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  • Writer's pictureAttorney Jason A Greller

What Happens If a Buyer Backs Out of a Wisconsin Offer to Purchase?

In Wisconsin, a Buyer who breaks the contract to purchase may be held liable for damages. How we measure damages for default under a real estate transaction typically depends on the specific terms of the contract and the circumstances surrounding the default.


There are several potential remedies available to the non-defaulting party in a real estate transaction:

  1. Earnest money forfeiture: If the buyer defaults on the contract, the seller may be entitled to retain the earnest money deposit as compensation for the time and effort invested in the transaction. The specific terms and conditions regarding the forfeiture of earnest money are usually outlined in the purchase agreement.

  2. Liquidated damages: Some real estate contracts include a liquidated damages clause, which establishes a predetermined amount of money that the defaulting party must pay to the non-defaulting party in the event of a breach. This amount is intended to compensate for the non-defaulting party's losses without the need for lengthy litigation.

  3. Actual damages: If the contract does not include a liquidated damages clause, the non-defaulting party can pursue actual damages, which are the direct financial losses they have suffered due to the breach of contract. This could include expenses related to marketing the property, carrying costs, and any difference between the contracted price and the actual sale price if the property is sold to a third party.

  4. Specific performance: In some cases, the non-defaulting party may seek specific performance, which is a court order requiring the defaulting party to fulfill their obligations under the contract. This remedy is typically reserved for situations where monetary damages are insufficient to compensate for the breach.


Determining the appropriate measure of damages and potential remedies depends on the specific facts of the case and the terms of the contract. It's essential to consult with a real estate attorney familiar with Wisconsin laws and regulations to discuss your specific situation and the potential damages available in your case.

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