The process of selling a house can be a long one, and it doesn’t stop once buyers have submitted offers on your home.
At this stage, sellers have three options:
Sellers who aren’t entirely satisfied with the bids on their home but don’t want to walk away may decide to counter with a deal that they’re happier with. If they choose to negotiate with buyers, the purchase price isn’t the only thing on the table — contingencies, closing dates, deposits, and the like are also powerful bargaining chips.
A counter offer is a response to a bid on a home. It’s a negotiating tactic that both buyers and sellers use to get the best deal and terms for their home sale or purchase. While both buyers and sellers can make a counter offer, the seller makes the first one.
For example, if a seller liked a buyer’s offer but thought the asking price was too low, they could counter the offer for a higher sale price. If the buyer wanted to pursue the deal but thought the new asking price was too high, they could respond to the seller’s counter offer with a counter offer of their own.
Instead of rejecting a bid, sellers can suggest new terms in a counter offer. Typically, they will communicate their new offer through their listing agent. Once buyers receive a counter offer, they can also suggest changes in their own counter offer that their agent will communicate to the sellers’ agent.
Sellers and buyers can counter an offer to negotiate any of the following:
Most counter offers also include an expiration date for the other party to respond by or the offer is voided. This ensures a timely resolution and prevents an extended back and forth. However, there is no limit to the number of times buyers and sellers can counter each other.
Writing a counter offer can feel as much of an art as it is a business practice. Lean on the expertise of your agent and follow the advice below for help:
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To help contextualize what counter offers in real estate can look like, we broke down an example of a home on the market for $440,000 (the national median home price at the time of writing).
In this scenario, the seller was willing to accept a slightly lower asking price and a home sale contingency in exchange for a higher earnest money deposit, which would protect the seller in the event that the sale falls through.
Yes. This is most common in a multiple-offer scenario where a seller is countering multiple bids at one time (note this is prohibited in some states; your local agent can tell you more). In this case, the seller doesn’t counter in writing, they do so verbally through their agent.
The seller’s agent will communicate to the potential buyers that there are multiple offers (and counters) from the start. After the seller has accepted an offer, their agent will communicate to the other potential buyers that their counter has been withdrawn.
If your counter offer is rejected, you have two options:
When a buyer and seller come to an agreement, they accept a counter offer by signing a purchase agreement. The purchase agreement is a legally binding contract that will make the terms of the counter official. As most counters have a short deadline of one to three days, signing the purchase agreement as soon as possible is best to ensure that the offer doesn’t expire.
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