How to Counter-Offer on a House

by Lee Grayson
Counter-offers are common before buyers and sellers come to an agreement on a home sale.

Buyers and sellers use the counter-offer as a type of formal negotiation to come to agreement on a final contract for a home sale. Some states require the use of approved counter-offer forms or contracts using specific language to propose changes to the original sales offer. Other states ask the seller or buyer to simply cross out any unacceptable terms on the original sales offer and initial the changes. Whatever the requirements, both buyer and seller need to keep copies of the counter-offers as legal documents to submit to the real estate attorney or escrow officer.

Make a list of the differences between the original listing contract and the offer.

Discuss the first difference and make a note on your flexibility on this change.

Discuss each of the differences separately and make notes on your flexibility on each new condition. Don't overlap issues or combine the discussion of the issues at this point.

Review your notes for all of the counter-issues to determine how far apart the two positions are from the original contract language.

Rank the proposed changes in order of importance to you. For example, the offered price may be $10,000 lower than your original sales asking price, and this lower price may be the most important to you in refusing the counter-offer.

Compare and contrast all of the offer issues using your notes. The listing agreement, for example, may allow the buyer possession of the house a day after the close of escrow, but the offer asks for immediate possession of the house. That extra day may no longer matter to you if you can sell your house for closer to the asking price.

Write a counter-offer using your notes to align your points with the offer. Use clear language to indicate agreement or disagreement, such as, "The seller agrees to the buyer taking possession of the house on the day escrow closes on (specific calendar date)."

Specify a date and time for the counter-offer to expire. Use language such as "This counter-offer expires on (calendar date) at (time)." The deadline encourages quick action and allows the counter-offer to serve as the end date requirement for a legally recognized contract.

Date and sign the counter-offer.

Submit a written copy of the counter-offer to the prospective buyer or the buyer's real estate agent or real estate attorney. Some states allow faxed or digital copies, but others require delivering a paper document for final signatures with the acceptance of the counter-offer.

About the Author

Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.

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