Can the Seller Break a Purchase Contract?

It’s a common scenario in a hot market – the buyer has their next home within their grasp, but then the seller backs out of the contract. How can this happen and what can buyers do about it?

Home sellers back out of signed contracts because of a higher offer, higher appraisal than the buyer’s offer or a financial or emotional problem, such as job loss or the death of a family member, according to Bankrate.com. Some sellers simply have mixed feelings about moving or resent the buyer’s demands.

If a seller wants to back out, there are three ways to do so without expensive consequences.

  1. If the buyer fails to perform, such as not being able to obtain financing, failing to provide a deposit, or missing the closing date. However, the seller should have a provision in the contract regarding notice to the buyer to perform and then comply with those provisions to get away without penalties.
  2. If a written contingency hasn’t been met by the buyer or if the seller included a contingency on being able to buy another home, but they’re unable, they can walk away from the purchase contract.
  3. Last but not least, the contract should include an attorney review clause. They may find something in the contract that allows the seller to bail out.

Otherwise, the seller may be ordered by a court to pay the buyer a large amount of money or make the seller follow through with the sale.


How to Care for Your Home’s Fixtures

If you’re like many first-time homeowners, you may be watching your pennies by using the same cleaner on all your countertops, stainless appliances, porcelain sinks and tubs and other fixtures. But you can easily strip finishes, set stains and make other mistakes by using the wrong product. Here are some inexpensive and proven old-fashioned solutions for cleaning your surfaces.

A gentle diluted dishwashing liquid or soap and water will clean anything well, including wood cabinets. Just be sure to rinse and dry the surface with a soft cloth to prevent streaking. Don’t use bleach, glass cleaner, or abrasive cleansers on any countertop. Foodnetwork.com recommends using cutting boards, spoon rests, and trivets to protect your surfaces from accidental knife cuts, stubborn food stains, and heat damage from pots and pans.

Countertops – For granite, quartz, soapstone and marble countertops, don’t use acidic (lemon, ammonia) or abrasive cleaners, bleach or glass cleaner. To attack stains, make a paste with baking soda and warm water. Apply and let it sit for five or 10 minutes, then rub the paste gently into the stain. Gently rub in a little mineral oil occasionally to make the finishes last longer.

Stainless appliances – Soap and water work best. After drying with a soft dishcloth, apply a little mineral oil to cut down on streaking and fingerprints.

Porcelain sinks and tubs – Bleach strips porcelain finishes, so use hydrogen peroxide or white vinegar to clean without scrubbing. For stubborn stains, use a little Naval Jelly and rinse thoroughly afterward.


Advice for First-time Homebuyers

First-time homebuyers are discouraged by high home prices, higher interest rates and continuing inflation. According to the National Association of REALTORS, by mid-2022, first-timers made up only 26% of all homebuyers, the lowest number in 41 years. The age of first-timers rose from 33 to 36, an all-time high, while their median household income slipped to $71,000 from $86,000 year-over-year.

To help you get into a home of your own and start building equity, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network professionals provide the following advice to first-timers:

  1. Get educated. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae offer no-cost learning modules that help first-timers qualify for some loans, pay lower down payments, qualify to buy with lower income or lower credit, get help with closing costs or down payment assistance, and more.
  2. Get into the market. You can’t build equity if you don’t own a home, so it’s better to purchase something now even if it isn’t your forever home. There will always be a market for starter homes, so you would do well to buy a smaller, older home in a less expensive location. The most first-timers ever recorded purchased homes in small towns (29%) and rural areas (19%).
  3. Get comfortable with compromises. Your first home doesn’t need to be your dream home, so choose the one you can live with for the next five years or so, suggests com, to make up closing costs, transaction fees, etc. You can always improve the features and condition of your home later on.


Keep Heating Costs Down This Winter

In fall 2022, the National Energy Assistance Directors Association warned that heating costs will be the highest in 10 years as households pay nearly 18% more this winter. Between the 2020-21 and 2022-23 winters, home energy costs increased by 36%. What can you do to stay warm and save energy costs?

The National Resources Defense Council advises that you check your home for air leaks:

  • Nearly one-third of a home’s heat loss occurs through windows and doors.
  • Air can leak through electrical outlets, baseboards, and attic hatches.
  • Caulking leaks can save the average household up to $166 per year.
  • Weather-stripping windows can save up to $83 per year.

Next, check your energy usage habits:

  • Lowering the thermostat by 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 hours at night can save as much as 10 percent on your heating bills.
  • A smart thermostat saves about $180 per year in energy costs.
  • Just one LED bulb can save you $50 over its lifespan. Multiply that by the average number of light sockets in a home – 40 for a savings of $900.
  • A gaming console uses at least 10 times more energy to stream a movie than a Roku box or smart TV app.

Geico.com suggests lowering your water heater from 140 degrees to 120 degrees to save as much as $400 annually. Keeping a fan running clockwise pushes warm air near the ceiling back into the room. And don’t forget to close the fireplace hamper when not in use.