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Legally speaking: Can an offer be accepted after it’s been rejected?

By Peg Ritenour, OAR Vice President of Legal Services/Administration

The OAR Legal Assistance Hotline receives an array of real estate-related legal questions — including license law issues, disclosure, contract law, ethics and commission problems, among others. In an effort to help you work “within the law,” we’ve launched a new “Legally Speaking” feature exclusively on the OAR Daily Buzz that spotlights some of the timely questions that are being asked by REALTORS. This one involves what happens when a party has a change of heart regarding a rejected counteroffer…

Q: A buyer made an offer which the sellers countered. The buyer told his agent he was rejecting this counteroffer and the buyer’s agent communicated this fact to the listing agent. The next day the buyer called his agent and told her he had reconsidered and really wanted the house after all. The agent immediately called the listing agent, only to find out that the sellers were accepting another offer. When the first buyers learned this they hurriedly signed the sellers’ counteroffer and their agent hand delivered it to the listing agent’s office. Do the sellers have a legally enforceable contract with the first buyer?

A: No. The buyer doesn’t get a “do over” or second shot at the apple!

Under Ohio contract law when an offer or counteroffer is rejected it is no longer open for acceptance. The only exception to this is if the person who made the offer (the offeror) is willing to honor the subsequent acceptance.

In this situation, once the first buyer rejected the sellers’ counteroffer and that fact was communicated to the listing agent, the counteroffer was terminated. As such, it was no longer open for acceptance by the first buyer. Signing the counter and racing it over to the listing office was a futile act because the seller wasn’t willing to still go forward with the first buyer and chose instead to accept the second offer he received.

The moral of this story is that buyers’ agents should counsel their clients to be sure of their decision to reject an offer or counteroffer because once the other party is notified that they have done so, they can’t go back undo that action.

Tags: legal, Legally Speaking