Q: We sold our home last week in a multiple-offer scenario. The “winning” buyers had three days to transfer their earnest money deposit into the title company’s escrow account. When our seller’s agent was alerted by the escrow officer that the earnest money deposit never arrived, he called the buyer’s agent. The buyer’s agent claims the buyers “changed their minds and would not be buying the house after all.” To make matters worse, our seller’s agent learned that the same buyers made an offer on another house, listed by his realty firm, the day after putting our home under contract. Our seller’s agent called an attorney and learned that there is no recourse if there is “no escrow deposit to fight over.” Can this type of dishonest dealings go unpunished? The “winner” buyers also hoodwinked the six other buyers who made offers. We heard we might have permanently lost our ability to acquire an over-asking purchase price, thanks to this sale falling apart. How do we take this to the next level?

A: Real estate attorneys inform us that homebuyers must act honestly in all fair dealings. Conversely, if they operate dishonestly with intent to deceive, costing you time, money and the magic of a multiple-offer situation, there can be damages. Luckily, the brokerage firm representing you has copies of the purchase offers they submitted on different properties 48 hours apart. If they used the same buyer’s agent, he or she is in real trouble, too. Real estate attorneys seek to establish a timeline. These homebuyers might have timed the offers to secure both properties and then decide which one they wanted. Then, after selecting the “right” property for them, the wayward homebuyers submit an earnest money deposit into escrow. This underhandedness is not a new negotiating gambit.

A home newly listed on the market can quickly lose that “magic in a bottle” excitement to dishonest homebuyers. Properties new on the market can be stigmatized if the winning homebuyer in a multiple-offer situation cancels — a fact not lost on the right real estate attorney. Consult with an attorney who specializes in residential real estate. He or she has seen this before and will guide you correctly.

Questions? Seeking proven strategies when brokering real estate? Full-service Realtor Pat Kapowich is a Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager and career-long consumer protection advocate. Pat’s landline is (408) 245-7700, or Pat@SiliconValleyBroker.com Broker License 00979413