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When a house sale falls through: Five reasons why it happens

31 December 2019

Think of “Sale Agreed” as a verbal contract for your house sale. 

So, you’ve gone sale agreed on your new home and you’re already choosing paint colours, mentally redecorating rooms and planning extensions, but don’t go popping that champagne cork just yet.

Sale agreed doesn’t always mean you’re home and dry, so try to rein in your excitement for now (we know, easier said than done). It’s important to remember that this is just one more step in the process, and there can still be a wait involved.

You may have paid your booking deposit, but the agreement is not legally binding until the contract is signed. Your booking deposit is fully refundable at this point if either party pulls out of the sale.

The reasons house sales can fall through

Valuation issues

If the Property Valuer doesn’t agree that the house is worth what the buyer is asking, there can be difficulties. This can be frustrating, but it’s for your own financial protection, and your bank will help you as much as possible.

Hopefully the seller is open to negotiation on price, and the sale can go ahead.

The survey identifies some problems

The survey – which is done on your behalf and looks at the condition of the likes of the roof, walls, windows, attic and potential issues such as access to drains – may throw up some unexpected work that needs to be done and you have not budgeted for.

You may need to ask the seller to do the work before the sale, or reduce the price so you can afford to do it yourself. In some cases, such as the discovery of major structural problems, you may need to pull out of the sale altogether.

You haven’t secured mortgage approval

In order to avoid any disappointments, make sure you have full mortgage approval before you go house hunting. It’s important to understand your budget and what’s realistic for you before you start shopping for your dream home.

A weak link in the chain

If your seller is in a buyer chain (buying a new home as well as selling to you) and there is a hold-up further on up the chain they may no longer be able to sell to you. This is why it’s always a good idea early on to check what position your seller is in and find out their reasons for selling if you can.


Gazumping is one of the toughest things that can happen to a buyer. You’ve gone “sale agreed” but after accepting your offer the seller got a higher offer from someone else and accepted it.

Having a house sale fall through for any reason is tough but having it happen this way is really disappointing, and unfortunately there’s not much a buyer can do about it as there’s no legal obligations on the seller’s side until the contracts are signed.

You will be refunded your booking deposit, but may still lose out on payments for surveys, valuations and solicitors’ fees.

Cold feet

The buyer or seller may simply change their minds. Again, before the contracts are signed this is legally OK.

Every cloud has a silver lining

While it’s devastating when a house sale falls through, bear in mind that this can actually work in your favour if you’re a buyer. If you’ve lost out in a bidding war, there’s always a chance that the sale will fall through. It’s always a good idea to keep checking in to make sure the house is off the market, if it reappears for sale you may be in with another shot.

If you're looking to start your own home buying journey you can book an appointment with the permanent tsb team today to chat through your options.

Lending criteria, terms and conditions apply. Security and Insurance required. permanent tsb p.l.c is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

The content of this blog does not constitute advice and is for general information purposes only. Readers should always seek professional advice before relying on anything stated in the blog. Some of the links above bring you to external websites. Your use of an external website is subject to the terms of that site.

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