Home Buying in Chicago>Question Details

mrs40g, Home Buyer in Portland, OR

Can a buyer refuse a counter offer from the seller and then have the seller turn around and sue them for breach of contract?

Asked by mrs40g, Portland, OR Thu Jan 31, 2013

I entered into a purchase agreement for a home. I offered full asking price, but asked for a fence to be included in the sale of the home. In addition to the Sales Contract, there was an addendum to the contract indicating the features of the home, what it included etc. It also stated that the seller would provide a fence in the backyard upon closing. Following the signing of the contract, the appraisal was ordered and the house came back $25,000 less than the asking price. The seller agreed to come down to the appraised value, but decided to omit the fence. A change order to the contract was written and signed by the seller indicating that seller will not be providing a fence. I, the buyer decided to not move forward with the sale, did not sign the change order, and told the buyer I refuse their counter offer, and will not be moving forward with the sale. The seller has now indicated they will be suing for Breach of Contract. Am I, the buyer, still liable?

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Carl Ben Witzig’s answer
You ask about the law of contracts, and realtors usually are not attorneys. You need one. Much will depend on the document, the Contract it self. Based on your version, it appears you had no agreement on the fence. Also, Your question appears on the Chicago area site yet you live in Oregon. Conventions might be different in each area. Be careful.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 1, 2013
As an attorney and broker, based just on the facts given "no", there would be no breach of contract because there never was an actual contract in which all of the terms were agreed upon. When "the seller agreed to come down to the appraised value, but decided to omit the fence" he was making a new offer that the buyer did not accept. There was never a "meeting of the minds" to form the basis for a contract. Of course, further facts could alter this conclusion and as many have suggested here, it is best to consult with an attorney personally so that the full factual situation can be discussed.

Rusty A. Payton, Broker/Attorney
iMove Chicago
1225 W Morse
Chicago, Illinois 60626

773-856-6200 [Office]
773-856-6201 [Fax]
773-682-5210 [Mobile]

e. payton@iMoveChicago.com


blog: iMoveBlog.com
4 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Feb 2, 2013
It is difficult to say without seeing the contract. It sounds like you were re-negotiating the contract based on the appraisal. Was there a clause that the property had to appraise or you could be released from the contract without recourse? Bottom line, you really need to seek legal counsel to protect yourself. Best wishes!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 31, 2013
What contract? You don't have a contract to breach - do you?
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 31, 2013
I was to purchase a house. We made a offer 2,000 above the asking price by the owner. The owner counter offered 3,000 more. The real Estate agent wanted us to take the offer. First of all he has done this before. He gets upset because we want take it. Now he refuses to help us, and the loaner office that is his friend refuses to do Business with us now. Is there any thing I can do about this. Turn him into the Real Estate Board and Better Business Bureau.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 27, 2016
All terms of a contract must be agreed upon in writing by all parties involved. If the seller changed the terms and you do not agree to them, then I do not see an agreement.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 7, 2013
Acceptance is one of the requirements of an Agreement. Based on your description, you are not in breach.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 7, 2013
First of all, I want to thank everyone for giving me such great answers. To update you since my last post, I have spoken with my attorney, and he also agreed there is no liability on my part. He is speaking with their attorney and they are going back and forth. He did mention that he could not say for sure if the attorney would file a lawsuit...anyone could file a lawuit, but they would not win. The original contract is not in full force anymore since the appraisal changed it. Plus, I never gave her earnest money because we were waiting on the appraisal first. Additionally, when she omited the fence, REGARDLESS if she came down that much, it is still a changed contract and needs to be signed by both seller and buyer in order for it to be effective.
I will keep you all posted - please keep posting as you see fit.

