Buyers ready, but home seller wants to back out

May 16, 2014

Man Signing ContractFORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – May 15, 2014 – Question: We found a house and entered into a contract to buy it. We did our inspections, got our mortgage loan set up and are ready for the closing about three weeks from now. Last night, the seller called and told us that she had an unexpected issue and will not be able to sell us the house. But don’t we have rights here? And do we have to wait until the closing date comes and goes before we start taking action to enforce the contract?

Answer: Most contracts contain contingencies allowing a party to cancel the deal if certain things happen, such as a bad inspection or the financing falls through. You need to carefully review your contract to make sure that the seller does not have a contractual way to cancel. If not, she is bound by what she agreed to, meaning that she must sell you the house.

Because she told you clearly that she is not moving forward, you don’t have to wait until the closing date to start enforcing the agreement. You or your lawyer should send her a letter now asking her to confirm in writing whether she is moving forward to closing. Once she confirms that she isn’t, most contracts give you the right to sue her for “specific performance,” meaning that you can ask the court to force her to sell you the property.

The practical problem with this is that it can take some time for the case to wind its way through the courts. So if you have concerns with where to live while this happens, or you are worried that you will lose your mortgage loan, this might not be the best option for you. It might be better to get your money back and move on to a similar house without all the trouble. But if this truly is the house you want, you appear to have the law on your side.

About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He is the chairperson of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is an adjunct professor for the Nova Southeastern University Paralegal Studies program.

The information and materials in this column are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed. Nothing in this column is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

Copyright © 2014 Sun Sentinel, Gary M. Singer. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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Can I notarize documents for the blind?

October 4, 2011

Notarize for the blindOn several occasions I’ve been asked to notarize documents for either blind or visually impaired people. Since a blind person cannot read the document and therefore understand the content of the document it is not legal for a Notary Public to notarize the document unless the Notary Public reads the entire document to the blind person. However, to avoid the unauthorized practice of law, a Notary Public must not attempt to explain the document (FS 117.05[14][a]}.

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National Flood Insurance Program and Homebuyer Tax Credit Closing Deadline Both Extended

July 2, 2010

Tax Credit ExtendedCongress has passed an extension of the closing deadline for the Homebuyer Tax Credit, the Homebuyer Assistance and Improvement Act (H.R. 5623). The extension applies only to transactions that have ratified contracts in place as of April 30, 2010, that have not yet closed. The legislation is designed to create a seamless extension; the new closing deadline for eligible transactions is now September 30, 2010. There will be no gap between June 30 and the date the President signs the bill into law.

NAR worked closely with Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle to enact this important legislation. Extending the tax credit closing deadline will help provide additional stability to real estate markets across the nation.

Additionally, the Senate has passed the National Flood Insurance Program Extension Act of 2010 (H.R. 5569), an extension of the National Flood Insurance Program until September 30, 2010. This will allow transactions to move forward. The bill is retroactive and covers the lapse period from June 1, 2010, to the date of enactment of the extension. NAR members sent more than 250,000 letters to Members of Congress encouraging them to extend the program.

Source: National Association of Realtors, Community and Political Affairs & Government Affairs

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Can I still get the $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit?

March 24, 2010

This is a question I’m being asked regularly these days both through email and in person. The answer is that there is still time to cash in on this tax credit, but your window of opportunity is shrinking daily. If you’re not out looking at homes right now you need to be. In order to qualify for the tax credit you need to have a fully executed sales agreement by April 30, 2010. And then you need to close by June 30, 2010.

If you want to take advantage of this first-time home buyer tax credit I strongly suggest you get started right away. It usually takes at least a few weeks to find the right home and then you might not win in the negotiation process. Another buyer could buy the house out from under you causing you to have to start the search again. It is better to get moving today and get under contract as quickly as possible.

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Homebuyer Tax Credit Extended and Expanded till April 2010

January 20, 2010

President Barack Obama signed a new law on Nov. 6, 2009 that extended the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers and added a new $6,500 credit for existing homeowners.

The legislation extends the tax credit of up to $8,000 for qualifying first-time homebuyers that was set to expire on Nov. 30, 2009. First-time homebuyers, defined as those who have had no ownership interest in a principal residence over the last three years, can qualify for the tax credit by having a home purchase under contract by April 30, 2010.

Existing homeowners qualify for the tax credit of up to $6,500 if they have lived in their current residence for at least five years or more during the previous eight years and have purchased a home and entered into a binding contract by the end of April of 2010.

Both credits are available for purchases of “principal residences” with prices up to $800,000. The credit starts to phase out for individuals with income above $125,000 and for joint filers who earn more than $225,000. Previously, the credit for first-time homebuyers phased out for individuals with income above $75,000 and for joint filers with income above $150,000.

For more information go to the Internal Revenue Service’s Web site at and click the Tax benefits of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 link.

Source: Internal Revenue Service

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Breaking News: Congress Extends Tax Credit

November 6, 2009

Tax credit extension passes House and Senate

By Florida Realtors®

WASHINGTON – Nov. 5, 2009 – The $8,000, first-time homebuyer tax credit has not yet been extended beyond its Nov. 30 end date, but it’s very close to gaining a longer life.

