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Contract questions increase as Ohio housing market heats up..

posted Jun 6, 2018, 12:17 PM by Brian G. Walsh   [ updated Jun 6, 2018, 12:17 PM ]

By Peg Ritenour, Ohio REALTORS Vice President of Legal Services/Administration

Q: If a contract to purchase does not specify a closing date, is the contract void?

A: No. If a contract doesn’t specify a date or time of performance, a reasonable time will be implied.

Q: Is earnest money required to have a legally binding contract?
A: No, earnest money is not required under Ohio law to have a binding contract.

Q: Does a listing agent have to present a verbal offer to purchase to a seller?
A: Yes, a listing agent is obligated to present all offers to purchase to the seller, including verbal offers. The only exception to this is if the seller instructs you not to present a verbal offer. What is important for the parties to understand is that if a verbal offer is accepted, there it is not an enforceable contract until it is reduced to writing and signed.

Q: If a seller rejects an offer to purchase must the seller indicate “rejected” on the face of the offer?
A: No. A seller can verbally reject an offer. However, it is best that the rejection is marked on the offer so there is no question that the offer was presented and that it was rejected.

Q: If the seller doesn’t reject an offer in writing how do I know it was presented?
A: Ohio license law requires the listing agent to provide the seller with the Agency Disclosure form prior to presenting an offer to purchase. Therefore you can ask the listing agent to give you a copy of the Agency Disclosure form signed by the seller to establish that the offer was presented.

Q: If there is a contract to purchase pending do you have to present a subsequent offer to purchase that is received?
A: Yes. Unless you are instructed otherwise by the seller, all offers must be presented until the date of closing. Of course any such subsequent offer should only be accepted by the seller as a back-up contract.

Q: On a listing submitted to the MLS several appliances were checked as staying with the property. A contract to purchase was subsequently negotiated and closed. When the seller moved out, they took the appliances listed in the MLS, claiming that because the purchase contract did not provide that the appliances stayed, they did not have to leave them. The buyers thought they would stay because they were listed in the MLS. Who is right?
A: The sellers are. Although the appliances may have been listed in the MLS, the purchase contract is the legal document that controls the terms of sale between the buyers and sellers. Unless the appliances were listed in the purchase contract, the sellers were free to take them.

Q: Can a “back-up” buyer get out of a back-up contract at any time if they find another property?
A: No. A back-up buyer is bound by the terms of the back-up contract. If the buyer wants the ability to terminate the contract if they find another home they would need to include this provision in the terms of the back-up contract.

Q: A buyer made an offer which the sellers countered. The buyer told the listing agent he was rejecting this counteroffer. The following day, the first buyer changed his mind, and accepted the sellers’ counteroffer and delivered it to the listing agent. Is there a legally binding contract with the first buyer?
A: No. Once the first buyer rejected the sellers’ counteroffer and communicated that to the sellers’ agent, it could only be accepted if the sellers renewed their counteroffer. Absent that, the seller’s counteroffer was no longer open for acceptance by the buyer.

Q: Is a buyer legally entitled to a “walk-through” before closing?
A: No. Ohio law does not provide the buyer with a legal right to a walk-through. If the buyer wants a walk-through prior to closing the buyer should include this in the terms of the purchase contract.

Legal articles provided on the Ohio REALTORS Buzz are intended to provide broad, general information about the law and is not intended to be legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.