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Selling Real Estate

Mar 1, 2024

Understanding the SC Escape Clause in Real Estate Transactions

5 minute read

Navigating the world of real estate transactions can feel like deciphering an ancient script. The process isn't entirely straightforward and there are a ton of clauses and terms that can be long-winded and unclear. Among the many clauses and terms, the Seller's Concession (SC) Escape Clause stands out as a noteworthy mention. As both a buyer and a seller, it’s an important clause to understand, so let’s break it down.

Understanding Seller's Concession

At its core, a Seller's Concession is an agreement within the real estate transaction where the seller agrees to pay a specific portion of the buyer's closing costs. This can include various fees such as loan fees, appraisal fees, and title insurance costs, among others. The intention behind this concession is to make the purchase more accessible for the buyer, potentially speeding up the sale process. The benefit to buyers is clear, with reduced closing costs allowing for increased buying power. From the sellers perspective, it can make for a faster sale process and create leverage that they can use in negotiating. 

The SC Escape Clause Explained

The SC Escape Clause, while not a staple in every Agreement of Purchase and Sale (APS), is something that can significantly impact the transaction. This clause is essentially a contingency within the agreement that allows either the buyer or the seller to back out under specific conditions tied to the seller's concessions. It's a safety mechanism that protects the interests of both parties if predefined circumstances aren't met.

The clause will typically outline the conditions under which the clause can be activated, the notice period required to activate the clause, and the consequences of its activation. The idea is that there should be no surprises about what happens if it is activated.

Let’s use a specific example to help illustrate. Imagine a scenario where a buyer's financing falls through because the lender doesn't approve of the seller's concession. An SC Escape Clause could allow the seller to back out gracefully, avoiding a prolonged selling process. The conditions will have been clearly outlined to allow for the smooth exit and shifting their priority back to finding a buyer.

Legal Considerations

For the SC Escape Clause to be enforceable in Ontario, it must be clearly defined within the APS, including specific conditions under which the clause can be activated. It often acts as a condition precedent, meaning the completion of the sale is contingent upon certain conditions being met. If these conditions aren't satisfied, the party benefiting from the clause may legally withdraw from the agreement without penalty. If a dispute arises out of the clause, the buyer and seller will likely need to engage in mediation, arbitration, or even litigation.

For all of the above considerations, it’s important to carefully and clearly craft the clause so that it serves its intended purpose and doesn’t lead to disputes after the fact. This is where your real estate lawyer and real estate agents are incredibly helpful, based on their legal expertise (coming from the lawyer) and market experience (coming from the agent).

Buyer's vs. Seller’s Perspective

For buyers, the SC Escape Clause provides a form of protection. If the financing provider doesn't approve of the seller's concessions or if other related conditions aren't met, buyers can withdraw without losing their deposit. It ensures they are not over-leveraged or stuck in a deal that's not financially viable. On the flip side, it could mean losing out on a property if the clause is triggered, so buyers should tread carefully.

Sellers benefit from this clause by having a clear exit route if the deal can’t proceed under the agreed terms. Particularly if the concessions they've offered are no longer viable due to changes in the buyer's financing situation or other factors. It protects sellers from prolonged uncertainty and potentially having their property tied up in a transaction that fails to close.

There are trade offs to consider for both parties and this is, again, where expertise comes in valuable. Engaging your real estate agent and/or real estate lawyer is a great idea when thinking through the SC Escape Clause

Negotiating the Clause

It’s in these types of situations where real estate agents really earn their keep. Their role in negotiating the SC Escape Clause is pivotal in ensuring that the interests of their clients are protected while managing a successful transaction. Real estate agents act as intermediaries, advisors, and negotiators, leveraging their expertise to guide both buyers and sellers through the complexities of real estate agreements, including the nuanced SC Escape Clause.

Exploring Alternatives

There are a number of alternatives to the SC Escape Clause that are worth considering, in consultation with your real estate agent. Things like conditional offers, adjustment clauses, financing clauses, inspection clauses, etc. all work to protect against certain areas of concern. For example, if there is a concern about the purchaser getting the financing they require to purchase the property, a financing clause will allow them to back out of the purchase, without penalty, if they’re not able to obtain the financing. Whether you choose an SC Escape Clause or one of these alternatives will really depend on what’s best suited to your transaction, depending on the market, your needs, and the other side's needs. 

Wrapping It Up

The SC Escape Clause is a nuanced, yet critical aspect of real estate transactions. Whether you're a buyer, a seller, or just a curious onlooker, understanding the ins and outs of this clause can empower you to make informed decisions. And when in doubt, never hesitate to seek professional advice. 

At Doormat, we focus entirely on residential real estate law. We can support you as you work with your real estate agent to craft the Agreement of Purchase and Sale and then once the agreement is signed and finalized, we’ll work with all the parties involved to bring the transaction to a close. We’d love to support you with your real estate needs - you can get started today or get in touch with any questions you have!

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