The extension was added as an amendment to an existing bill, HR 3548, that extends unemployment benefits. The U.S. Senate passed that bill on Wednesday and, after debate, the U.S. House passed HR 3548 this afternoon. It now needs only President Obama’s signature to become law, and the White House has indicated it will sign it, perhaps as early as tomorrow.

Until the president signs the bill, however, it is not law.

In addition to extending the tax credit for first-time homebuyers under the current rules, the bill adds a smaller tax credit for move-up homebuyers who have lived in the house for five of the past seven years. The bill also increases the income limits of homebuyers from $75,000 (single) to $125,000; and from $150,000 (married) to $225,000.

Florida downpayment assistance

After the president signs the bill and extends the tax credit, the Florida Homebuyer Opportunity Program – a downpayment and closing costs assistance program relating to the federal tax credit -automatically gets extended too. The state still has about $28 million available for homebuyers. The money is essentially a loan to first-time buyers; they receive it upfront, use it for a downpayment or other costs, and pay it back once they get their federal refund.

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Notary ID proposal

July 6, 2009

national-notary-associationNational Notary Now Issue # 124 — June 2009

Because of their position of trust, Notaries are being called upon to handle society’s most sensitive transactions, such as verifying a person’s identity. This level of responsibility has led to a call for issuing Notaries special ID by state governments in order to assure signers the Notary is reputable and commissioned.

“I think it would be a great idea to allow the document signer equal opportunity to check my ID as I scrutinize theirs,” said Harriet C. Parker of Las Vegas, Nevada. Parker, a Notary who works in a medical clinic, says that while she must be sure to comply with medical privacy rules in her work, the document signers she works with have no way currently to know she is who she claims to be when notarizing.

Notary Verne Hubka of La Mesa, California, also supports the idea, saying that states should issue Notaries a wallet-sized ID that includes a color photo. Hubka said this would not only help signers, but increase prestige and respect for the Notary profession.

The public tends to have more confidence if Notaries have a readily available means of identification to prove their authority, said NNA Vice President of Notary Affairs Charles N. Faerber, provided the ID has safeguards to keep it from being easily counterfeited.

Should states issue Notaries special identification cards? Write to us at and tell us what you think.

I’m all for a Notary ID.  As a Notary Public and Mobile Signing Agent I would definitely appreciate being able to present a professional ID card that includes a color photograph proving I have the rights and authorities granted to Notaries Public. Without such an identification system signers are left to assume that the individual that shows up at their home or place of business is indeed legally qualified to notarize documents.

What do you think? Should Notaries be required to possess and present a Notary ID upon request?

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Home short sale flips nixed

June 12, 2009

Published: June 12, 2009

TAMPA – It may be a bit tougher now for investors to flip short sales for big profits.

Attorneys’ Title Insurance Fund notified its 6,000 member lawyers this week that it will not insure deals made with a popular – but controversial – method for closing flips of short sales. A short sale occurs when a mortgage holder agrees to allow a home to sell for less than the mortgage balance so that foreclosure can be avoided.

The Orlando-based fund is a major underwriter for lawyers who write title insurance in Florida. In a letter to lawyers, the fund said it has become aware of short sale programs advertised on the Internet that promise to make investors lots of money with little or no work.

The letter says they involve investors entering option deals with homeowners for “the exclusive right to purchase their property for a period of time.”

The investor negotiates a short sale with the mortgage holder by convincing it that the price it is offering is the market value of the property. The investor then finds a buyer for a much higher price. The sales happen simultaneously, and the investor pockets the difference.

The problem is that “the original lender is not told that the buyer is flipping the property on the same day for thousands more than the lender has been told is the market value of the property,” the letter states.

The fund’s decision could have a major effect on short sale flips because many investors use lawyers to close deals when traditional title companies won’t.

The option contract method has been gaining steam as a way to work off inventory in a bad real estate market.

Critics say mortgage holders are misled and don’t realize they could be selling for more. Some real estate agents and buyers complain that the option contracts lock some buyers out of the market. That’s because some types of loans forbid flips.

Some lawyers have raised concerns that sellers may have to pay the difference later.

But proponents say investors can make money and homeowners can avoid foreclosure. They say mortgage holders would lose even more money if they foreclosed on the home.

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Obama will pay your mortgage!

May 21, 2009


Well, not exactly. But on February 18, 2009, President Obama announced his Making Home Affordable Program (MHA), designed to help up to 7-9 million families avoid foreclosure by restructuring or refinancing their mortgages. In doing so, the plan not only helps responsible homeowners behind on their payments or at risk of defaulting, but prevents neighborhoods and communities from being pulled over the edge too, as defaults and foreclosures contribute to falling home values, failing local businesses, and lost jobs.

Why not find out if you’re eligible? Visit

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How to Avoid Florida Mortgage Fraud Scams

April 24, 2009

clearwaterfloridaMcCollum Unveils Website to Help Homeowners Avoid Mortgage Fraud-Related Scams

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum today unveiled a new website designed to help homeowners avoid mortgage fraud-related scams. The website, at, provides consumers with easy access to current investigations, complaint forms, and tips to identify and avoid foreclosure rescue fraud. Foreclosure rescue fraud, or fraud involving loan modifications related to foreclosures, is the complaint topic most commonly reported to the Attorney General’s Office and involves the charging of an up-front fee for foreclosure rescue services before any services are provided, if they are provided at all. Read more

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