If you have an inspections contingency, you can cancel a real estate contract, walk away and get your money back before inspections. The inspections contingency is the “walk away for free” contingency. Buyers have gotten cold feet or found another home, before their inspections, and were able to exit the contract. It’s always helpful to confirm with your agent or attorney about the best way to communicate your desire to cancel with the other side.
Yes, as a buyer you can get your escrow deposit refunded if you are within the contingency timeframes of your real estate contract. Most contracts allow buyers to exit after inspections, if they can’t get a loan or if something comes up in the disclosure documents, or there are title issues. In this case, a buyer can walk away and get their deposit refunded. Can you get your escrow deposit refunded at the end of the transaction, once all of the contingencies have passed? That is harder and would have to be up for negotiation. You should monitor your contingency timeframes closely once you sign a contract. If you have any doubts about the purchase, be certain that you can exit in time.
In real estate, once a buyer and seller have signed a contract to purchase, it’s rare that a seller can back out of the deal and cancel the contract. Normally only the buyer has contingencies, or exits, from the contract. If the seller did want an exit, it would be a negotiation item early on.