Home Buying in Lakeville>Question Details

Dan, Home Buyer in Lakeville, MN

Can they do that?

Asked by Dan, Lakeville, MN Mon Jan 5, 2009

We had a signed purchase agreement to buy a house in Lakeville. The seller crossed out a section about covering non-homestead taxes. Before we had a chance to initial the change, they called and said they accepted a better offer and that our agreement was cancelled. We all signed the agreement and this felt like a minor detail. Can they legally cancel the agreement?

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The seller will not need your signature on a cancellation if, in fact, they withdrew their offer before you signed/initialed all of the changes.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 5, 2009
Thanks to all who answered. They returned the PA on Friday night (after close of business). We said we wanted to check with the county before initialing the change. Their agent said that would be fine. They apparently accepted the other offer on Sunday night (before we could check with the county on Monday morning). If a verbal agreement has no standing, then I guess we're out of luck. We just felt like we were safe until we knew what the difference would be between homestead and non-homestead for this house. It turns out the difference is only $35. It's very disappointing that the spirit of the agreement was not honored. This is bad news for anyone trying to buy a house.

Thanks again for the replies. I guess the search continues.

Dan
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 5, 2009
Dan,

This isn't legal advice so please don't take it as such - this is simply my experience with what you are talking about.

It sounds to me like the seller signed the purchase agreement ("We all signed the agreement..."). My answer will be predicated on that premise - in the event that they did not sign your offer - there really is nothing you can do. Verbal agreements don't count in real estate and while ethicaly they should have to preform - legaly there is no basis.

If they did in fact sign the offer but make a change and sent it back with initials on it then the ball was in your court. The timing of things becomes very important at this point - the seller can timely withdraw their purchase agreement by comunicating their withdrawl to you or your agent prior to your initialing and sending back the PA. In other words if you sent them the fully signed and initialed Purchase Agreement and then they called you and said that they had another offer - that is too late for them. If however, the seller informed you any time prior to receiving your initials on the change you are out of luck.

At the end of the day however they will need your signatures on a cancelation of purchase agreement in order to fully execute the other purchase agreement. You have the ability to make their life difficult at this point by refusing to sign the cancelation. While I would definitely talk to your agent and almost certainly your attorney before doing this - it is an option for you. In essence you will be tying them up so that they can't sell the house to someone else but I don't recommend this lightly - be very careful with this course.

Lets talk the real world now. If they didn't actually sign the PA - your out. If they signed it and timely withdrew their acceptance - your out. If they signed it and they didn't timely withdraw and you choose not to sign the Cancellation - you will need to make the same offer as the new offer for any hope of still getting the house. If you choose to pursue your rights in court you will want to go after something called "specific performance." This should only be done with the proper legal advice of an attorney - but can only take place if you had a fully executed deal.

At the end of the day my gut says that you should move on. You can pursue some of the options above, but they are all long shots and will only work if you are dealing with a consumer. If by chance you are working with a bank - forget everything I just said and move on - they will not budge and they would be happy to battle you in court which won't be worth your time.

Good luck and be sure to post back if you have any other questions.

Cameron Piper
Web Reference: http://www.campiper.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 5, 2009
In some cases, if the area marked "Final Acceptance Date" on line 270 of the purchase agreement is not filled in, I have seen either party walk, with no legal problems. A contract can be canceled at any time over minor details. Speak with your agent and see what they think. It is hard to comment on a question of your nature as we are unable to view the contract or the process that led up to this point. Good luck!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 5, 2009
Sorry I meant in the face of the LACK of a purchase agreement. Sorry for the error.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 5, 2009
Wow, that's terrible! Without knowing the actual particulars of this purchase agreement, it's hard to say what's legal or right. Since I'm not an attorney, I wouldn't want to dispense what might be perceived as legal advice.

Normally, when there is a portion of the purchase agreement that has not yet been formally agreed to, the purchase agreement cannot be considered "fully executed". In the face of the lace of a fully executed purchase agreement, you cannot assume you had a deal in any other way than verbally, which, unfortunately, doesn't officially count.

I would suggest checking with an attorney if you feel so led. What does your agent say? Did you have an agent representing your best interests? Even with your own agent, the buyer's agent has no control over the actions of the sellers and if they were not operating in good faith, it's unfortunate but not necessarily illegal.

Sorry this happened to you! It shouldn't be that tragic!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 5, 2009
Have you spoken with the real estate professional that helped you write the offer?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 5, 2009
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