Condo contracts aren't easy to ditch

Men shaking hands

Many buyers who thought they were getting a great preconstruction deal on a Florida condo want to back out of the purchase and get their deposit back.

We understand why. Florida has one of the worst condo markets in the country.

The average condo price is down 22% since the market peaked in 2005. Miami alone has nearly 50,000 units -- a record four years' worth of inventory -- for sale or under construction.

Faced with such sobering prospects, many buyers no longer want to close on their properties. As many as three out every 10 buyers in some buildings are asking the courts to cancel their contracts.

But the Wall Street Journal says buyers are having a difficult time finding a loophole that lets them wriggle out of their contracts.

The U.S. District Court in Miami, for example, dismissed two dozen federal lawsuits last month involving condo buyers who claimed they were misled by a brochure promoting an "Olympic-style" swimming pool at a high-rise near downtown.

Buyers said they expected an Olympic-size pool. The developer said it only promised an Olympic-style pool -- one with lanes suitable for swimming laps.

The judge said the buyers shouldn't have based their expectations on marketing materials. The exact size of the pool was in the contract they all signed.

But attorneys who represent condo buyers say many of the complaints of contract violations are legitimate -- and that the battle is not over yet.

"We are going to see a number of cases where buyers are successful, primarily in areas where something substantial was altered in the project and those that were not delivered on time," Jared Beck of Beck & Lee, a law firm in Miami, told the Journal.

"The decisions represent just a tiny sliver of the universe of grounds for buyers' claims in the ongoing litigation war between buyers and developers."

Falling prices, overbuilt markets and lots of legal disputes are just some of the special problems you'll face when buying a condo these days.

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