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I went to an open house and was told there was already an offer. What gives?

Sellers and their brokers will often continue to show an apartment after a verbal offer has been made.

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Question:

I went to an open house and the broker told me there was an accepted offer. Why is the apartment still being shown? Do I still have a chance to buy it?

Answer:

An accepted offer is not the same as the apartment having been sold, and you may in fact still have a chance to buy it, our experts say.

Even if a buyer made an offer on the apartment you saw, and the seller accepted, it's not yet a finalized deal. Typically, after an offer is made, a few weeks pass before anyone signs a contract, and much can happen during that time. Moreover, that verbal offer isn't legally binding. 

"Given the fact that it takes a week or two to get into contract and anything can go wrong, owners do not want to stop marketing their apartment until a contract is legally binding, which means that the buyer and the seller have signed and delivered to both," says Deanna Kory, a broker with Corcoran

It's not unheard of for the would-be buyer to back out during those two weeks, she adds, especially if they uncover any unexpected issues with the apartment while doing their due diligence. 

In the meantime, sellers may opt to continue to show their apartments, and field backup offers from other interested buyers. There's still potential for you to buy at this point if you can make a better offer than the one the seller has already verbally accepted.

"Not every accepted offer gets to the closing table, so do make your interest known to the seller's agent, but it's best if you have agency representation," says Shirley Hackel, a broker with Compass. "The seller has an exclusive agent, and you should be represented by a professional too." 

Although the NYC real estate market is increasingly favoring buyers, bidding wars still happen, and you'll want to make sure you have an expert on your side to navigate such a situation. 

"I would strongly recommend the buyer uses a broker experienced in negotiating transactions in bidding war situations," says Fritz Frigan, executive director of sales and leasing with Halstead. "If alone, they will negotiate against the broker representing the seller, whose job is to protect the seller’s interests. The buyer should have someone on their side to negotiate for theirs."

Also consider the flip side of this: Once you are in the position of making an offer and having it accepted by the seller, you'll want to negotiate so that you can avoid being outbid by someone else before the contract is signed and the deal is finalized. 

"It is a good idea if you are purchasing a home and you come to an accepted offer that you do so with the caveat that the seller will only show for backups, or that they’ll cancel the open house," Kory says. "That doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a try."


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