Thanks again
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 7, 2013
Weird that the seller can talk of breach of contract yet the seller changed the terms of the contract that you signed first without your consent.The seller has either been mis-advised or is too desperate to sell.
Web Reference: http://www.realtypin.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 7, 2013
I say no. Any change in the contract price or terms is deemed a counter offer and you can reject it. I am no attorney, your attorney has the right answer and that's who you should go to regarding this issue.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Feb 6, 2013
Check with your attorney my guess is that you are not liable.
Good luck,
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 5, 2013
What does your attorney have to say about this? Being notified that you may get sued and actually being sued are 2 different things. Based on the facts you presented it looks like Rusty provided a viable answer for you.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Feb 4, 2013
Without having all of the facts and seeing the documents, I think you would need to consult an attorney to be sure, but it in my opinion, it would seem that if any one thing in the counter is not agreed to by all parties, it would be null and expire. You would not have an agreement.
I'm in Colorado, so things are very different here. You better get legal advice.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 1, 2013
Is this transaction in Illinios? I would ask your attorney for advise. It sounds like the seller was being very reasonable. Why did you decide not to follow through with the purchase?

Best regards,

Ivan Sagel
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 1, 2013
The house was appraised at $25,000 less. The house included a fence to be built once closed in the original agreement. Once it appraised for less, she pulled that offer and changed the contract to no fence. It is not like she out of courtesy did me a favor and decided to lower the price. The appraiser came back with a lower value because of the market. If she is unable to honor the agreement, then she should of said so, and not change parts of the contract on her own and try and hold me liable for not agreeing to it. It is just as if she took away the shutters and oak railings that were on the listing sheet agreement as well because the appraisal came back lower.
Flag Fri Feb 1, 2013
sounds like you need an answer from Jim Schultz attorney at law at 773 680 7426
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 1, 2013
sounds way to convoluted to have any "sue potential" i think you just let it die
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 1, 2013
It depends on how the contract or addendum reads. There fore you may want an attorney to look at. if they were coming down 25 grand, it would have been mor ethan reaosnable foryou to agree to omit teh fence. mosty sellers would not have even come down the money so they were more than nice to you. Your agent should have been providing better advice.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 1, 2013
This is a legal issue and must be addressed by an attorney.
Of course, every real estate professional here handles these documents on a daily basis. Some of use have actually read every word contained in the contracts. It not that we don't know, it is that our license does not permit us to say.
YOUR real estate professional ALSO handles these contracts on a routine basis. Le Ann and everyone else has provided 'spot-on' commentary that should give you confidence.
HOWEVER, none of us know what you signed. Consult with your agent. If necessary, your agent may need to chat with his/her brokers attorney.
When negotiations are reopened, things can go in either direction. Negotiations, that is one of the elements most of use look forward to in the buying and selling of real estate.

Best of Success to you,
Annette Lawrence, Broker/Associate
Remax Realtec Group
Palm Harbor, FL
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 1, 2013
This is a legal question that your attorney would be able to answer without any additional charge. Based on what you say, and there clearly could be more to it than you indicate, but it sure 'seems' like you are ok........................yet this is a LEGAL issue, that no one on this site is capable of knowing for sure.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 1, 2013
No you are not obligated to buy
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 31, 2013
You would have to speak with your attorney. If the contract had a financing clause in it, and you were unable to obtain financing because of the appraisal, then its possible for you to break the contract. But it depends on what changes the attorney made during the review period. I would discuss with them.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 31, 2013
No attorneys here I know of. You are going to need one if the seller pursues the breach of contract action. Until then, sit tight, and work on getting an attorney.
State law differs as to what advice and counsel can be given by real estate brokers to members of the public. this is clearly over any line I know of.
Anyone can sue, winning is another matter.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 31, 2013
Based on the few details provided in your question, any attorney worth their salt should be able to properly handle this situation without any liability on your part. However, there are likely more legalities, so the attorney representing you in that purchase should be the one with whom to speak.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 31, 2013
You need to speak to an attorney, but since the deal would have been dead given the appraisal, it seems you were negotiating another deal and should be protected under the mortgage contingency of the original contract.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 31, 2013
I don't think so since it's a counter offer, but your attorney would know best.

Good luck!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 31, 2013
Usually that would not be breach of contract but it all depends on what that contract says and how it's written. Call a local real estate attorney and hire them to advise you.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 31, 2013
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