Can An Ohio Home Seller Quit A Purchase Contract?

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 SAL.2002007747

A seller places their home on the market.  They hire an agent to help them price and market the home and find them a suitable buyer.  Showings commence.

You'd think all this means they WANT to sell their home, right?

But sometimes there's some hesitancy involved.  Perhaps a messy divorce and there's an order to sell the home.

Or the home is just getting to be TOO much after the death of a spouse and ALL those memories are hard to leave, but staying isn't viable either.

So at some point a buyer comes along and loves the home, submits an offer and their agent works through the listing agent to negotiate terms that work for both sides.  At that point the "offer" is now a "contract".  Once those last signatures and initials go on the Cincinnati MLS purchase forms, both sides have agreed to perform as expected.

The buyer is going to conduct inspections, get their financing taken care of, hit certain time deadlines or risk being in breach of contract.

What does the seller have to do?  Basically just allow the buyer to fulfill the contract.  Allow home inspections, keep the home in condition as seen and prep to move out on time.

What you won't find in the contract is a "I changed my mind" clause for the seller.  It's not there and it's obvious why it's not.  The buyer is making plans and spending money for inspections, appraisals, etc. under the expectation that the seller is serious about trading their home for a stack of money.  Giving the seller the opportunity to just option out can really put the buyer in a hard spot.

Now I'm not an attorney, didn't sleep at a Holiday Inn and no way should any of this be construed as legal advice, but if the seller decides they want out, there's only two paths:

1.  The buyer agrees to release the seller from the contract, gets their earnest money back, and if other expenses have been made, ask to be made whole.

2.  Here comes the judge.  There's a term called "specific performance", so basically a buyer could try to legally force the seller to honor the contract.

Obviously that could get sticky, take time and suck up some serious legal bills.  The home needs to be all that and a bag o' chips if you're going to add that kind of stress to your life.

So the short answer is the seller can't legally quit the contract unless the buyer breaches first.  The seller can try to make things difficult (I'm not fixing ANYTHING!!, Appraisal low?  Better bring some more cash!!), but they can't just quit without the buyer's permission.

Need more information on this topic?  Call a real estate attorney!

Need to talk about non-legal real estate topics?  That's what we're here for:  513-520-5305 or email


Liz and Bill aka BLiz


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Serving Warren County Ohio & Adjacent Areas


The Liz Spear Team of RE/MAX Elite
Elizabeth Spear, ABR, CRS, Ohio License SAL.2002007747

William (Bill) Spear, CRS, Ohio License SAL.2004011109  Kentucky 77938
Ask for us by name if you visit the office!

EHO Two locations: Lebanon & Mason, OH
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Lynnea Miller
Bend Premier Real Estate - Bend, OR
Premier Real Estate Service in Central Oregon

Liz and Bill - good blog.  We know all the "outs" in a real estate transaction favor the buyer. Sellers need to be aware once they sign, they are committed!

Jul 12, 2017 04:04 PM #1
John Meussner
Mason-McDuffie Mortgage, Conventional Loans, Jumbo Loans, FHA, 203(k), USDA, VA, - Walnut Creek, CA
#MortgageMadeEasy Walnut Creek, CA 484-680-4852

Good info to share BLiz, a seller has a lot on the line even though they don't have to do as much after the contract is signed.  The buyer could lose an EMD, but as you mentioned, it can get a lot uglier for a seller.  Always best to consult counsel for something so serious and potentially costly.

Jul 12, 2017 04:58 PM #2
Dave Halpern
Keller Williams Realty Louisville East (502) 664-7827 - Louisville, KY
Louisville Short Sale Expert

Yes, it could be financially very costly to the seller in ways not even imagined. As Liz and Bill Spear noted repeatedly, a seller who wants to back out of a contract must consult an attorney experienced in real estate contract law.

Jul 12, 2017 09:03 PM #3
Dick Greenberg
New Paradigm Partners LLC - Fort Collins, CO
Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate

Hi Bill - Good post. We had a buyer in that situation once, and the seller left us in the position of walking away or facing what looked to be a long, expensive court proceeding. Legal advice suggested that he should win eventually, but there were no guarantees, so in a practical sense, there wasn't a better option than taking back the earnest money and restarting the search. It was a very frustrating experience for our side of the transaction.

Jul 13, 2017 12:40 PM #4
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RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton)
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