Avoid a Big Surprise Right Before Closing on Your New House

Surprises like this are never welcome. Here’s what you can do when you are just about to buy the house of your dreams and the owner suddenly wants to change the deal.

Tell Me Why

First of all, find out why the seller has raised the price after accepting your offer. If you are buying a house directly from the owner, you can talk to him. If a real estate agent can help – they take a dim view of last-minute problems that could delay or take away their commission. The owner may be raising the sale price for a reason:

Miscommunication. The seller may think the house’s swimming pool, for example, is worth extra money, while you believe it was included in the original price. Here’s what to do:

Read the terms of your purchase agreement to see if the pool was specifically included or excluded in calculating the offer price. If it was included, the seller has no case.

Determine if the pool is removable (an above ground pool) or a fixture (a built-in pool). An aboveground pool is the owner’s personal property, if it is portable – not fastened or attached to the house or its surroundings. Personal property isn’t part of the original price unless it was specifically described in your agreement. A built-in pool, on the other hand, is part of the purchase price unless it was specifically excluded.

He is trying to sell personal property. If the seller has upped his asking price because he wants to force you to buy his aboveground pool, you can do one of two things:

Agree to buy the pool under a separate contract.

Refuse to buy it and insist that the seller complete sale as planned.

He is concerned about your finances. You may have failed to meet the terms of the offer. If the seller is financing your loan, for example, he may discover that your credit is not as solid as he thought. As a result, he may want a bigger down payment or more money to make up for the increased risk. But unless the agreement you signed specifically states that he has this right, he cannot change the terms without your consent.Your Last Resort

If the situation continues, you can go to court to seek damages from the seller for this failure to honor the contract. In some cases, you may be able to get specific performance of the contract – the court orders the seller to complete the deal as originally agreed. Specific performance is used sparingly. If the seller’s property has a unique design or special historic value, its more probable that a court will order it. Otherwise, the court may award money damages, including the living expenses you incurred and higher costs you paid for a similar house as a result.

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