Question: Last month we signed a contract to buy a Mesa home. Even in the last 30 days, however, prices in Mesa and other parts of the southeast Valley have skyrocketed. Everything is ready for the closing of this Mesa home, but the seller refuses to go to the title company to sign the deed to us. We have to move out of our apartment in less than two weeks. Is there anything that we can do to force the seller to sign the deed to us, and close escrow on our home, before we have to move out of our apartment?
Answer: You are one of many buyers victimized today by “seller’s remorse” because of skyrocketing home prices in the Phoenix metropolitan area, and even more so in outlying areas like Flagstaff and Prescott. In general, if a seller refuses to sign the deed to the buyer at closing, a buyer has the right to file a specific performance lawsuit to require the seller to sign the deed and to close the sale of the home. At the time of filing a specific performance lawsuit, a Lis Pendens (Latin for “pending litigation”) is normally recorded. This Lis Pendens prohibits any sale by the seller of the home to another buyer, until either the buyer or a court order removes the Lis Pendens. In addition to filing a lawsuit for specific performance and recording a Lis Pendens, a buyer can request an Order to Show Cause Hearing before a Superior Court judge to require the seller to sign the deed to the buyer. Unless the seller can convince the Superior Court judge at the Order to Show Cause Hearing that the seller has a bona fide reason not to sign the deed to the buyer, the Superior Court judge will order the seller to sign the deed. If the seller doesn’t sign the deed, the seller can be held in contempt of court, and be fined or even jailed. Frequently, however, the Superior Court judge will simply order the Clerk of the Court to sign the deed to the buyer, and the title company will use that deed to close the sale of the home.
Note: The recording of the Lis Pendens alone, and the potential legal expenses to the seller, can frequently cause the seller to go immediately to the title company and sign the deed to the buyer.