“First I want to say thanks, in advance. My question: Yesterday my husband and I made an offer to buy a house. (We live in TN.) We were told we would need earnest money but it was late and the realtor said we could bring it by today, and in fact will be leaving later this afternoon to go and do that. However, this house was a foreclosure through Fannie May and is basically “as is”. We have been having second thoughts about it. We did sign a paper that our realtor told us would mean once we signed it, that was pretty much that. But… we did not give our earnest money yet. Are we still obligated to go through with this, even though we did not pay any money? Thank you.”
A binding contract requires two steps: an offer and an acceptance. By signing the paperwork, you have made an offer to purchase the property on the terms set forth in the contract (which should include the earnest money you’ve promised to put down). The contract becomes binding when it is accepted, which in most real estate contracts requires the signature of the seller (or in this case whoever has authority to do so in the foreclosure proceeding).
Generally speaking, an offer can be withdrawn before it is accepted. However, there are exceptions: if, for example, local custom or the written terms of the offer state that the offer cannot be withdrawn within a certain period of time, you may not be able to do so.
Bottom line: If you want out of this deal, you need to instruct your agent of that fact as soon as possible–hours or minutes can make a difference. If, for some reason, you cannot withdraw your offer (whether because it was accepted or otherwise), your agent should be able to tell you this, explain why, and discuss what your options are at that point.