Ask Dave, Sept. 2, 2012
We recently made an offer on a house and the seller sent us a counter offer that we agreed too, but then we received word that he had changed his mind and was going to sell it to someone else. We feel like he made a deal and he should have had to sell it to us. We feel we lost theperfect home. Thanks.
Dale & Nicole, Grand Junction
Dale and Nicole,
No doubt you are feeling “wronged” by this sellers actions, but it may have well been within his rights to not sell you the house, even after a counter offer was given. When the seller made you the counter offer, I am assuming, that it was in writing. A seller has the option to withdraw a counter-offer any time prior to your “accepting” the counter offer in writing. If your acceptance was in writing prior to the counter-offer being withdrawn, then you would have a binding contract on both parties and the seller should honor the contract and in the state of Colorado, close the transaction with you as long as you abide by the dates and deadlines of the agreed upon contract.
If any part of this offer / counter-offer process was done verbally, then you would have some significant gray area. Verbal offers and counter-offers are often used by agents throughout the process of negotiations, but when doing this you open the door to many, much more significant issues and misunderstandings. If you only accepted verbally or the counter offer was made verbally, then I would say that you do not have much of a case. Without written and signed contracts, enforcement becomes a larger issue and inevitably it comes down to he said/she said. You would need to weigh the cost and benefit of attempting to hold the seller to a verbal commitment and I believe that would be very
difficult to achieve.
Things do not always work out the way we think they should and often times in negotiations people change their mind on an ongoing basis, I see it every day. The best rule of thumb is to do everything in writing and be prepared to respond promptly. Communication is difficult, even under the best circumstances, this is part of the reason why we have contracts. Contracts should spell out the terms and conditions and remove interpretation or changes of mind from negotiations.
Please remember this is not legal advice and I always recommend you speak to an attorney and see if you have any legal grounds for recourse, he/she will be able to steer you in the right direction. Don’t lose hope because of this set back, doors open and doors close and maybe an even more perfect home is right around the corner. Keep the faith.