Can a listing broker sue an owner for not taking a serious offer while under listing contract?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can a listing broker sue an owner for not taking a serious offer while under listing contract?

I am wondering if a listing agent can sue the owner of the property for not accepting a buyer’s offer if it comes to the exact listing price or close to it. I don’t know under

what terms the offer would be rejected but it could happen for any number of reasons. You could have a listing agreement/contract and as a seller you could have reason to remove the home from the market or decide you no longer wish to sell said property but haven’t had time to break or cancel the listing contract due to death or illness of one of the owners or a lost job where you were planning to move to. Many people list a property to get an idea of it’s marketability I have heard that if you reject offers from potential buyers that either the agent or the buyer can sue.

Asked on February 24, 2016 under Real Estate Law, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

No, the listing broker can never sue the seller for refusing an offer, even an at-or above-price offer: the buyer has the right to change his/her mind about selling, to decide they don't like this offer or these buyer's for some reason, to believe a better offer will come along if they just wait, etc. The buyer has, from the broker's point of view, an absolute right to not take offers, and there is no liability for not taking one.
A buyer could potentially sue IF and only if there is credible reason to believe that the offer was rejected due to illegal discrimination, of which the main one for housing purposes is racial discrimination. A seller can't, for example, refuse to sell to African Americans. (Only the discriminated-against buyer, not the agent, may sue on this basis.)
But a seller may refuse to sell for many valid, subjective reasons. For example: my wife and I recently sold our house. We rejected the highest offer in favor of the second highest. The reason? The main income for the highest-offering couple was a sales job where most of the income was commission based. Those sorts of variable income jobs are highly scrutinized by the banks, and there was a reasonable chance the buyer would fail or be delayed in getting a mortgage. Meanwhile, the offer we took came from someone who worked for a bank and whom we were confident would get funding. We gave up a considerable amount of money in favor of a more certain, more streamlined deal, and that was perfectly legal, even though it reduced the realtor's commission slightly.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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