How long do sellers have to accept an offer?
Generally, after you make your offer on a home, the seller or their agent will get back to you within 24 to 72 hours. More officially, your agent can work with you to set a contractual time limit on your offer. If the seller surpasses this limit, the contract becomes void and the buyer must present a new offer if they wish to continue the process.
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Most people don’t make an offer on a home lightly. It takes years to save for a down payment, months of research, and weeks of open houses (if not more) to find the right fit. When the time comes to finally make an offer, the buyer is usually more than ready to make a move.
The day you put an offer in on a home you love is exciting, but also rather anticlimactic. Once you submit an offer, you have to play the waiting game.
No one likes to sit by the phone waiting for an important call, especially if it’s unclear just how long they’ll have to wait. To help excited buyers set expectations, we will answer your top offer questions — like how long sellers have to accept an offer — and break down the general timeline from offer to closing.
What the offer process looks like
You did it. You made your offer. Let’s say the seller doesn’t reject it — what happens next? There are two potential outcomes: They accept your offer, or they counter your offer.
The best-case scenario is that they accept your offer, and then you quickly move onto the home inspection stage.
If they counter your offer (which is more common in a seller’s market), the seller may come back to you with a proposed price or terms change. Maybe your offer price was too low or they want to agree to an earlier closing date. The reasons sellers have for countering depend on their unique needs and preferences.
If the seller submits a counteroffer, you typically have around 72 hours to respond, but the seller will note the exact amount of time you have to respond in their official counteroffer. The seller may only give you a chance to accept or deny the offer, or they may allow you to re-counter.
Unfortunately, you may not hear back at all after you submit an offer to a seller. This may be because they had many other (and perhaps better) offers to consider, or because your offer was so low they didn’t think that a counteroffer would be worth their time. If the seller doesn’t respond to your offer in the designated time frame, your offer becomes void.
How long should you wait to hear back after your offer?
Eager buyers probably have one big question on their mind — just how long does a seller have to accept an offer? Generally, after you make your offer on a home, the seller or their agent will get back to you within 24 to 72 hours.
If it does take longer than that timeframe, don’t stress about it too much, there are plenty of factors that may lead a seller to be slow to respond to your offer. If the seller has multiple offers to consider, they may need some extra time to mull over their choices. Life also gets in the way — if the seller is on vacation or has a busy schedule, they may need more time to get their ducks in a row.
If you put an offer in on a home that a bank is selling because of foreclosure or as a short sale, you should expect it to take much longer to hear back on your offer. You may hear back in five days or you may have to wait a month or longer for a response.
Certain states, like California, allow you to set time limits that determine how long the seller has to respond to your offer and your real estate agent will be aware of how these legal limits work in your state. This may appeal to those in a rush or who have a few different homes on their wishlist. If you find yourself interested in more than one home, you need to know where you stand so you can make other offers if necessary.
To keep things moving along, your agent will work with you to set a contractual time limit on your offer. This “time limit of offer” period is when the offer is active and the seller can respond. If the seller surpasses this limit, the contract becomes void and the buyer must present a new offer if they still wish to continue the process.
It’s important to be strategic when you set a time limit, as too short of a limit may make the buyer feel rushed or annoyed, which isn’t likely to work in your favor. On the flip side, if your time limit is too lengthy, that gives other buyers a chance to swoop in and make an offer. Again, consult your real estate agent here.
How long should a negotiation take?
If the seller comes to you with a counteroffer, the timeline to nail everything down will vary as you may volley the offer back and forth while you work together to find an offer that satisfies both parties.
Price isn’t the only detail you may need to work out during a negotiation. Timelines for contingencies, closing dates, the amount of money you put into the earnest deposit, and the ability to purchase some of the seller’s furniture are just a few of the details you’ll need to iron out.
What happens if the buyer does not accept a counter offer? The seller can choose to continue with the negotiations or reject the buyer’s latest bid and move on.
Usually the seller is just as eager to move the process along as the buyer, so any delays tend to come down to how quickly the two real estate agents coordinate communication with their clients and each other.
To speed up the negotiation process, know what your priorities are before you even begin. Choose one or two must-haves before you start so you can act swiftly and confidently when it comes time to form counter offers and can focus on getting what you truly want.
Once you finish negotiations and the seller accepts the buyer’s offer, they’ll move onto the closing process, which is typically the stage that takes the longest.
What’s the timeline of the offer to closing?
Typically, closing on a house takes about 30 to 45 days, so if you add on a week or two for the seller to consider an offer and to work through any counter offer negotiations, it can take around two months to complete the offer to closing process.
Keep in mind: The negotiation process doesn’t stop once the seller accepts the offer. Even once you sign a purchase offer that agrees to a certain price and terms, there is still room for negotiation. This is because you’ll begin the inspection and home appraisal process which may bring attention to issues with the home.
The process of buying a home often takes longer than we’d like, so be patient and know that it will all work out.