Is it possible for a seller who made a counter offer that I accepted to accept another offer?

Asked by Sophie, 48306 Wed Feb 6, 2008

following scenario: there was back and forth with a seller for a time then they made an offer that I told my real estate agent I accept. Their real estate agent was unavailable for a couple of hours and by the time she told him we accepted the offer he told us, well, there has been another offer which is higher, we just lost the house!

I mean, ok bad timing for them, but we had the ball in our court and we said yes, we should go on with the papers, they can' t just accept another offer because there was nothing signed yet. Can I do something about it?
Thanks a lot! This is really important!

Sophie

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12
Alan May, Agent, Evanston, IL
Wed Feb 6, 2008
Sophie, unfortunately, you've learned the hard way, that a verbal contract is worthless in Real Estate. In many other businesses an oral contract is enforceable, but in real estate it doesn't count as a deal until it's signed (and initialed if necessary) by both parties and delivered.

that's one of the reasons why you hear of real estate agents running out at all hours of the night to get signatures and initials on our contracts. I have been burned before by an agent who's said to me (much earlier in my career), don't worry... we have a deal, and we'll follow up with signatures in the morning, only to find that the following morning, another offer came in and we are either OUT, or now in a multiple offer situation.

Today, when an agent says that to me, my answer is "no, I'll be over in a few minutes, or I'll fax it to you right now for your acceptance and signatures". Burned once, shame on them... burned twice... shame on me.
4 votes
Alan May, Agent, Evanston, IL
Sun Mar 9, 2008
Unethical for the listing agent to have the seller accept an offer???

(cue dark & dangerous music:

"Dang-it Mr. Seller, you're going to accept this next offer, even though we already promised agent #1 that we were going to accept his client's offer! [brandishing a .44 Magnum]... Go ahead... sign it! [raising their 3-month-old cocker spaniel into view and holding the gun to the puppy's head] Sign it, or the puppy gets it!".)

Oh please... like it's the listing agent making the decision. We are advisors. It would be "unethical" to not allow our client to make a decision that is legal.

Another offer came in... we do NOT have a signed contract, and therefore they are allowed to accept the other offer. Perhaps the listing agent suggested to the buyer "You know... we already told agent #1, verbally, that we would accept his clients offer"... the seller asks "does that mean I'm not ALLOWED to accept this clearly better offer?"... "well, no" answers the agent "but it surely feels bad, doesn't it?"... "yeah, it feels bad, but It's legal... right? I'm allowed to take it?"... "yes" answers the reluctant agent... "the I'm taking it".. the seller says, signing the documents here, and here... pressing hard 'cause there are four copies.
2 votes
Bill Schwent, Agent, Santa Fe, NM
Wed Feb 6, 2008
Sophie,
Unfortunately, Elvis is correct. However, you also asked about the ethics in this matter. You could talk with your "agent" and, if s/he is a Realtor, ask her/him if the negotiations were conducted in accordance with Article 9 of the Realtor Code of Ethics. For your infomration, that reads as follows: "Realtors, for the protection of all parties, shall assure whenever possible that all agreements related to real estate transactions ... are in writing in clear and understandable language expressing the specific terms, conditions, obligations and commitments of the parties. A copy of each agreement shall be furnished to each party to such agreement upon their signing or initialing".

There may be little that you can do to resurrect your deal with the seller. However, if you remind both Realtors of their ethical responsibilities under Article 9, that will certainly encourage them to get back to you should anything happen with the other contract. You could file a complaint against both Realtors with their board of Realtors and, if the deal dones not come back to you, I would recommend that you do so.
Web Reference:  http://www.remax-santafe.com
2 votes
Karen Jones, , 75160
Tue Mar 11, 2008
This is a legal question and Realtors should not be practicing law! It's one of the first things you learn in Real Estate school! Since real estate laws vary from state to stae, I'm quite sure you may be getting advice that probaly deosn't even pertain to your situation!
1 vote
Natascha Katz, Agent, Alpharetta, GA
Tue Mar 11, 2008
No, not until you get an answer from the counteroffer or the time period for the counter offer expires. This is unacceptable and neither the seller or agent should participate in this type of business.
Web Reference:  http://www.purrfecthome.com
1 vote
Carlo Gobba, Agent, Birmingham, MI
Sun Mar 9, 2008
It's unethical for the listing agent to have the seller accept another offer within just hours of you verbally that you were accepting their counter offer. At the very least you should have been notified that an other offer had come in. BUT if they did accept an offer in writting before you got your acceptance to them you may not have a leg to stand on. A Faxed time stamp could be proof.
Web Reference:  http://www.CarloGobba.com
1 vote
J R, , New York, NY
Wed Feb 6, 2008
I've had situations where contracts are out and signed by the buyer, and then the seller got a higher offer and took it. Unfortunately when we agents encourage people to sign contracts quickly they think we are just being pushy.
1 vote
Missy Caulk, Agent, Saline, MI
Wed Feb 6, 2008
If it was not in writing you can't enforce it. While you are countering back and forth, you do not have a bottom lined contract. If it was signed on their counter and faxed to them, it would have to go as you being the primary offer and them being a back-up. Sorry, I know this hurts. Also it is important to have kept the time it was faxed.
1 vote
Julie (Toon…, Agent, Hilton Head Island, SC
Wed Feb 6, 2008
Hi Sophie,

Unfortunately, verbal agreements are usually worth the paper it's written on.

In South Carolina, the Statue of Frauds says that all real estate contracts must be in writing to be enforceable. I don't know about your state.

What does your agent say?
Web Reference:  http://toonpawley.com
1 vote
Melinda J. R…, Agent, Grand Rapids, MI
Sun Feb 24, 2008
Sophie, really the best thing the listing agent could have done was to let your buyers agent know that another offer came in and you needed to write your biggest and best offer. Although, it did not happen in this situation. Not sure the listing agent was thinking in the sellers best interest in that one, but unfortunately I do not believe there is anything that can be done. You were in the midst of going back and forth. The problem with doing that is you are loosing time for another offer to come in.

I know as a listing agent when I do get an offer in any buyers agents that have had buyers interested in the property or any buyers that I have shown the property to that are interested are informed immediatley because at that time my job is to get the most money for the seller. However, from what you said, it does not sound like that was done in this situation.

So sorry, but get geared up for the next opportunity that you may have. I hope this helps. Best wishes to you!
Web Reference:  http://www.gomelinda.com/
0 votes
Sophie, Both Buyer And Seller, 48306
Wed Feb 6, 2008
well, yes the first offer was in writing, but the whole back anf forth with the seller was over the phone between the agents. So , no the last counter, which we accepted was one of those phone calls. But I think anyway is it binding...
They can do anything after I counter, but when I accept in a matter of hours it is for me a done deal. I basicly wanted to go sign the papers as I heard we just lost it. I know it is at least unethical for them, ok, but can I do something legal to save the deal and the house?

Thanks a lot!

Sophie
0 votes
Rex Osborne, Agent, Raleigh, NC
Wed Feb 6, 2008
Not enough information to answer this question. Was it in writing?
0 votes
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