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It’s All About Performance, Specifically

Let’s say you’ve entered into a contract to buy a piece of property: your dream house, horse farm, or cattle ranch. The price has been negotiated at arm’s length, the contract is signed, you’ve applied for a loan, and you are looking forward to the closing date. The closing date finally approaches, but the seller puts it off. This happens several more times, and you start to get that sinking feeling. Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray. There can be any number of reasons why a seller balks at a sale: 1) seller’s remorse; 2) failure to plan properly for the move; or, 3) seller found a better offer and is going to trying to deprive you of your dream.

Fear not, for there is a remedy available to force the seller to come to his or her senses: specific performance. This particular equitable remedy is as its name implies. It is generally available when the remedy at law is inadequate. In this case, you, the buyer, aren’t so much interested in money damages as you are in getting your dream home, horse farm, or cattle ranch. And, not just any dream home, horse farm, or cattle ranch – you want that specific dream home, horse farm, or cattle ranch. There is no other piece of property like it in the world – literally. The remedy of specific performance is custom-built for just this type of situation. Our courts have recognized that “[t]here is a virtual presumption, because of the uniqueness of land and the consequent inadequacy of money damages, that specific performance is the buyer’s appropriate remedy for the [seller’s] breach of the [sales contract].”

Note, however, that in New Jersey there is a three-day attorney review period during which either party may cancel the contract for any reason or no reason at all.  Nevertheless, if an agreement is reached within the three-day period, the seller cannot back out of that agreement and it will be specifically enforced by the courts.

So, at the end of the day, equity comes to the rescue and you will get your dream house, horse farm, or cattle ranch. Three cheers for equity!