RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL: What It Is, How It Works & Examples

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What is the right of first refusal (ROFR) in real estate and should you be willing to consent to it? I’m glad you asked: Given that the right of the first refusal relates to a legal clause that effectively grants a party the right to be first in line when an owner wishes to sell a property, it’s an interesting subject to consider. In this article, we’ll look at what the right of the first refusal implies in practice for property owners and prospective house purchasers alike. Similarly, we’ll look at a few examples of how the right of the first refusal works in common real estate custody.

What Is The Right Of First Refusal In Real Estate?

A right of first refusal (ROFR) is a reasonably common phrase in some commercial contracts that essentially grants a party first dibs on making an offer on a specific transaction. The phrase “right of first refusal” works similarly in real estate.

Simply put, it is a form of a legal clause that may be in a contract or lease. Particularly on a property that a rental renter may be wanting to acquire from a landlord. ROFR essentially grants potential purchasers a contractual right to be the first party to make an offer on a property when it is for sale by its owner. If someone else expresses an interest in purchasing the property instead. The present holder of the right of first refusal has the option to buy the property first. They can also decline the opportunity and allow the seller to pursue alternative bids.

A ROFR is most typically an incentive for lease tenants in buyer’s markets. Contingent buyers are subject to kick-out clauses in a hot seller’s market, or as a tool in estate planning to avoid heir strife over an inheritance. A ROFR provision essentially requires a seller to approach the rights holder with an offer to purchase the property before accepting an alternate offer from another party on the piece of real estate.

How Does a Right of First Refusal in Real Estate Work?

Before putting a home on the market, homeowners negotiate a right of first refusal. That person is usually a time restriction in which to bargain before the property owner can engage with other potential purchasers. The notification includes a date window, and once that time has passed or the buyer declines, the seller is free to sell to another buyer.

There are two ways in which the right of first refusal is frequently exercised. A real estate agent may notice that you have a home that is high by a specific client and inquire if you would be willing to enter into a ROFR arrangement if the property went on the market. A landlord may also try to entice renters by agreeing to a right of first refusal clause for tenants in the event that they decide to sell their home.

How Do You Enter A Right Of First Refusal Agreement?

If you’re planning to execute a right of first refusal agreement, it’s ideal if both parties have lawyers involved. This is because the right of first refusal custody agreement should be valid for a specific period of time.

An agreed-upon method of calculating the property’s future sale price is usually in these contracts. In the absence of a formal purchase price agreement, the potential buyer may have the right to match an offer made by a member of the general public that the owner was planning to accept. The seller just accepts the other offer if the buyer no longer wants the property.

For instance, the price could be a fixed sum or a percentage higher than the current market value. Before anyone signs on the dotted line, all participants should understand the agreement’s terms and conditions.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Rights of First Refusal

A right of first refusal serves as an insurance policy for the entitled party. Ensuring that they do not lose their rights to an asset they want or need. A commercial center, for example, may prefer to lease a place. But may purchase it if he fears being evicted if the property is sold to a new owner. In this situation, the tenant would negotiate to include a right of first refusal language in his lease. In this way, if leasing becomes untenable, he will be able to purchase the property before others.

The right of first refusal, on the other hand, is a barrier to the property owner since it limits the capacity to bargain with several buyers, who could drive up the price in a bidding battle. If the landlord knows that the existing tenant is always first in line to buy. The landlord may have a tough time attracting buyers in the case above. If attracting the right renter requires a right of first refusal, the property owner may exercise it.

Why Is the Right of First Refusal Custody Important?

ROFR is a contractual obligation that binds both a prospective real estate buyer – such as a prospective homeowner shopping for an apartment, condo, or single-family property – and a real estate seller. But, more crucially, it creates a right that you can exercise if you want to buy property. But it does not impose an obligation to do so.

In essence, if you locate a piece of property that you’d like to buy. But it’s not yet on the market, or if you’re unsure about purchasing, it can act as a kind of insurance. As a rights holder under a ROFR clause (and this right can only be by someone other than the property owner or their lender). You have the ability to make a real estate transaction before others. If you do not want to proceed, you can just relinquish your rights and walk away.

