Can My Ex Husband Back Out of a Home Buyout Agreement if the Appraisal Value Turned Out to be Less Than He Agreed to Pay?

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“My ex-husband is buying me out of the home and some vehicles that we currently co-own. He had agreed to pay me a lump sum contingent on the approval of the loan. He got approved for the loan. His lawyer drew up the paperwork, I signed and notarized it signing over the deed to the house. Now that he is approved for the loan (just because the bank appraisal came in a little lower than expected, but so what it always does), the ex has decided he doesn’t want to pay me the money we agreed on based on the appraisal (he wants to pay me much less). He is borrowing 129K, the appraisal came in at 190K. I am not going to agree to this, but can he do this, after I have already signed the deed over to him and signed the titles to the vehicles? His lawyer is holding everything in escrow until he pays me. Is this ethical?”

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

What does your lawyer say about this? If you didn’t have one during the negotiations (and you should have), you need one now, if only to advise you and make it clear that you’re prepared to defend your rights.

You have a couple of things, here. You have the purchase contract, and you have the deed that you turned over to your ex’s attorney based on some sort of agreement (which might have been oral or implied). The terms of those agreements will, in large part, determine what your ex can and can’t do.

Most likely–assuming your ex signed the contract also–he is bound to purchase the house for the purchase price stated. However, that doesn’t mean he can’t back out of the deal entirely, or use the threat of backing out as leverage to renegotiate the terms. You need to look at the agreement to see what kind of penalty there is (if any) for him backing out, because that is your leverage to prevent him from renegotiating.

The other thing you need to clarify is exactly what his attorney is doing with respect to that deed. In theory, an escrow holder should be the agent of both parties, but here the same person is your ex’s attorney. If you can’t get the deed back pending resolution of this dispute, you at least need to make it clear, in writing, that the deed will not be released to your ex or recorded without your written approval. Once it’s released, your ex will be the record owner, and while you can certainly sue under the contract to get what you’re entitled to, from a negotiating standpoint your position will be weaker.

Again, these are actions that should be taken through your attorney. If your ex is threatening to withhold tens of thousands, it’s worth spending hundreds to have someone in your corner.

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Author: House Attorney

A house attorney has answered this question.