Be Aware of Deadlines in the Offer to Purchase

In real estate transactions you must be keenly aware of the deadlines that are agreed to in on original Offer to Purchase.  Although those deadlines are self-imposed, they may be enforceable and not subject to change without the agreement of both parties in writing.

In a case decided by the Massachusetts Appeals Court in the spring of 2010, the Court found that one party cannot unilaterally change dates in the offer to purchase, including the mortgage commitment date.  The Court further noted that: “parties will be held to the deadlines they have imposed upon themselves when they agree in writing that time is of the essence.”  In that case, a buyer made an offer to purchase to the seller with specified time frames and a statement that “time was of the essence.”  The buyer then realized that she could not meet the time frames in the offer and attempted to extend the mortgage contingency date.  The seller refused to accept the new date.  The case then became very muddy when both sides gave different versions of a telephone call.  The Appeals Court said that there remained an open question about whether the seller really rejected a request for a change in the date or stated that since the date was attempted to be changed, the deal was off.  The Appeals Court has sent the case back to the Land Court for further testimony and a trial.  The case is entitled “Coviello v. Richardson.”

The lesson to be learned from this case is to make sure the dates that are self-imposed in an Offer to Purchase are honored.  You should check with all the necessary professionals involved in the transaction, including the lender, attorneys, appraiser and home inspector so that everyone is aware of the dates and agrees to abide by them.  If there is going to be a change in the date, get it in writing.

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