Before a homeowner agrees to put their home on the market, a right of first refusal is usually negotiated. According to its terms and circumstances, before members of the general public can make an accepted offer on a property. The home seller must first make a purchasing opportunity available to the person with the right of first refusal. For these reasons, a ROFR typically includes a time limit that specifies how long a bidder has to negotiate with a seller before their window of opportunity and right of the first refusal expires. When the contract expires, the home seller is free to negotiate with any other buyer.

Examples of Right of First Refusal in Real Estate

Right of first refusal ensures that those who are in property have the best chance of purchasing it. Because this contractual right requires sellers to accept proposals from rights holders before becoming public. People with the right of first refusal often have a better chance of getting a good bargain. The right of first refusal can be in a variety of situations.

#1. When an Owner Decides to Sell

Right of first refusal kicks in when a property owner decides to put their house on the market for sale. Before releasing their listing to the general public, the seller must notify the holder of the right of first refusal. Then, before their rights expire, whoever has the first refusal has a set length of time to submit an offer.

The right of the first refusal protects interested parties from having to compete for a property in a bidding war. This is wonderful news for them since it means they have a lot higher chance of getting a decent deal on a property than they would otherwise have. It also assures a buyer that the property will be delivered if the terms are followed.

#2. When an Offer is Received from a Third Party

An interested third party may occasionally make an offer on a property that is not for sale. If this occurs and the property owner is interested in the offer. They will not be able to accept it right away because someone else has already refused. Before the third-party offer can be approved, the owner of first-refusal rights must be given the option to buy.

Who Is Eligible to Negotiate a Right of First Refusal Custody?

If you want to complete a right of first refusal agreement, it is suggested that both parties hire knowledgeable real estate attorneys.

While such clauses are often common for them to include key aspects such as a time restriction under which the right of first refusal custody applies. An agreed-upon method to assess the future price of the real estate holding. For example, the home price may eventually be a fixed rate, a percentage above market value, or simply the matching of an offer that the seller would otherwise accept from a member of the general public.

Right of first refusal custody clauses is frequently used by real estate brokers attempting to make a sale or landlords hoping to attract renters to upgrade from tenants to prospective homeowners. Keeping this in mind, it’s critical to investigate and examine their conditions before signing into any legally binding arrangement.

What Triggers a Right of the First Refusal?

When a third party makes an offer to the property owner to acquire or lease their asset, this typically activates the property owner’s right of first refusal. Before the owner of the property can consider accepting this offer, the person who has the right of first refusal—the property holder—must be given the opportunity to purchase or lease the asset on the same terms as are being presented by the third party.

Who Benefits From the First Right of Refusal?

The prospective purchaser who is required to be offered the agreement stands to benefit most from the right of first refusal because it works in their favor. In addition, the right of the first refusal guarantees that an unidentified third party will not be able to enter a firm against your desires if it is offered. In most cases, this is the rationale that underpins the existence of such rules in the first place.

What are the Reasons to Consider Using a Right of First Refusal?

In particular, with regard to real estate transactions, it may make the sales process go more quickly and enable sellers to save both time and money. It can make it easier for landlords to find tenants. If the holder decides to purchase the property, he or she will be able to profit from any real estate or commercial improvements that have been made by the current owners.

Can You Walk Away From an Accepted Offer on a House?

To answer your question in a nutshell: yes, either the buyer or the seller can back out of a house sale. Because it is uncommon and more difficult for a seller to alter their mind, the buyer typically has more options to back out of an agreement than the seller has. Buyers are the ones who make offers to sellers when a house is up for sale, and the offers that buyers make typically include some sort of contingent clause.

Variations of the Right to First Refusal

The specifics of the right will be by the contract in question. The parties have the chance to craft an agreement that is to their needs. It may be beneficial to contact an attorney to verify that your contract represents your company’s needs and resolves any potential concerns. Here are a few examples of popular variations:

#1. Exclusions

The contract may provide that the right does not apply in particular circumstances, such as familial transactions.

