Q: I placed an ad to sell my home and got 10 responses in the first week. One couple fell in love with my house and gave me a $2,000 deposit, for which I gave them a receipt.

They told me it was their dream home. One of them even told me to “go put that money down” on a home I intended to buy.

We talked daily for more than two weeks, during which time the wife kept referring to the home as “her home.” Then, the husband called and asked a bunch of questions about the property. His real estate friend had told him things about my property, one being that the tax assessor valued it at only a third of the price that I’m selling it to them for. Now they want to cancel the deal.

I took the property off the market in good faith, told other callers I had a buyer, and I told the couple that time was a factor as I have just been diagnosed with my 5th lung cancer and I needed to close quickly.

What should I do?

A: I’m sorry that you have been placed in a bad position with this buyer particularly when you have major health issues to deal with.

Some buyers are known to try to game the system. For a small deposit they can tie up a seller, while still shopping around for a better house. If they find one, they expect to be able to back out of the deal at the last minute.

You know you have a deal with a buyer when he or she has signed a contract to purchase your property. If there are contingencies in the contract, those contingencies must be satisfied or waived within the specified time period.

For example, if they have a financing contingency, they must have secured financing or have written to you stating that they are waiving their right to terminate the contract by virtue of this provision of the contract.

Unfortunately, it looks as though you’re being taken advantage of by this couple. You apparently are selling on your own and have not qualified this couple. You don’t appear to have put any pressure on them to sign a contract to get them to commit to buy your come and close on the sale.

If you are hoping to keep your deal together, you need to hire a great real estate attorney who can explain to them that tax assessments in your part of the country have nothing to do with the market value of a piece of property. If they signed a contract to buy your home, the attorney should inform them that they must close by the date specified in the contract, or they will lose their $2,000, perhaps even more.

My guess is that this deal will fall apart. You should do whatever you need to do to get your property ready to sell, including preparing another ad for your local paper.

Stress is the last thing you need at this point, so the sooner you get things moving the better. You can find a good real estate attorney through your local or state bar association.