In the U.S., when selling a residential property, is there a rule or law regarding how to handle multiple offers of the exact same monetary amount? Is this the kind of thing that would vary state-by-state?
My family and I made an offer on a property first and the seller's real estate agent claimed that the sellers wanted to wait for more offers that they expected to be coming in shortly. Ultimately, our offer was rejected, but tax records show the property was sold for the exact value of our offer.
So my question is: is it completely and arbitrarily up to the seller to pick between multiple offers of the exact same value?
Part of the reason I'm asking is because we (my family and I) have suspicion to believe there may be a strong connection between the buyer and seller's real estate agent. And would it be considered fraud and would there be any recourse if the seller's real estate agent withheld offers from the sellers to allow a personal connection to swoop in?
Understandably, that last bit is a strong accusation and would certainly require proof, but I'm really trying to determine if what we suspect actually occurred, would it actually be considered fraudulent, or is a seller allowed to arbitrarily pick and choose an offer regardless of price/order that the offer arrived? Would it only be considered fraudulent if the seller was unaware of a higher/better offer?
Update: I realize there is some confusion based around the way I worded the original text. In the original text, I said: there may be a strong connection between the buyer and seller's real estate agent. I did not mean a strong connection between the buyer's agent and the seller's agent. I meant a connection between the actual buyer and the seller's agent.
Let me rephrase: Suppose a seller wanted to sell a property for X dollars, without realizing their property was actually worth much more than this. Seeing this potential value, I make an offer. The seller's agent also sees this large potential for profit, but cannot directly make an offer. Instead, they find a friend who is interested in investing, perhaps even passing some cash their way in hopes of profit sharing in the future, and the friend ultimately makes an offer, which is presented to the seller through the agent.
So the original question was certainly focused on whether a seller can arbitrarily pick between offers, and it seems clear the answer is yes, for essentially any reason. But the related point in this discussion which I hinted at (and which perhaps is better left a separate question) is under what conditions could a relationship with a conflict of interest in this scenario be considered fraudulent, specifically with a strong relationship between the seller's agent and a friend who could potentially become a buyer. I think DJClayworths answered well, and there does appear to be situations in which this could be a conflict of interest, such as delaying presentation of some offers to allow time for another buyer (we suspect this happened), as well as misrepresenting some buyer's offers or hiding them entirely to allow another buyer's offer to stand alone, again with the incentive that the selling agent gets a kickback when said buyer ultimately acquires the property and stands to gain tremendously from it.