Did our Real Estate agent do us a disservice, and if so, do we have any recourse?
May 7, 2012 10:49 AM   Subscribe

We are selling our condo in California, and we got an offer at our asking price, we emailed our agent and said that we wanted to have another open house to see if we got any other offers. She agreed, and then emailed us a contract accepting the the bid with the message "sign this", which my wife did. As far as we can tell this means we have now sold our place, and cannot accept any other offers. Is that correct? If so, is what she did bad practice or something else, or are we just missing something here? Do we have any recourse? (There was another open house yesterday, and an agent tour tomorrow).
posted by dolface to Law & Government (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
i don't get it. if you didn't want to accept that bid, why did your wife sign the contract accepting the offer?
posted by violetk at 10:53 AM on May 7, 2012


Yes, there was bad practice here: your wife signed something without reading it.
posted by Kololo at 10:54 AM on May 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


It sounds like you're probably under contract at the bid (your asking price). This is the sort of thing you can/should ask your agent about.

What she did would be bad practice if it was obvious that your wife didn't know what she was signing. The agent could have done a little more work to make sure your wife understood what she was signing, but it's not beyond the pale to assume that adults understand legal-looking documents before they sign them, especially when they may be entering real estate transactions/contracts.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:56 AM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Who is on the title to the condo? Just your wife? Is the contract valid if only one of the titleholders has signed it?

Last property I sold with my wife, we had to BOTH sign everything.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:00 AM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not a lawyer, but if you both own the house, then wouldn't you both have to sign any document accepting an offer to buy it? I wouldn't think a document that is not signed by all the homeowners would be valid.

I'm curious though as to why you would not accept an offer of your asking price? Seems like in the current market that is extremely lucky!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:00 AM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oy. Well, now would be a good time to read this contract very slowly. It sounds like you don't really know what it says.

You can cancel contracts; look at the clause(s) about cancellation, etc., probably toward the end. There may be no penalties; there may be some penalties.

I am not a lawyer, your broker or your wife.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 11:01 AM on May 7, 2012


Seconding that your wife signed a contract without reading it: don't do that.

It is very common for realtors to include a clause in their contract that if you receive a full price offer for your property, you must either accept the offer or pay the realtor their commission as if you had accepted the offer.

From the realtor's perspective, their job is done and now you need to move along the process of purchasing the property.
posted by saeculorum at 11:01 AM on May 7, 2012


We totally understand that we should not have signed the contract without reading it; what we're confused about is why our agent sent the contract and told us to sign it AFTER we said we wanted to keep the place on the market.

We've pretty much made our peace with the situation, I just would like to understand what happened so we don't repeat a mistake.

treehorn+bunny, the housing market where we live (San Francisco) is bizarre; it's routine for places to sell above the asking price.
posted by dolface at 11:03 AM on May 7, 2012


If your real question is "why did Agent send us this contract after we said we wanted to keep the place on the market," the best source for that information would be your agent. We can speculate as to Agent's motivations, but that's about it.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:05 AM on May 7, 2012


what we're confused about is why our agent sent the contract and told us to sign it AFTER we said we wanted to keep the place on the market.

Ok, I'll confirm that your agent is an inattentive asshole, then.
posted by jerseygirl at 11:12 AM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Your agent makes money by selling houses. She was hedging her own bets while ignoring your wishes. It sucks, but it helps to remember (for the future) that your agent doesn't really work for you, they work for themselves - and in this case, your agent decided that a bird in the hand was worth two in the bush.
posted by Kololo at 11:13 AM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I was in the market last Fall, our agent sent us the wrong document several times. I assume it was by accident. It's all computerized these days, and apparently she just hadn't quite mastered the application that manages it.

It's incredibly important to read whatever it is that you're signing.
posted by mikeand1 at 11:20 AM on May 7, 2012


You can most definitely continue to market your property after you accept an offer.

It is very common these days to keep properties marketed even after an offer is accepted and the buyer is securing financing, because it is very common for buyers to not get financing, or not get financing that meets the terms in their offer.

As a seller, you can always have a back-up offer in place, and depending on the particulars of your market, this may be SOP. You can continue to market the property until the day you close--it's still your property up to that point.

Unless the offer was 100% cash and they want to close in something ridiculously fast like 14 days, it would be very prudent to keep the property on the market. I have seen something like a 50% fail rate for deals in my area.

You really need to speak with your agent and find out why she is proceeding like this, and realize there's nothing inherently bad about this. Did you ever talk about accepting back-up offers when you were talking about what would happen when marketing your property for sale?

(I'm a real estate agent, but not yours and I am not licensed to practice in CA.)
posted by FergieBelle at 11:21 AM on May 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


dolface, I see. I do think the point about you both needing to sign is still pertinent and would agree with those suggesting you call your agent to ask about this.

