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  1. Blog
  2. Can you pull out of a house sale? How to pull out of selling your home
Help for first time sellers
08 July 2020

Can you pull out of a house sale? How to pull out of selling your home

Rosie Hamilton
Writer & Researcher
A stressed home seller sat at table looks at laptop

Table of contents

  1. 1. Can I pull out of selling my house?
  2. 2. Can I take my house off the market?
  3. 3. What happens if you pull out of a house sale?
  4. 4. How to pull out of a house sale
  5. 5. How to pull out of a house sale before exchange
  6. 6. How to pull out of a house sale after exchange
  7. 7. Do you pay estate agents if you don’t sell?
  8. 8. Do you pay online agents if you pull out?
  9. 9. Do you pay high street estate agents if you pull out?
  10. 10. FAQs

Updated 25th January 2022

Sometimes life doesn’t go to plan. A change of circumstances can have consequences for every facet of your life. If your position has changed - for whatever reason - you may find that you need to pull out of your property sale, or take your house off the market altogether.

Below we look at your rights as a home seller, what happens if you pull out of a property sale, and what estate agents fees you’ll have to pay.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about pulling out of selling your home and how to do it. You may be thinking "I don't want to sell my house anymore" so the first question is:

Can I pull out of selling my house?

Simply put, the answer is yes, you can change your mind about selling your home depending on what stage the sale is at.

It is fairly simple (and completely legal) to pull out of a sale when:

  • Your home is on the market
  • When you’re taking viewings
  • When you’re receiving offers
  • Before you accept an offer
  • And after you have accepted an offer

However, once your sale gets to the stage where your solicitors are exchanging contracts, that’s when things get a little more difficult. If contracts have already been exchanged you will not be able to back out and if you choose to do so anyway, then you could face court proceedings or significant financial loss.

Can I take my house off the market?

Yes you can take your house off the market if you’ve changed your mind about selling. Your estate agent will be able to do this for you. . As long as you have not exchanged contracts for an agreed sale then you can take your house off the market at any time.

What happens if you pull out of a house sale?

What happens when you pull out of a house sale depends hugely on how far along in the process you are. The earlier in the house sale you are, the easier and cheaper it is to get out of it.

Looking for more information on the home buying process?

How to pull out of a house sale

As a seller, you can follow these simple steps if you’re looking to pull out of the sale before the contract exchange:

  1. Contact your estate agent to tell them you’d like to pull out of the agreed sale and you no longer want to sell your property.
  2. They will inform the other parties involved, and let them know you no longer want to sell the house to this particular buyer.
  3. Speak to the estate agent and your solicitor about any fees you should pay now that you are pulling out of the sale, as you may still be required to pay your solicitor if they have carried out work or incurred costs already.

If you are the buyer and want to pull out of the sale, the process remains much the same:

  1. Contact your solicitor or conveyancer to tell them you’d like to back out and would no longer like to purchase the home.
  2. They will inform the other parties involved.
  3. They will negotiate with the seller on your behalf if there are any fees to discuss.
  4. You may still be required to pay your solicitor for the work they have done, or costs they have incurred (such as surveys) up to that point.

It’s a straightforward process to be free of the sale from both sides, but it’s a different story if you wait until after contracts are exchanged. Now let’s look at the process in a little more detail.

How to pull out of a house sale before exchange

If you decide you no longer want to go forward with selling your property, and it’s before you’ve exchanged a contract, you can withdraw at any time - even if you’ve verbally accepted an offer from a potential buyer.

  1. Contact your estate agent
  2. Let them know you want to pull out
  3. Speak to the estate agent and your solicitor about any fees you need to pay

If you’ve not yet exchanged a contract with a buyer, you’re not legally bound to continue. However, if your buyer had begun to make formal preparations to move forward, you may wish to contribute to their out of pocket expenses if you back out unexpectedly. These could include their legal costs, or their survey fees.

In terms of estate agent fees, it’s unlikely that you will need to pay the estate agents anything at this point. High street agents work on a commission fee model, and are only paid once a property sale is confirmed and complete.

However, if you’re working with an online estate agent, you will still have to pay their fees (if you haven’t already paid). Most online agents are paid a non-refundable fee upfront. If you pull out of the house sale at any point - even before you’ve exchanged contracts with a buyer - they will keep their fee.

How to pull out of a house sale after exchange

Withdrawing after you’ve exchanged contracts with your buyer is much more difficult. Once you’ve signed the contract and your buyer has paid a deposit, you’re legally obligated to continue with the sale.

This means that if you decide to back out, you can be sued by the buyer. You’ll have to pay back their deposit, their legal expenses, and any other costs that they’ve incurred during the sales process.

As well as the financial and legal implications of pulling out at this point, backing out could have significant consequences for your buyer. For example, if they’re part of a chain the impact of pulling out at this point could be huge for the buyer.

