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How to respond to an offer to purchase

When you receive an Offer

Homebuyers typically anticipate a response after taking the time to write an offer. However, sellers are under no legal obligation to respond or otherwise entertain an offer. To improve your chances of gaining a seller response, follow the offer instructions precisely and make your offer competitive. A licensed real estate agent – either your own or the seller's – can help you.

Sellers are not legally required to respond to your offer to buy a home.

Acknowledgment vs. Response
Although it is neither illegal or unethical to ignore or otherwise dismiss a buyer's proposal to purchase the place, a buyer or his agent usually expect the selling side to acknowledge receipt. When hired to represent a seller, the listing agent is a fiduciary and must look out for his seller's best interests, which includes keeping an eye out for incoming offers. When an agent confirms receipt of a formal written offer, it indicates the offer is under consideration. California and other states require an agent to present all offers, but a listing agent may do so if the seller requests explicitly in writing that the agent only present offers that meet specific criteria. A prudent buyer or buyer's agent confirms receipt of the offer to improve chances for a response.

Reasons Sellers Don't Respond
Sellers may dismiss offers they deem unreasonable, incomplete, or otherwise not in their best interests. Because the offering stage is a buyer's main opportunity to engage a seller, a good offer displays the buyer's readiness, willingness and ability to buy the home. Sellers may choose not to deal with offers well below the asking price, commonly known as "low-ball" offers, especially if they have better offers on the table. When sellers receive multiple offers, they may choose to respond only to the strongest offers and rule out offers they perceive as weak. Sellers also might choose to ignore offers that contain what they deem unreasonable terms, such as little or no earnest money deposit or excessive seller concessions.

Types of Seller Response
A seller can take one of four actions after receiving a buyer's offer: accept the offer as-is; counteroffer with specific terms; reject the offer outright; or forego responding at all. A buyer has a better chance of making a deal with the seller if he reconsiders his initial terms and meets the seller in part, or entirely, on a counteroffer. The counteroffer stage can continue until both parties agree or one decides to walk away. Rejecting or ignoring the latest counteroffer can mean that the previous offer or counteroffer still stands. Offer deadlines can help determine when the counteroffer stage is dead, however, direct communication with the seller or listing agent is the best way to resolve this.

Offer Expiration Dates and Counteroffers
The California Association of Realtors' Residential Purchase Agreement and Joint Escrow Instructions states that, unless otherwise specified, the buyer's offer expires at 5 p.m. on the third day after the buyer signs the offer. As such, the typical time frame for seller response is three days; however, the buyer can extend the response deadline or place a more stringent expiration date by writing it into the agreement.

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