Q: My daughter is working with an agent in Pennsylvania. She put in a full asking price offer (with a signed contract) to purchase a home. She put in the offer on November 20.
On November 22, she got a call from her agent that the offer was accepted. On November 24, the agent called the seller (who is also the broker) to find out where the contract was. He informed my daughter’s agent that he had received a better offer on November 21.
My daughter was furious. Her broker said that the seller/broker accepted the agreement at the time but now says that he didn’t know there was another offer in the mailbox. The offer is for $6,000 more than what my daughter offered.
Does she have any recourse?
A: Real estate contracts must be in writing. They must be offered in writing and accepted in writing to be valid in a court of law. If your daughter put forth a written offer, but the seller/broker simply called to say that the offer was accepted (instead of signing the contract and delivering it back to your daughter’s agent), then she might not have a deal. If there’s no deal, there’s probably no recourse.
If there was a written acceptance of the offer, then your daughter has a better chance of holding the seller/broker’s feet to the fire. The seller/broker acted badly (by not immediately informing your daughter’s broker that there was another offer and either setting up another round of bidding or simply accepting the other offer), but possibly not illegally.
But what are we talking about? This is the worst housing market in history and your daughter just lost a house in a bidding war. It’s difficult to believe that there is no other property that she can purchase in the area that wouldn’t be above asking price (assuming the seller isn’t asking rock-bottom pricing)?
One final thing: Does your daughter know for sure that there is another offer out there for $6,000 more? Is she sure this other offer isn’t a figment of the broker’s imagination?
Well, there’s one way to test it – walk away. If the other offer doesn’t exist, then the seller/broker will come back to her, leaving her room to negotiate anew.
Your daughter should move on. As I’ve often said, there is always another house to buy. But next time, when she makes a written offer, she should write on the contract that the offer expires 24 or 48 hours from a specific date of delivery.