Note: It’s important to have a valid reason for withdrawing from a property contract, or the legal and financial consequences will be much greater. For example, you cannot back out because of a buyer’s race, religion, or gender.

Do you pay estate agents if you don’t sell?

In most cases you will need to pay fees to cover costs in line with your contract. However, whether you'll have to pay estate agent fees if you decide not to sell depends on the type of agent you chose, and the terms of your contract.

If you’re using an online agent it’s likely that you will have to pay the whole fee. If you’re using a high street agent with a commission fee, the situation is a bit more complicated.

Do you pay online agents if you pull out?

If you’re working with an online agent, you’ll have to pay regardless of whether you sell or not. This is because most online agents operate an non-refundable, upfront fee service. This means you pay them right at the start, and you won’t get any money back if they can’t sell your house, or you decide you no longer want to move.

Some online agents now offer a ‘deferred fee’, or ‘no sale, no fee’ option. But, these generally come with terms and conditions requiring you to sign up to their partner services. Purplebricks for example have a ‘Pay Later’ option with the compulsory condition that you use their partner conveyancing service - regardless of whether you sell with a Purplebricks agent or not.

If you’re working with an online agent it’s likely you’ll have to pay all or most of your estate agents fee if you decide to pull out before completion.

Thinking about switching estate agent? Read our guide.

Let’s take a look at a few well-known online agents, and what their policies would allow.

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Do you pay Purplebricks if you pull out?

Purplebricks do not work on a ‘no sale no fee’ basis but they do offer a money back guarantee, and so you’ll pay them even if the house doesn’t sell, or you choose not to sell in some cases. They do operate a ‘pay later’ scheme that you can upfront or after the property sells, but they will keep their fee if you decide to withdraw your advertisement or take your home off the market.

Do you pay Strike if you pull out?

Strike Estate Agents Strike offers a free service to sell your home, and will only charge for specific services outside of the standard estate agent services. Their terms and conditions state that if you choose to cancel your agreement with them within 14 days then they will refund any fees you have paid, minus any costs they have incurred so far. If you cancel your agreement after 14 days (or decide not to sell your home, after 14 days) then you may lose any fees you have already paid to them, minus any costs they have incurred (if you have not chosen the free route).

Do you pay Yopa if you pull out?

Yopa Yopa also offers a Pay Now or Pay Later service, so you can pay their fees upfront or after selling your home. If you remove your property from the market or withdraw from your agreement with Yopa, they will keep the fees if you paid upfront, and you will have to pay within seven days if you chose the Pay Later option (as well as any other extra charges you had agreed with Pay Later).

Do you pay Emoov if you pull out?

emoov Emoov offer a range of payment options including an upfront fixed charge (instead of a percentage of your sale) a pay monthly service, or a split fee for upfront and after the sale has completed. In their terms and conditions it states that you’d be entitled to cancel the services you receive from them with a full refund within 14 days (minus any charges for surveys or photography they have already carried out).

After the 14 day cooling off period, you can still cancel but would not be refunded for any payments you have already made to Emoov. If you choose to pull out when a buyer has already been found by Emoov, then you will still owe them the full fee amount (which you may have paid upfront, depending on the payment terms you choose).

Do you pay high street estate agents if you pull out?

The situation is a little different with high street estate agents. Most good local agents will ask you to pay commission on your property transaction. This means they are paid a percentage of the final sale price of your home, and they’ll only get paid once your house is sold.

So, in most cases, if you decide not to sell before you’ve exchanged contracts with a buyer you won’t have to pay your estate agent anything.

After you’ve exchanged contracts, you’ve made a legal commitment to selling your home, so things get more complicated. In some cases an estate agent will expect their full fee if you pull out at this point. Technically the agent has fulfilled their role by finding a suitable buyer and progressing the sale to the point of legal commitment. Your estate agent has a legal position for claiming their fee at this point.

Some high street agents won’t charge the full amount, but will expect expenses such as marketing, and time costs to be reimbursed.

The best thing to do is to thoroughly check your estate agency contract. In many cases there will be a specific clause covering the eventuality of a seller pulling out of their house sale contract. This will detail in full what fees are due.

If you’re unsure of your obligations and rights when pulling out of contract, make sure to seek legal advice from your conveyancer, or from an independent advisory body.

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Estate agent contracts

Key things to look out for in your estate agent contract are the following:

A ‘ready willing and able’ clause

If you find a ‘ready willing and able’ clause in an estate agent contract, you should be hearing some alarm bells. This is a weird little clause that means that if your estate agent introduces you to someone who is ‘ready, willing, and able’ to buy your property, you have to pay their fee - even if you don’t want to sell your home to this person.

Say, for example, you decide you no longer want to sell your home (perhaps a job offer changed, or you want to stay close to family) but you enlisted an agent with this clause in the contract. If this estate agent approaches you with proof of a willing buyer you’ll have to pay their fee. This could happen months - or in rare cases years - after you’ve decided you no longer wish to sell.

