Before you back out of a sale, read this
Julie Garton-Good, GRI, DREI

Q:I listed a vacant lot with an agent. He found a buyer, but the offer she made was not exactly what I wanted, so I made a second (counter) offer to the buyer.

Now I realize that I don't want to sell the lot. If the buyer makes a decent offer, will I be forced to sell it to her? If I don't, would she have legal recourse and would the circumstances be any different than if I were offering a house for sale?

A:The circumstances you're describing would vary little if you were offering a house for sale. The mechanics of the offer/counteroffer are the same, whether raw land or improved real estate.

You listed the vacant lot with the salesperson in the hopes of selling it. You named a certain listing price, terms and conditions you'd consider from a buyer. If you receive a buyer's offer with the exact price, terms and conditions, you would not be forced to sell -- but you could be forced (through your listing agreement) to pay the agent the commission due him. This is because the salesperson had performed to the letter of your listing agreement to locate a "ready, willing and able buyer."

A counteroffer is a brand new offer which the buyer doesn't have to accept. If she doesn't, you are off the hook. It would then be wise to let your agent know that you have changed your mind about selling the lot. The salesperson would appreciate this, marketing would cease but you might be bound under the listing agreement to compensate the salesperson if you (or anyone else) sold the property before the term of the listing ran out (These terms would be stated in the listing agreement you signed.) This is to deter sellers from becoming for-sale-by-owners to sidestep the commission.

The key here is to not move ahead with signing an offer you have no intention of following through with. If you have changed your mind about selling, let the salesperson know and be prepared to address the terms and conditions you agreed to when signing the listing.