This from a reader:
I have an offer in on a house that I like but I am worried something better might come on the market. If the seller accepts my offer, can I keep looking and cancel if I find a better one?
I see two issues here. First, I will give you the contractual answer. If you are using the standard California Association of Realtors purchase contract, and assuming that the default time frames apply, you have 17 days during which to “commit” to the sale. By this, I mean you have a period of time during which you may ensure that you can get loan approval, obtain a satisfactory appraisal, review all disclosures and investigate the property condition. At the end of the 17 days, you will be expected to remove all contingencies in writing, after which time a cancellation could be considered a breach of contract. Prior to contingency removal, you as the buyer have cancellation rights without penalty. In other words, you can take your money and go home. So, I suppose there would be nothing to prevent you from continuing to home-shop and from even making offers on other homes during the contingency phase.
The bigger issue I see is the lack of commitment. Why would you possibly enter contract on a home with which you are less than thrilled? It is like planning your divorce on your wedding day – Something must be wrong. We have actually been asked this question more than once by buyers we have represented, and our answer is always technically, “yes” but, practically and ethically, speaking “no”. You should only, in my opinion, make an offer on a home and enter contract when you are 100% committed to the purchase. It is not fair to the seller (whose home you have taken off the market), the agents involved, or yourself.