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Specific Performance

Specific Performance graphic featuring home and gavel

Many states have a provision known as ‘specific performance’, which allows a party to a contract to force another party in the contract to follow through as required under the agreement.

Example:  A buyer decides she doesn’t want to close on a house purchase and makes up false excuses to try to bail out on the purchase contract.  Under the concept of specific performance, the seller can sue the buyer in court, demanding that the perform under the contract.  In other words, the seller is asking the court to force the buyer to buy the home rather than suing for damages.

What the seller wants is for the buyer to close.  I’ve also been on the other side in a commercial land acquisition in which the seller refused to close – so that he could attempt to extract monetary concessions from us, the buyer.  This left us with the choice of either giving into the seller’s extortion demands or suing for specific performance, i.e. asking the court to make him close.  We chose the latter.

The cases I have seen have involved mostly commercial activities and always seem to involve  when one party wants more than they are entitled to under the agreement.  The legal concept of specific performance allows a party that is harmed to force the other party to adhere strictly to the agreement and knock off the shenanigans (that’s Irish for evil deeds!)

Conclusion

Don’t go thinking you can extort the other party into giving you more by refusing to close.  While you may not have heard of specific performance, every lawyer knows about it and can use it to force you to adhere to the contract and then force you to pay the legal fees that were incurred to force you to do what you were supposed to do in the first place.

Terrence R. Wall, Housing Developer

Former university lecturer and teacher of Real Estate Development

And creator of the first university level course in Sustainable Development

M.S. in Real Estate Appraisal and Investment Analysis from the

Graaskamp Real Estate Department, UW-Madison

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