The Story of a Collapsing Deal

(based on real life events)

At the end of August 2010, Dave and Jane were buying their first home. Nervous about finding the “right” home for themselves and their two kids they look at property after property. Finally, at the beginning of August 2010, the house at 3245 McLeod Road came up for $375,000. It was the right price, close the schools, and close to Dave’s work at the Gorman Mill. The Seller, John, had been anxious to sell for a long time, and needed to simply walk away from the home, his credit union mortgage was $355,000 and he needed a fresh start in a new town. Both parties were anxious to see the deal get done.

They came into see Peter, their real estate lawyer on August 22, 2010 and at that meeting they signed all the documents. He explained the process to them, including if the “what ifs” happen, and how the court process worked. Although there was only a very small chance these bad things would happen he wanted them to be armed with knowledge.

Dave and Jane were very excited and they booked their moving truck for September 1, 2010 (their Possession Date) and they have picked out paint colors for their daughter’s new bedroom and began to plan their lives in their new home.

On August 31, a series of unfortunate events occurred. First, the Land Title Office (which is electronic) went “offline” and no land title transfers were permitted to be registered at the end of the month. Closing was delayed, but not to worry the contract had been drafted to allow for this hiccup.

Then, on September 1, with the moving truck in the driveway, the Vendor’s lawyer “discovered” that they had an “IRD” penalty (of $21,000) on their mortgage and now the Vendor (John) did not have enough money to “payout” the mortgage on title. The Vendor (John) could not complete and could not fulfill the promise he made to give the “title free and clear of all encumbrances”. Dave and Jane had already moved out of their rental house and they were now homeless, forced to live in a motel. The moving company (for a small ransom) placed all their belongings in storage.

Crestfallen, Dave and Jane came to see Peter and Eric (a real estate litigator in the same firm) to ask what to do, they had remembered that part of their prior meeting dealing with the “what ifs” in real estate. The two lawyers explained that Dave and Jane could sue for damages or specific performance to get their dream home and they immediately started to put pressure on the Vendor to complete by “tendering” a “ready, willing and able to complete” letter, placing a caveat on the property title, and commencing legal proceedings.

Within 3 weeks there was a very happy ending, the Vendor was able to negotiate with the bank, and to avoid a lawsuit paid the additional costs (including legal fees) for Dave and Jane.

The moral of this story: For buyers, hope for the best, be prepared for the worst. For Realtors, ensure your sellers can clear title prior to signing the deal, or, at least, place a “subject to the seller ensuring they can clear title” so that you have pointed out the issue to them.

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