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What is the FTC 3 day rule?

By Spodek Law Group | February 20, 2024

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The FTC 3 Day Rule: What Homebuyers Need to Know

When buying a new home, the process can feel exciting yet overwhelming. As you sort through the stacks of paperwork, complex terminology, and legal jargon, questions may arise around your rights and responsibilities as a homebuyer.

One regulation that often confuses new homebuyers is the FTC Cooling-Off Rule, more commonly known as the FTC 3 day rule. This important rule gives homebuyers an out if they have second thoughts or experience buyer’s remorse. However, what exactly does this rule entail and how can you use it to your benefit?

What is the FTC 3 Day Rule?

The FTC 3 day rule refers to the Federal Trade Commission’s Cooling-Off Rule under Title 16, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 429. This rule gives consumers a 3 business day window to cancel certain sales contracts.

In real estate, the FTC 3 day rule applies specifically to sales made door-to-door, away from the seller’s main office, or at a facility rented on a temporary basis. Common examples include:

  • A timeshare presentation where a sales rep pressures you to buy a vacation property
  • A seminar held at a hotel conference room advertising real estate investing strategies
  • A homebuilder inviting you to tour a model home with the intent to sell

In these cases, the FTC 3 day rule requires the salesperson to provide the buyer a written contract stating their right to cancel within 3 business days. Business days exclude Saturdays, Sundays, and federal holidays.

This important regulation protects consumers from aggressive, spur-of-the-moment sales tactics. It allows time for the buyer to review the contract thoroughly and conduct additional research before finalizing a major financial decision.

When Does the 3 Day Period Begin and End?

The 3 day cancellation period begins when the buyer receives the contract paperwork and ends 3 business days later. For example:

  • If you receive the contract on Monday, you have until Thursday to cancel
  • If you receive the contract on Friday, you have until Wednesday to cancel

The contract must clearly state the transaction date as well as the deadline to cancel. Pay attention to the exact cancellation cutoff time and date.

How Do You Cancel Under the FTC 3 Day Rule?

To cancel the contract, you must provide written notice to the seller before midnight on the third business day. This written notice only requires your signature, address, date, and statement of intent to cancel. No reason must be provided.

Acceptable methods of delivery include:

  • Hand delivery with a signed and dated receipt
  • Registered mail with return receipt
  • Email or fax with confirmation of receipt

Upon canceling, the seller has 10 days to refund your money and return any trade-in goods. You must also return any items received as part of the sale. For real estate, this includes any property deeds, keys, or related items.

What Transactions Does the 3 Day Rule NOT Apply To?

While helpful, the FTC 3 day rule does not cover all real estate sales. Common exemptions include:

  • Homes bought from a developer’s main, permanent sales office
  • Resale homes bought through a real estate broker
  • Open houses held by the homeowner
  • Foreclosure properties
  • Court ordered home sales

Additionally, the rule does not apply to seller-financed transactions or cases where you purchase an existing home directly from the current owner.

In these situations, carefully review the purchase contract for any cancellation clauses, cooling-off periods, or related policies before signing. For resales, a contingency granting time for inspections offers similar protection. If unsure, consult an experienced real estate agent or real estate lawyer.

Why is the 3 Day Rule Important?

The FTC 3 day rule marks an important consumer protection. Signing a timeshare contract or making a quick home purchase often involves intense sales pressure. Emotions and excitement may cloud better judgement.

This rule counters emotionally-driven decisions by enforcing a mandatory cooling-off period. With time and space from the sales pitch, buyers can carefully consider all aspects of the transaction before finalizing it.

Likewise, the strict cancellation process holds sellers accountable to ethical business practices. The threat of easy cancellation discourages shady schemes or hiding adverse facts from buyers.

How Can Homebuyers Use This Rule Effectively?

If considering a property or vacation package sold through high pressure door-to-door or offsite sales, keep this rule in mind. Should you have doubts or feel pushed into a quick decision, remember you have 3 business days to cancel.

When reviewing the contract, verify it includes the required cancellation policy and procedure. Closely note the cutoff date and time so you don’t miss it. Should you choose to cancel, follow the notice requirements exactly to avoid complications. You may also want to consult a real estate attorney for guidance.

While not a solution for all homebuying situations, the FTC 3 day rule grants important protection from remorse over an impulsive decision. Knowing your rights as a consumer can bring peace of mind to an otherwise stressful transaction.

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