Know what happens after you submit an offer on a house.
You finally found the perfect house and have decided to make an offer. With the help of your real estate agent, you determine the amount and terms of your offer, put it in writing, and give your agent the go-ahead to submit it. Now what? Unfortunately, now you wait. While you do, you’re probably wondering, “How long does a seller have to accept an offer, anyway?”
It depends—but it’s usually around 48 to 72 hours after the offer is submitted. A standard real estate purchase contract specifies how much time a seller is given to consider and act on an offer. But the timeframe can be much longer if a bank is selling the property, such as in the case of a foreclosure or short sale.
Once you have submitted an offer, the seller has several options. They can of course immediately accept your offer. They can also come back with a counter-offer, which may time some time for them to decide upon. If they do counter-offer, the clock starts all over again and it is now up to you to decide how to proceed and if you want to negotiate. The seller can also do nothing, at least for a while. Often, they’re waiting to see if they get any other offers.
Multiple offers happen a lot in a seller’s market. In this situation, the seller can be choosy about what they do next. They can simply accept the highest offer. Or they can counter one or more offers, trying to see how high they can get each buyer to go. They can also put all but one offer on hold while they counter or negotiate with that particular buyer.
Sometimes the price itself isn’t the most important factor to a seller. They may be more interested in other things, such as a contingency for a quick closing, which might be important if they are selling and buying a house at the same time. Or they may want their home to go to a family instead of a developer. If the home is new construction, the price and terms will likely be the most important factors.
Aside from submitting your highest possible offer, you can put as few conditions on the offer as possible, proposing a quick closing and including other seller-friendly terms. If the seller has a strong sentimental connection, having your real estate agent pass along a note about why you love the property might sway the seller. Employing a variety of tactics to help position yourself as a dream buyer will help lessen your odds of facing the disappointment of losing out on a house you really wanted.
If the seller doesn’t take any action before the deadline, the offer will expire. Once that expiration date passes, the buyer is no longer obligated to honor it, and any money they have submitted as a deposit can be returned to them.
This is where a good real estate agent will be a huge help. They can ensure that the contract clearly spells out the deadline to act on the offer, and can advise you one the best timeframe. Your real estate agent can also help “nudge” the seller’s agent if the deadline is approaching and they haven’t taken any action yet.