Before you sign your estate agency contract, ask for this clause to be removed, or work with a different agent.

A ‘sole seller’ clause

If your contract has a ‘sole seller’ or ‘sole selling rights’ clause, this means that you will have to pay your estate agent when you sell your home, regardless of who finds the buyer. For example, if you find a buyer yourself, you will still have to pay the estate agent's fee. Many high street agents will only charge their fee if they find you a buyer - this is called a ‘sole agency’ agreement.

Before you sign your contract, make sure that you’re not committing to a ‘sole selling rights’ agreement. Look instead for a ‘sole agency’ agreement.

The term of your contract

The term of your contract is the amount of time that you’re legally tied to work with a particular estate agent. Most estate agency contracts last from 2-6 months, and many will offer a break clause. This means you can give a certain amount of notice if you decide you no longer want to work with them anymore.

If your estate agent contract has a term that’s longer than 6 months, or there’s no mention of a term length in the contract, this is a warning sign.

Combined with a ‘sole seller’ clause, an unlimited contract term would allow an estate agent to charge a fee even if you find a buyer for your home years later. Similarly, if there’s a ‘ready, willing and able’ clause, your agent could present a ‘suitable’ buyer months or years later and you would have to pay their fee.

When reading through your contract, make sure the term length is clear and reasonable.

For more information on what to expect from your estate agent contract, check out our guide.

FAQs

What happens if a seller pulls out before exchange of contracts?

If a seller pulls out of a house sale before contracts are exchanged, then the buyer will have to continue looking for a property. The acceptance of an offer is simply a verbal agreement and not legally binding. So, although it is hugely inconvenient for the buyer, the seller is within their rights to pull out of the sale as they are not legally obliged to sell until contracts are exchanged.

The house can then go back on the open market, if the seller is trying to find a better offer, or the home can remain off the market if they have changed their mind about selling altogether.

When can I pull out of selling my house?

You can pull out of selling your home at any moment up until the contracts are exchanged between you, the seller and your solicitor, and the buyer's legal representative. This means you can change your mind while you are holding viewings, fielding offers, and even after you accept an offer.

Can you sue someone for pulling out of a house sale?

Legally speaking, you can only take action if either party pulls out of the house sale after contracts have been exchanged.

As the seller, you can issue a Notice to Complete to the buyer if they try to pull out after contract exchange. The notice gives them 10 days to complete the sale, and they will owe you daily interest on the agreed sale price.

If they are unable to complete within the allowed ten days, then you as the seller will be entitled to end the contract (since they have broken the terms) and keep the deposit for the home (usually 10% of the sale price). You could then sue them for any damages or financial loss if your home has depreciated in value in the time you’ve spent trying to complete the sale.

What is the latest you can pull out of a house sale?

You can pull out of selling your home (or buying a home) at any moment up until contracts are exchanged. You could even pull out on the day the contracts are exchanged, as long as they have not been finalized and accepted by both parties' legal teams.

Do I have to pay the solicitors if I pull out of the sale?

In most cases you will still have to pay the solicitors if you pull out of a sale. You’ll still be obligated to pay your legal fees even if you back out of selling the home, as the solicitors and conveyancers will have still carried out work on your behalf. The solicitors will incur charges for surveys, and the time they put in can also be charged by the hour, so you may still have to foot a legal bill even if you pull out of selling the property.

Check the terms with which you employed the solicitors to be sure of your rights when you pull out of a sale and no longer require their services.

Can you pull out of a house sale before settlement?

Yes you are able to pull out of a house sale before the completion (or settlement) of the sale.

However, you are only able to pull out before contracts have been exchanged. By accepting an offer, you have verbally agreed to a sale, but when contracts are exchanged this is a legally binding agreement, so you will be bound to continue the sale or else you could face legal and financial problems.

So you can pull out of selling at any time up to when the contracts are exchanged between your legal representatives and the buyers.

Can you refuse to sell your house to someone?

Yes you can refuse to sell your house to someone. If you decide that the buyer is not someone you’re interested in selling to, then you are within your rights to back out of the sale provided you do so before the exchange of contracts. As the seller, you can back out at any time before contracts are exchanged, and are completely within your rights to find another buyer if you refuse to sell to a particular person.

If your sale is already past the stage of exchanging contracts then you will not be able to refuse without serious legal consequences. You’ll be breaching a legal contract if you refuse after this stage, and so the buyer will be at liberty to take action against you.

Can a seller back out of an accepted offer?

Simply put, yes. An accepted offer is a verbal agreement to a sale price, but the sale is not final until contracts have been drawn up by the solicitor for each party, and then exchanged. So you are able to back out of a sale as the seller, even if you have accepted an offer from a potential buyer. Though this could be upsetting and inconvenient for the buyer, you are within your rights to back out at this stage, as the offer acceptance was a verbal agreement and is not legally binding.

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