Q: My son is selling house. The buyer and he signed a purchase contract. My son offered owner financing to the buyer. The buyer inspected the property with a professional home inspector and submitted a lengthy list of repairs. My son pulled a copy of the buyer’s credit history and when seeing that his credit score was only 575 decided to back out than be stuck with a possible deadbeat owner. My son’s real estate agent didn’t indicate there would be any problems in canceling the deal. But now the buyer’s agent is threatening to sue my son for $10,000 saying he cannot back out of the deal based on the credit score. How shall we advise my son? Should his real estate agent been more on top of the situation and warned him about what might happen if he canceled the deal?
A: It doesn’t sound as if your son has been well-served by his real estate agent. The contract should have provided for ways for your son to exit the deal without all this drama.
First, what does the contract say? On what conditions would it permit your son to cancel the deal? Your son may wish to speak with a real estate attorney who can help him figure out what his options are.
I’m hoping there are ways for your son to cancel the deal even now. First, your son might be able to simply decide not to make any of the repairs requested by the buyer. If he is not obligated in the contract to fix anything, he can just say “No.”
If he refuses to fix up the home and take care of these problems, then the buyers will have to decide if they want the house in as-is condition. Since everyone wants a perfect house for the money, it’s likely the buyer will walk away.
Can your son request a higher down payment to compensate for the low credit score? If the contract specifies only that the seller will offer owner financing, then the terms of that financing might be up for discussion. Asking for a significant down payment will ensure that the buyer either walks (because he doesn’t have enough cash) or he has a sizeable chunk of skin in the game and is therefore unlikely to walk away from it.
To the buyer broker’s point, it’s entirely possible that the contract your son signed did not give him the right to cancel the deal based on a credit score. That’s not a typical clause in a purchase agreement. So, if your son cancels the deal because of that, or for any other reason other than those specifically detailed in the contract, he may open himself up to a lawsuit.
The best bet for your son is to talk to a real estate attorney to review his options. He may have the right to terminate the contract for various reasons specified in the contract. Frequently, boiler plate contracts that include a seller-financing provision will also permit the seller to approve the buyer’s credit. The only way your son will know if he is legally able to terminate the contract is to talk to a person who can look out for his interest.
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