I bought a house with my longtime girlfriend. It’s supposed to close in six weeks. We just broke up, can we get out of this deal? – SEPARATE WAYS
DEAR SEPARATE: I’m sorry to hear your relationship has fallen apart. Personal circumstances aside, a contract is a contract, and it may be difficult to get out of this one. Before going further, you need to make two calls: one to your Realtor, and the other to your lawyer. Unless there’s something unusual in your purchase agreement, I would expect that it is binding and there will be repercussions for failing to follow through on the terms. This leaves you with three options: breach the contract, carry on with the sale, or if possible, modify the agreement (which would require cooperation from the seller).
If you breach the agreement, you’ll likely lose your deposit and may be liable for all costs that the seller incurs getting their house back on the market, including those due to delays, interest, or anything that might be associated with breaking the contract. No one likes to get sued, and the results can be less than ideal for both parties.
Alternately, you could think of the sale as a business arrangement with your ex-girlfriend. When you add up the cost of not closing, it may make more sense to follow through with the contract, put the house back up for sale, and try to minimize your losses.
A third option could be to have the seller put their property back on the market (if they are willing, and if there’s enough time to sell it again before your closing date). This will cause aggravation for the sellers, and if their home sells for less the second time around, you may be responsible for reimbursing them the difference. If they get more for their home the second time, it may lessen the burden for you.
PRO TIP: If a wrinkle occurs in any transaction, get in front of the problem. Issues don’t go away on their own, and solutions are easier to come by when you don’t stick your head in the sand. In this case, picking up the phone will get you one step closer to a solution.
We’ve been in our house for 25 years, but had a challenge when we purchased as one of our light fixtures was missing. How do we avoid a similar problem when we sell? – LIGHTING THE WAY
DEAR LIGHTING: This is a “chattels” versus “fixtures” issue, and is something we address in almost every transaction. Buyers and sellers, along with many agents, struggle to differentiate between chattels and fixtures. Chattels are classified as moveable personal property, like a chair, or a mirror that hangs from a hook on the wall. Appliances tend to be considered chattels, since they can generally be unplugged and moved. Furnaces, chandeliers and switches are considered fixtures, since they are physically attached to the house. But here’s the confusion: what do you consider gas stove that’s plumbed directly into a gas line? Or a dishwasher that’s plumbed into the drainage system and hard wired?
An Agreement of Purchase and Sale has a “chattels included” and “fixtures excluded” section, which leads one to believe that if you want a chattel included or a fixture excluded from the purchase price, you need to say so.
PRO TIP: I always include a comprehensive clause in my agreements that deals specifically with chattels and fixtures, to clear up any ambiguity about what is staying and what is not. If you put it in writing, there’s much less chance of having a problem at closing. #AskDavid #Advice