#2. Transactions that trigger the ROFR

It may only emerge, for example, if the property owner wishes to sell the property rather than giving a lien on it to finance a loan.

#3. Duration

The ROFR may expire after a certain period of time or following a specific event, such as the lease’s expiration. The property owner may enter into a transaction without alerting the holder of the ROFR after the required period has passed.

#4. Time to respond

Similarly, the contract may stipulate that the party has a limited period of time to consider whether or not to act on the offer, after which the property owner may proceed with the third-party transaction.

#5. Transferability

The parties can choose whether or not the right of first refusal custody can be another party. The ROFR may be along with the property. This means that if the property owner sells the business or real estate, the new owner must continue to grant the holder the right to refuse new transactions.

Why Do Sellers Wait to Accept Offers?

They were given a more favorable offer. In the current market, there is a good probability that you are not the only individual considering purchasing the home. There is a possibility that the seller will be presented with many offers all at once. The seller likely has the same amount of time in their day as you do. As a result, they may prioritize the offers, replying to only those ones that they wish to dispute or examine.

Why Do Sellers Ignore Your Offer?

If they already have better offers on the table, sellers may decide not to engage in negotiations with “low-ball” offers that are far lower than the price that is being asked for the item. There is also the possibility that sellers will opt to disregard offers that contain conditions that they consider to be unreasonable, such as a low or nonexistent earnest money deposit or excessive seller concessions.

How Much Over Asking Price Should I Offer on a Home in 2023?

When making an offer on a house, as is the case with all other types of talks, you should begin with a modest price. However, a reasonable rule of thumb is to make an offer that is between 5 and 10 percent lower than the asking price. Be mindful of the fact that sellers frequently take this into consideration and purposefully list their home at a price that is higher than they anticipate or are willing to settle for.

What Does 48-hour Contingency Mean?

The buyer will be given the opportunity to remove the sale and settlement contingency within a specified period of time (typically 24 to 48 hours) if the seller receives another offer. This type of contingency allows a seller to continue to market the home to other potential buyers. In general, this type of contingency allows a seller to continue to market the home to other potential buyers.

What to Do When a Buyer Pulls Out of a House Sale?

You are well within your rights to sue the buyer for losses if they back out of the deal after the contracts have been exchanged. You should make it your top priority to stay on top of everything on your end so that the process of exchanging contracts may move along more quickly. This will help speed things up. The longer the wait, the greater the likelihood that the business transaction will not go through.

How Can I Avoid Right of First Refusal Problems?

By taking the time to consider potential future scenarios, you can reduce the number of complications associated with ROFRs.

For instance, how long should a right of first refusal be valid? How much time should a buyer have to exercise their rights or back out of the transaction? What is a reasonable way for calculating the property’s future purchasing price? And, of course, for those looking to sell their home: Will having a right of first refusal cause any problems if you want to refinance an existing mortgage? If you’re thinking about using a ROFR agreement. Make sure you talk with a real estate attorney to help you avoid future problems and worries.


So, what exactly is a right of first refusal? Consider it a tool for future planning and a method to enjoy some level of relative certainty in what may otherwise be a highly volatile and/or unpredictable real estate market. However, a ROFR can be a useful incentive for persuading prospective purchasers and converting rental tenants into property owners. It is not a certainty that a sale will occur and can frequently have unforeseen repercussions. Before implementing a ROFR provision, readers should obtain legal counsel and learn more about what it takes to win a bidding war in a seller’s market.


What is the difference between an option and a right of first refusal?

The main difference between an option and a right of first refusal is that a buyer can exercise an option to buy at any moment within the option term.

Can a seller accept a higher offer?

“A seller can legally take any other offer up until attorney review concludes because the sale isn’t technically under contract, which may generate some friction and isn’t always seen as the most ethical.”

Can I pull out of selling my house?

You can back out of a house transaction at any time before the contracts are exchanged. You’ve engaged in a legally binding contract once you’ve exchanged contracts, which means you’re bound by its provisions.

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