Can a Sacramento Seller Pull Back a Counter Offer After Signing?
After I answered the phone last night, I could sense the tense irritation in the caller’s tone. Uh, oh, these were the buyers who just lost a home because they did not sign the counter offer fast enough. They certainly did not want to hear that I am not their agent and cannot engage in a conversation with them; no sirree, these were folks who felt they understood exactly what had happened and they were royally screwed with a Capital R and no orgasm to boot. Except that is not what occurred. What occurred is they did not believe a seller should pull back a counter offer.
These buyers had an interest in my listing which, after a couple weeks, became a temporary off-market property. They called me directly and wanted information shortly after I listed the home. I explained that I would not work with them because I don’t do dual representation. I will not work with a buyer while representing a seller. If they needed an agent, I offered to refer them to a team member, but they suddenly had their own agent. Well, as long as they had their own agent, then problem solved. They can call their agent and ask her to call me.
Their agent called to ask about the property in temporary off market status and inquire when it would go back on the market. Not until next month. But if the buyers wanted to submit an offer subject to inspection, that might be the way to go, I suggested. I try to suggest that solution to every buyer’s agent who calls on a TOM status listing. I’ve had several agents call about this particular listing. This is a tight market with limited inventory. If buyers can’t find a home to buy, asking their buyer’s agent to scour the TOM listings and call listing agents is a good strategy.
My sellers had personal reasons for wanting to take their home off the market for a little while. Early yesterday morning, I received an offer from an agent who represented the now irate buyers. Their offer contained an element or two the sellers wished to counter, so they accepted the purchase offer subject to their own counter offer. I received the seller signed counter offer from DocuSign, sent it to the buyer’s agent and received a confirmation of receipt late morning. Tick, tick, tick. Can you hear the Sacramento real estate clock? Timing is everything. You know what happens next, right?
Late afternoon I suddenly received another offer from another buyer. What are the odds of that happening with a TOM listing? I guess in this market, those odds are pretty high. There were things about that offer that were very attractive and enticing to the sellers. As their agent, I am required to deliver that second purchase offer immediately and to point out that the sellers have a counter offer out to the first set of buyers. If that counter offer were to be signed and delivered to me, they would be in contract. Done deal. But they also had a small window of time to consider withdrawing the counter offer, if they chose to accept offer #2. Their call. Tick, tick, tick.
Of course, you know by now they did exactly what you would do. They authorized a Withdrawal of Offer, signed the WOO and I delivered it pronto to the buyer’s agent; but I also called her to explain what had happened. These things happen. Sometimes sellers pull back a counter offer. I felt empathy for the agent. I suggested her buyers could go into backup. The first set of buyers are very angry now that I did not try to persuade the sellers to stick with their offer. They felt I owed them an ethical obligation to try to keep them in contract. I’m afraid they don’t understand real estate 101. The only ethical and legal obligation I owed at that point was to my sellers.
The first set of buyers had many hours in which to return the counter offer and they didn’t sign it within that time frame. Don’t ever sit on paperwork thinking the transaction is complete. It’s not completed until all documents are delivered. Before that time, sellers are free to pull back a counter offer if they choose.
The moral of the story is if you receive a counter offer from your agent, sign it right away. Make sure it is delivered immediately. Don’t make the mistake of believing you have the luxury of time on your side. The Sacramento real estate market in its present frenzied state waits for no one.