Can I sue a homeowner or their real estate in a situation where both parties signed a purchase agreement then the buyer signed the contract, didn’t send it to me and eventually backed out?
Almost certainly no.There are certain things you must have to create a legal, enforceable contract:Legal intentCapacity of the partiesConsideration (something of value)Mutual agreementAdditionally, almost everything involving real estate falls under the Statute of Frauds. This comes from the English Common law, and says the contract must be in writing to be enforceable. It includes agreements to by or sell real estate and agreements made in consideration of marriage. (Just tossing that last in because its interesting)A real estate purchase contract starts with an offer in writing. The offeree (seller) may accept the offer as presented, reject it or make a counter-offer. Any change to the offer, no matter how minor, constitutes a counter-offer. The original offeror can do the same thing. There is no contract until and unless there is the meeting of the minds—complete agreement—and the agreement has been communicated to all parties.Once there is a meeting of minds, the document becomes an executory contract, that is, one which is in the process of being performed. Almost all real estate purchase agreements contain certain contingencies (we often call them “weasel clauses). Among these are typically loan, appraisal and inspection contingencies.The loan contingency states that the buyer must apply for and be approved for a loan within a certain period (typically 17–21 days). If the buyer does not get the loan for any reason, they get to walk, and they’ll get their earnest money deposit (the consideration) back.If the property appraises for less than the purchase, price, they can walk. If there is something on an inspection report they don’t like, they can walk.Once the buyer has removed all contingencies, they are obligated to perform—to complete the purchase. If they don’t, they are said to be in breach—violating the contract—and may forfeit their deposit.Most real estate purchase contracts today are written by the various state Realtors• Associations. They typically contain a “Liquidated Damages” clause to be initialed by the parties. This clause states in essence, “The parties agree that determining exact money damages in the event that the buyer does not perform is very difficult. Therefore, buyer and seller agree that the buyer’s earnest money deposit will be considered satisfaction for a breach by the buyer.”In plain language the Liquidated Damages clause states that if a buyer decides not to proceed after having removed all contingencies, they may forfeit their earnest money deposit to the seller.Most contracts also contain an Arbitration Clause. By initialing this, both parties agree to go to binding arbitration rather than filing a lawsuit.If the buyer in your case did not deposit a check with escrow, you never had a contract. If there were contingencies which they did not remove, such as a loan contingency, they are completely free to walk. If you made a counter offer which they chose to ignore, you never had a contract. If your acceptance of their offer was not communicated to them (typically be delivering to them a fully-executed copy of the purchase agreement), you did not have a contract.Someone who “ghosts” and does not take the steps to proceed with a purchase for whatever reason almost invariably has plenty of legal “outs” if they don’t want to go forward. I believe your best bet is just to get on with your life and find another buyer.My standard disclaimer: While I am confident in the accuracy of my statements here, no one should construe a single word of it to be legal advice. I am not an attorney, although I know a whole lot of really fine legalish words. The best. They’re terrific. Anyone who needs legal advice should seek such advice from a duly licensed professional. Relying on “legal” advice on Quora could be an indication of a need for another kind of professional help.I hope this is helpful. Good luck.