Seller Rights When Under Contract
So you’re ready to sell your house in Utah. Congratulations. What can you expect through the process? Can you cancel the contract? Can you renegotiate the price after accepting an offer? Do you HAVE to sell after accepting an offer? Well, the answers might scare you. In Utah, the real estate purchase contract is not so friendly to the seller.
Unlike buyers, a seller doesn’t really have many rights based on the Utah purchase contract. In fact, the seller cannot cancel the contract after acceptance. Only the buyer can cancel. The seller is stuck until the buyer says otherwise. There is one chance of the seller getting out of a contract after accepting, and that is if the buyer’s earnest money is deposited outside the four days period they have before it needs to go into an escrow account. If the buyer does not deposit the money by then, the seller can cancel the contract based on the buyer’s default on the contract. However, it is difficult to get that information from the buyer’s real estate brokerage, so good luck finding it and canceling. Therefore, what can a seller realistically expect after going under contract?
Firstly, the buyers have the right to inspect your property. They may conduct whatever inspections they choose, and you cannot interfere. Now, they cannot tear your house apart. The buyers must return the property in the same general condition as when they did the inspection. So, after the buyer has performed their inspections, any objections they come up with or wish to negotiate over, you can deny. A seller does not have to agree or do anything that the buyer requests you to do. That is your right. The property is sold as is, and you are not required to make any repairs. This may disenfranchise the buyer and have them cancel the contract, but you are within your rights to hold firm.
Secondly, a poor appraisal can cause a buyer to halt the process. When the buyer gets the appraisal back and it comes in lower than the agreed purchase price, the buyer can negotiate for a lower purchase price. However, it is your right as a seller to receive a copy of the appraisal if the appraised number does not come in at value. You can also request a copy of the appraisal from the buyer even if it does come in at value, but they are not required to comply. The seller is not required to adjust the sales regardless of the appraisal amount. This is also your right. Again, you may blow up the deal by upsetting the buyer and causing more out-of-pocket costs to them, but you do not have to oblige.
Another expectation for a seller is protecting yourself. The best protection for you as a seller is the seller's disclosure document. This document is filled out by the seller to the best of your knowledge and provides a history of the property since you’ve owned it. This is your security blanket. You always want to over-disclose because it is your only piece of information or documentation that can protect you from the buyer coming back and suing you over some flaw or defect they uncovered. Yes, every house is sold as is and there is no guarantee that everything will continue to operate after the sale like your furnace, your roof, etc. However, if you know your roof leaks and you do not disclose it, that is going to be a big problem for you as the buyer can come after you over that.
Finally, another thing the seller needs to be aware of is contractually guaranteeing to pay for a free and clear title. This is very important to know. If you don’t have a free and clear title, or if someone has clouded your title, then you are violating the contractual obligation to provide this by settlement. Failing to provide this is very problematic, and there can be legal consequences. This happens most often with deaths in the family. For example, if you have a relative die and inherit the property, you must verify that the title is not clouded before entering into a contract. If you don’t have a free and clear title, you should not be listing the property for sale. Every once in a while, we will see it with groups or spouses, where one says we will sell and the other one says we won’t. You want to be very careful that everyone is on the same page and that you have a free and clear title prior to selling.
In the event, the seller defaults on any part of the contract, the buyer has several remedies against the seller, most of which involve suing you for damages or performance. Courts in Utah will most often side with the buyer in these cases. There is a multitude of case law supporting this, whereas there is almost none for sellers.
In conclusion, you’re ready to sell your property in Utah. You now know what to expect prior to and during a contract. After ensuring you have a clear title, you’ve filled out the seller’s disclosure form to the best of your knowledge, and you’ve received an offer. It is extremely important to have professional help in vetting, negotiating, and guiding you through your options throughout the contract. Most standard contracts will operate anywhere between 14 to 28 days. You’ll be sitting on pins and needles, waiting for the buyer to proceed through all their steps and come to the closing table. Reach out to a professional to get the right guidance, and strategies to ensure you protect yourself as much as possible prior to accepting an offer!