, you might be willing to raise what you are willing to pay. If you have been gazumped, why not gazump the original interested party? It is completely legal and may secure you the property.

The only thing to be aware of is that you will likely need a new mortgage to finance the new offer, and there is every chance you could be turned down for it. It could also be worth considering whether you are paying fair value for the home. An alternative and similar property elsewhere could be more affordable and not see you needing a new mortgage.

Ask for the sale to be paused

You may be in a position where you don’t need to rush, and this could work to your advantage. If the seller has pulled out due to a collapse of the chain or a family event, you could ask them if they would be willing to pause the sale. This may not only give the seller the added reassurance of your intention to buy, but also keep you in a position to secure the property when they want to recommence the sale process. Depending on the length of pause, you may need to seek a new mortgage in principle so bear this in mind.

Begin to source alternative properties

In many cases, the seller will be sticking to their guns and pulling out of the sale. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do in circumstances like this. Hopefully, when you began curating a list of properties and property types, you had plenty of options in reserve. Look at what you liked in the property that you have missed out on, and consult your list of alternatives to see which ones compare. You might find an even better house at a better price.

Seek compensation

This can be a grey area, and there is certainly nothing wrong with asking – however, the chances of success are fairly limited. With no contracts exchanged, the seller can pull out of the sale without worry of legal infringements. You could request that any fees you have paid are reimbursed by the seller, but they have no obligation to do so. If they had already signed contracts with you, though, things may be considerably different.

Can a seller pull out after exchange?

Whilst it is a rare occurrence, it does still happen and sellers pulling out of a house sale after the contract exchange can cause stress and difficulty for both parties.

For the buyer, there are a few options that could be pursued.

Serve a notice to complete

Once contracts are exchanged, the sale is legally binding, and a pull-out could result in huge costs for the seller to bare. A notice to complete enforces the sale and gives the selling party ten days to finalise the process. During this time, interest will accrue and must be paid to the buyer up until the sale is complete. Should the seller still refuse to sell, they will find themselves in breach of contract and be open to costly legal ramifications.

Seek the money already spent

Where compensation may not be possible when no contracts have been exchanged, when the sales process has reached exchange, there are a many more options open to you.

The buyer will be able to reclaim their deposit which instantly ends the contract, as well as claim back any solicitor fees incurred. Any documents received by the buyer relating to the property must be returned to the seller, but these costs must also be covered by the seller that has pulled out of the house sale.

Losing the opportunity to snap up the house of your dreams can be devastating, but Bettermove gives you the opportunity to sell your home fast and move on to a new property without the worry of any chains collapsing or offers falling through. Our process means that your home is bought by us, or one of our pre-approved cash house buyers within thirty days, and with no legal fees or commission to worry about, you can sell your house for free.