Legal Q&A: House buying contract race

Q. I have recently had an offer accepted on a house I wish to purchase. However, I have been informed by the seller that they have also accepted another offer and that the sale will proceed with the buyers who return their contract first. Are they allowed to do this?

The seller may accept more than one offer on their property and instruct their solicitor to send draft contracts to more than one potential buyer. The seller’s solicitor must inform all potential buyers that more than one contract has been sent out and that the first person who is ready to exchange will get the property. This is known as a contract race and is quite legal.

It is not advisable to be a buyer in a contract race if you need to sell your property. You could, however, proceed in a race provided that you are in a position to raise immediate finance to complete your purchase irrespective of any related sale you might have, i.e. a bridging loan.

Your solicitor must check that the seller’s solicitor has specifically stated there is a contract race, otherwise the seller will have the freedom to choose the buyer, regardless of whether you completed the requirements first or not.

Sarah Perkins, solicitor, sarah.perkins@hegarty.co.uk