How to Handle a Home Seller’s Counteroffer

When you have found a home you want to buy and submitted a purchase offer to the sellers or the sellers’ agent, the sellers have the right to accept it or make a counteroffer.

The likelihood of your receiving a counteroffer depends on several factors, including whether your local market is skewed in favor of buyers or sellers, how long the home has been on the market, how eager the sellers are to move, and whether your offer comes close to the sellers’ expectations.

Typically, a counteroffer will include a higher price and/or a larger earnest money deposit, a different closing date, a change in the contingencies or the timing of the contingencies, or an exclusion of specific fees. You can accept it, reject it, or make a counteroffer in return.

A counteroffer will always include an expiration date. If you don’t respond by the seller’s expiration date, the offer is void and the seller can accept an offer from someone else.

What to Do With a Counteroffer

Your decision about how to handle a counteroffer will depend, in part, on how much you want this particular house.

If you’re fine with the sellers’ conditions in their counteroffer, you can simply accept the offer by signing it.

If you don’t like the counteroffer, you and your REALTOR® should discuss the specifics of the offer and see if there are parts of it that you can accept. You can make a counteroffer to the sellers with a new price or a different set of contingency dates or a larger earnest money deposit—anything that’s acceptable to you and that you think could sway the homeowners to sell their property to you.

Keep in mind that you need to stay within the confines of your pre-approved mortgage and that the house must appraise so that its value is equal to or larger than the sale price.

Once you make a counteroffer to the sellers’ counteroffer, you will be obligated to go through with the deal if the sellers accept it. So, make sure you are comfortable with your offer.

The sellers may not respond to your offer. If they don’t and you still want the house, you can make another counteroffer within a week or so to see if you can nudge them into negotiating.

Your best resource during this stage of buying a home is your REALTOR®. Ask your REALTOR® to talk to the listing agent and find out what is most important to the sellers—such as, the move-out date, the price, or perhaps avoiding having to make repairs. The more you know about the sellers’ motivations, the easier it is to tailor your offer so that it’s acceptable to them.


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