The “Brady Bunch” house sale has stirred up a lot more than nostalgia. For pop star Lance Bass, it’s turned into an all-out real estate deal drama!
In a long-winded Instagram sob story, the former ‘N Sync member explained how, after hearing that this iconic Studio City, CA, house was listed for $1,885,000, he’d made an offer “way over asking price.” From there, he claims that after the deadline for offers had passed, the listing agent representing the estate (Ernie Carswell at Douglas Elliman) had informed him that he’d made the “winning bid.”
“This was a dream come true for me,” Bass wrote on Instagram. “I spent the night celebrating amongst friends, family, and fans alike.”
Yet the next day, Bass claims, Carswell contacted him again to say that a Hollywood studio had swooped in and was willing to “outperform any bid with unlimited resources.” Although Bass was willing to bid higher, he says he was discouraged from doing so.
“How is this fair or legal??” Bass asked on Instagram. “How can I compete with a billion dollar corporate entity? I truly believe I was used to drive up the price of the home knowing very well that this corporation intended on making their offer and it’s not a good feeling.”
While Carswell could not be reached for comment, a spokesperson from Douglas Elliman insists he’d done nothing wrong, releasing this statement: “While we appreciate Mr. Bass and his enthusiasm for the Dilling Street property, tremendous interest in the house required a sealed, best and final bid. Our fiduciary obligation is to the seller, who decided to go with the highest, most qualified buyer. We wish Mr. Bass the best of luck in future real estate endeavors.”
So was Bass truly wronged, or had he gotten his hopes up too high on a home he didn’t yet officially own?
What went wrong for Bass with the ‘Brady Bunch’ house
While certain details are unknown, based on the information available, many real estate experts think Bass may have gotten ahead of himself in thinking the house was his before the deal was over and done with.
“A seller may tell a prospective buyer verbally that they have accepted an offer, but under California law, the acceptance is not binding until the seller has signed the buyer’s offer and that acceptance has been communicated—in writing—to the buyer,” says Joe Parsons at Pinnacle Capital Mortgage in California. “At that point, the offer becomes a contract. There is no way to know at this point whether those steps were completed. But under California law, an agreement to buy and sell real estate falls under the Statute of Frauds, a legal principle which holds that in order to be enforceable, the agreement must be in writing.”
And even if Bass has this paperwork in hand, a listing agent is required by law to present all offers to the seller—even after the bidding deadline has passed.
“Even when buyer and seller have entered into a contract, the seller’s agent is legally obligated to present any other offers that may appear,” Parsons continues. “If the seller accepts a better offer after entering into contract with the first buyer, [Bass] does have legal recourse: He can sue for ‘specific performance’ to have the court compel the seller to honor the contract.”
And if Bass doesn’t have any contract? He has no leg to stand on, legally. But even so, certain sources still suspect that something shady went down with the “Brady Bunch” house deal.
“Is there a possibility this is aboveboard? Maybe, but I highly doubt it,” says Los Angeles land developer Tyler Drew. “While I’m not privy to the facts of this case, once the seller asks for the highest and best offer by X date, that’s it.”
Drew also thinks that if this listing agent truly discouraged Bass from upping his offer, as Bass claims, he shortchanged the home seller, too.
“I also feel that as a seller’s agent, telling potential buyers not to bother with bidding is doing a great disservice to the owner,” Drew explains. “Mr. Bass could bid $50 million. You have no idea how much money he has. And assuming you do puts you at great ethical and legal jeopardy. Imagine your agent telling people at your open house not to bother with bidding. You’d be furious, right?”
What Bass could have done to win
So was there anything Bass could have done differently to fulfill his dream of getting the “Brady Bunch” home?
“A different approach he could have used is to ask his real estate agent to let the seller know he would be willing to match any other offer they received,” says Ralph DiBugnara, president of home-buying advice site Home Qualified. “But that might not have been a sound financial decision. In most of these scenarios, losing the home may have been better financially because he may have ended up overpaying. Becoming emotionally attached to a home that is not yours is always a risky proposition.”
And as for Bass’ claims of being used to drive up the price?
“Ridiculous, to a buyer with endless resources,” says Texas real estate agent Sheryl English. “The mistake made by Lance Bass was he counted his chickens before they hatched. Until you send your check to escrow, do your inspection, and remove the contingencies, nothing is set in stone. They gave their best and final, and it was better than his. All is fair in love and real estate, and he who has the keys is king.”