Can a seller refuse to accept a full-price offer?

QUESTION: I just had a multiple offer situation with a buyer I am representing and she didn’t get the property.  We were the first one to put in an offer.  The list price was $250,000.  Our offer was $252,000 with no concessions and $4000 in earnest money.  The listing agent called back and said that he had four offers, and was asking everyone to submit their best and final offers.  My buyer increased her offer to $259,000 with the same terms as the first offer. The seller accepted one of the other buyers’ offers. The buyer’s father told me that he knew a lot about North Carolina real estate law, and according to him, the seller was obligated to take his daughter’s offer because it was the first offer made and was for more than the asking price with no concessions.  Is he right?

ANSWER: No, he is not.  A seller is not bound to consider offers in the order in which they are submitted, whether they are for full price or more than full price.  For that matter, a seller is not obligated to either consider or accept a full-price offer at all. When a seller advertises a property for sale on certain terms, it doesn’t constitute an offer in a legal sense that may be accepted by a buyer.  Rather, it should be seen as an invitation to buyers to submit offers.

Although a seller is not obligated to accept a full-price offer, the seller may be obligated to pay the listing firm its fee in such a case according to the terms of the listing agreement.

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