Q. Am I obliged to stop marketing my home once I have accepted an offer?
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A. Strictly speaking, the answer is No. One of the peculiarities of the English system of buying and selling property is that nothing is actually binding on either party until contracts are exchanged. So, while it is generally accepted practice that active marketing ceases once a genuine offer has been accepted, you are not actually under any legal obligation to observe that convention – although if you do decide to continue marketing, your agent is obliged to inform the original buyer, in writing.
Much is often made of the apparent unfairness of this situation, particularly by consumer groups – which is rather ironic, given that buyers are equally free to renege on any offer they might make. Indeed, in view of that very fact, it can be extremely tempting for you as the seller to try and hedge your bets a little – particularly if you’ve had your fingers burned already.
However, try looking at things from your buyer’s perspective. Of course, he or she wants a “Sold” board to go up straight away, and for all further marketing to cease. But far from betraying some devious private agenda, this is an entirely understandable position to take. And it’s worth remembering that you will feel exactly the same way if and when you make an offer on another property yourself!
Ultimately, you should really trust your agent’s professional judgement in this; after all, that’s one of the things you’re paying him for. Of course, if he had originally had any serious doubts about your buyer’s bona fides or ability to proceed, then he presumably wouldn’t have recommended acceptance of the offer in the first place. Nevertheless, new factors can sometimes come to light at a later stage which might prompt your agent to revise his view.
In the absence of any particular concerns of this kind, however, I would advise you to let things take their normal course. After all, with the market the way it is at present, genuine buyers aren’t that easy to find!