What happens if we signed a contract to sell our housebut due to changed circumstances we no longer want to sell?

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What happens if we signed a contract to sell our housebut due to changed circumstances we no longer want to sell?

The contract states that upon breach by seller, “…the buyer shall be entitled to either cancel and terminate this contract ,return the abstract to seller and receive a refund of the earnest money, or pursue any other remedy available at law or in equity, including specific performance”. We don’t understand the part beginning with pursue any other remedy. Can you explain?

Asked on April 19, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Oklahoma

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

There are legal remedies such as damages (monetary compensation) and there are equitable remedies which are available when the legal remedy (damages) is inadequate.  An equitable remedy would be specific performance.  Specific performance means compelling the party to comply with the terms of the contract; in this case compelling the seller to go forward with the sale.  In real estate transactions, monetary damages would be inadequate because land is unique and the buyer wanted this specific parcel of land and your house in the transaction.

The buyer, according to the terms of your contract has both legal and equitable remedies. 

You mentioned that you no longer want to sell due to "changed circumstances".  Depending on what the changed circumstances are, you may have a defense to performance of the contract (going through with the sale).  For example, if due to changed circumstances, the contract sale price would deprive you of the benefit of the bargain (sale price was too low due to an unforeseeable change in market conditions), that may be an argument you could assert as a defense to buyer enforcing the contract.  If performance of the contract (selling the house) can no longer occur due to impossibility, that would be a defense to performance.  It would depend on what the impossibility is and its effect on the contract.


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