It may have been a misunderstanding on her part? That is the most optimistic assumption I can make.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:24 AM on May 7, 2012


It's possible your agent wanted the signed contract in hand so that she could move quickly on the offer, but she hasn't actually sent it to the buyers yet. Calling your agent and asking is pretty much the only way to know. Figuring out whether there is another agent tour tomorrow would also be useful information. It's possible she thinks the buyers might back out of the deal too and she wants to hedge her bets.

Fundamentally, this sounds like it could well be a good illustration of the Principal-Agent Problem. If you accept the offer now, your agent gets paid and can use her time to sell other houses and/or market her services. If you keep the house on the market, you guys might make another $10K-$20K or so, but only after taking up a bunch more of your agent's time. At a 5% commission, that's only $500-$1000 for the agent, and a huge chunk of that is going to her office/company. It's pretty much in her interest to move things along given the small amount of additional compensation she'd get if you're successful.

Obviously, that doesn't mean your agent shouldn't listen to your instructions and that she should take the time to fully explain your options, but understanding her incentives at this point is a useful exercise.
posted by zachlipton at 11:28 AM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


It sucks, but it helps to remember (for the future) that your agent doesn't really work for you, they work for themselves…

actually, no, not exactly. a good agent works for you. you contracted them, you would be paying them (when your house sells). it also behooves them to make sure they are doing all they can for you bc your future business (and referrals) could go to them if they did a good job for you.

but that doesn't absolve you from your responsibility of being aware of everything you sign.
posted by violetk at 11:31 AM on May 7, 2012


My understanding is that if you set a price and someone offers to buy it at that price, you have to start down the road to a contract anyway (that is, you can't offer something for sale at a certain price and then, when someone says they will buy it at that price, tell them you didn't really mean it). However, accepting the initial offer is only the beginning of the process. There are so many steps between there and the final contract signed by both sides that there are plenty of opportunities to make the buyer want to back out (for example, ask for 100% escrow, demand an unreasonably late closing date, refuse to make any accommodations, etc etc). And as others have noted above, you don't have to take the place off the market until you have closed on a final deal. I'm sure your broker knows all this, and it sounds like she assumed you did too when she didn't explain why she wanted you to sign an acceptance even though you told her you wanted to keep the house on the market.
posted by ubiquity at 11:32 AM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is insane. You sent written instructions to your agent not to accept the offer. Your agent cannot send the acceptance to the purchaser, whether or not your wife signed it, because you didn't authorize her to (let's leave aside that your wife is signing real estate documents without reading them and without talking to you). If your agent sent the documents to the other side, she did so without authorization, and may be liable to you for any damages you incur (not sure how you'd measure those). You haven't answered the key question here - did your agent send it to the other side, or is she just holding onto it in case? Is the contract conditional? Maybe it isn't valid if a higher offer is received within the next week? You need to talk to your agent and figure out what has gone on here.
posted by Dasein at 11:42 AM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Reach out to your agent. Perhaps the agent is sitting on the signed document, so that if you don't get additional offers as expected, the agent can immediately contact the folks making the offer to accept it. Reach out to your agent.
posted by davejay at 12:13 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


My understanding is that if you set a price and someone offers to buy it at that price, you have to start down the road to a contract anyway (that is, you can't offer something for sale at a certain price and then, when someone says they will buy it at that price, tell them you didn't really mean it).

This might be true for something where acceptance of the offer results in swapping the item for cash but real estate deals almost always involve other negotiables like closing date and contigencies. Even then you aren't generally required to accept any particular offer; you are allowed to districminate as long as it isn't against a protected class. So you could elect to accept the 99% offer from the widower with three kids instead of the 100% offer from the rich jerk next door who wants to level your house to increase his property value.
posted by Mitheral at 12:55 PM on May 7, 2012


If you are not at peace with the decision, why not consult a lawyer? I'm pretty sure you may be able to get out of it.

Unless the signature was notarized, you can always argue a multitude of reasons as the why the signature is invalid.
posted by quanti at 1:03 PM on May 7, 2012


Unless the signature was notarized, you can always argue a multitude of reasons as the why the signature is invalid.

You mean OP could lie and say she didn't sign the document? I think this is a Bad Idea.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:37 PM on May 7, 2012


Your agent is legally required to present any offers to you. She HAS to. You didn't have to sign it, so this is on you.
posted by fshgrl at 2:42 PM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would expect my agent to send me a copy of any offer received, regardless of whether I would accept it. This sounds normal. Accepting it is the weird part. Don't blame the agent, blame yourselves and move on.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:32 AM on May 8, 2012


Unless the signature was notarized, you can always argue a multitude of reasons as the why the signature is invalid.

You mean OP could lie and say she didn't sign the document? I think this is a Bad Idea.


Saying you didn't sign something and saying your signature on an instrument is legally invalid are not the same, necessarily.
posted by Pax at 8:44 AM on May 8, 2012


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