Who’s Right in this Toronto Real Estate Dilemma?

A recent real estate drama sitting on Ardmore Avenue has brought to light a different kind of real estate remorse – seller’s remorse. It’s a case that has now been brought before the courts, and the only question that remains is: who’s right?

It was in November of 2011 that Marsha Kriss sold her parents’ home in the Forest Hill neighbourhood, over a year after they had passed away. She agreed to sell it to Barbara and Eric Kirshenblatt for $1.7 million and the deal was to close two months later. The Kirshenblatt’s gave Kriss a down payment of $100,000 on the property.

Shortly after agreeing to purchase the property, but before it had closed, the Kirshenblatt’s hired an architect to draw up plans for major renovations on the home – renovations that would effectively demolish the home and rebuild most of it. Kriss heard about the plans and, having an incredibly strong emotional attachment to the home, wanted out of the deal.

Kriss wrote a letter to the Kirshenblatt’s in which she stated,

“As I have now heard that my parents’ home is slated for demolition, I want it verified from you whether you did in fact change your mind, or was it your intention all along? That would change the whole deal. I did not sign on for demolition. Why, that might shred my very soul after 56 years. I could not handle the house being knocked down. That is a DEAL BREAKER….to you it is just another house, and I have given you an alternative equivalent two doors away. To me it is my parents’ home of 56 years.”

After Kriss sent the letter both parties agreed to walk away from the deal, and that Kriss would return the $100,000 down payment to the Kirshenblatt’s. Unfortunately, she never did. And not only did she not return the down payment, but she also turned around and sold the home to different buyers in May 2012 – and made an additional $190,000 for it.

The Kirshenblatt’s took Kriss to court for the down payment, and a judge awarded it to them saying,

“The promises to sign a release and then fail to sign it, the changing conditions are evidence that Ms. Kriss was either playing a game of some kind of was genuinely distraught over the fate of her parents’ home. Either way, it would be unjust to allow Ms. Kriss to keep the deposit, especially where she was able to make $190,000 more than she would have had she sold the house to Ms. Kirshenblatt.”

But the story doesn’t end there. The Kirshenblatt’s are also taking Kriss to court for that $190,000, saying that it was profit they could have made off that home.

So, at the end of it all – who do you think is right? Was it right for Kriss to be ordered to return the down payment? And is it right for the Kirshenblatt’s to be going after that $190,000 she made in profit from the eventual sale of her home?