Q: When we were trying to sell our home, there were two different families interested in it.
One family had their agent draw up a contract and present it to us. We made a counter-offer to these people and never heard back from them or their real estate agent. During this same time another couple came and looked at the house and presented us a contract within two days that we agreed with and signed.
We are going to close on the house with the second couple next week. Today, we got a registered letter from the first couple stating that they had a lawyer that was going to investigate what we did. They are very upset.
There was never any signed, agreed-upon contract with these people, nor did they give us any earnest money. Our agent told us not to worry. Do they have a case against us? And, if so, why?
A: Real estate contracts must be written to have any legal standing. Since you did not have a contract with these people, they probably don’t have any right to challenge your valid contract with your buyers.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t hurt feelings. What you should have done was make your counter-offer valid only for 24 or 48 hours. In other words, your counter-offer would have expired in 24 to 48 hours if they didn’t make another counter-offer or accept the terms of your deal. By adding that language to the contract, the onus clearly would have been on them to accept or reject your deal quickly.
I am mystified why more real estate agents don’t put time limits into their offers and counter-offers. It’s just one more level of protection for the home buyer or seller.
These prospective buyers could file a lawsuit, but they mostly likely won’t. What they will do is assuage their hurt feelings and end up finding a house they like even better than yours. But if the situation gets sticky, do not hesitate to consult with a real estate attorney.
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