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Real Estate Matters: Sellers refund deposit after buyers suffer tragedy

Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin, Tribune Content Agency on

Q: This is in reference to one of your recent columns about when someone can back out of a contract.

About 25 years ago, I was offered a contract on my house with a rather quick 30-day settlement date. My wife and I had already planned a one-week vacation, so we knew that we would be extremely busy upon our return to be ready to settle in the 30-day time frame.

When we returned after our vacation, we immediately received a phone call from the buyer’s agent that the husband of the couple buying my house had passed suddenly from a heart attack. When she asked me if we would consider refunding the $10,000 deposit, we were quite surprised. Who wouldn’t return the money? We were almost insulted that she felt the need to ask. We not only returned the money but sent the wife a sympathy card.

I hope that the people that are pressing the couple in your column to sell their house after such sad circumstances can sleep well at night. We would have lived with the guilt of keeping that “blood” money if we had not returned it to the grieving wife.

Unfortunately, I continue to be amazed at the cold-hearted callousness of some people that share this planet with us. Karma catches up to everyone eventually.

Thanks for your column.


A: Sometimes it feels like kindness and compassion are in short supply. Especially as we begin our third year of the pandemic. So, we were delighted to receive your letter. We’re sure the widow deeply appreciated your kindness.

The same thing happened to a client of Sam’s about 10 years ago. The husband and wife had just retired and moved to Chicago to be nearer their children. They put an offer on the house and shortly before closing, he suddenly died. Like you, the sellers immediately canceled the deal and returned the good faith deposit.

But sometimes, canceling a sale causes an unintended domino effect.

What if you were selling your home while trying to purchase another at the same time? Let’s assume your funds from the sale were needed for the purchase of your next home. You might not be able to complete the purchase. And what if that seller needed the funds from their sale to buy their next home?


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