What to Do When a Seller Pulls Out of a House Sale
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What to Do When a Seller Pulls Out of a House Sale

It’s an unfortunate fact of property buying that a sale can fall through at any time. There can be a variety of reasons why people pull out of a house sale, and most people won’t have taken the decision lightly. However, as a buyer, it can be particularly disheartening if a seller pulls out of a sale and you risk losing your dream home. So, what are your options?

What to Do When the Seller Pulls Out Before Contracts Are Exchanged

There is no law in England and Wales that prevents a seller from pulling out of a sale before the contracts are exchanged, although the rules are slightly different in Scotland.

There is, unfortunately, not a lot a buyer can do in this instance to try to force a seller to complete. However, a buyer does have the below options.

Make a Higher Offer

A seller might pull out of a sale if they receive a higher offer from another buyer, even if they have already accepted your offer. This is known as gazumping, and it’s a legal practice. The only situation where gazumping is not legal is if you have an agreement with the seller that they will not consider any other offers during a set period before contracts are exchanged – in that instance, you can sue the seller for breach of contract if they gazump you.

If you do not have this type of agreement and you still want to purchase the house, you will have to make a higher offer. The seller will not be under obligation to accept your higher offer but may be inclined to do so to maximise their profit and also save time going through the conveyancing process again with a new buyer.

You should be careful about how high an offer you want to make though – you should consider what the house is really worth and also whether you will still be able to secure a mortgage at this higher price.

Request Compensation

If a seller pulls out of a sale after you have already paid for surveys and solicitors, you can request that they reimburse you for your lost money. The seller has no obligation to repay the costs and you will have no legal place to pursue it, however, there has been situations where the seller feels bad about pulling out and will cover the buyer’s fees.

Find an Alternative Property

The best option when buying a property is to have alternative properties as back-ups in case a sale does fall through. You should think about what made your first-choice property so attractive and look for other properties with similar features or in the same area. Whilst it is unfortunate when a sale falls through, many people go on to find an even better property that they are very happy with.

What to Do When the Seller Pulls Out After Contracts Are Exchanged

Pulling out of a sale after contracts have been exchanged will mean the contract has been breached and the party who has pulled out could face severe penalties. There is a formal process for what to do if this happens.

Serve a Notice to Complete

If the seller pulls out of the sale after contracts have been exchanged, the buyer can issue a ‘Notice to Complete’. This is a legal notice that gives the seller ten days to complete the sale. During this period, the buyer is able to claim a daily rate of interest from the seller for the notice to complete.

If the sale does not go ahead after this grace period, the buyer will be able to sue the seller for breach of contract and to cover any financial losses. Any documents that the buyer has that will need to be returned will be done so at the seller’s expense and the buyer’s deposit will have to be returned to them.


Whether you’re looking for homes for sale or you want to sell your home, SOLD.CO.UK can help to make the entire process easy. We offer a fully-managed property selling service, taking care of everything from marketing the property to sale completion. Contact us to see how we can help with your property sale.  

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