How to Counter-Offer on a House

How to Counter-Offer on a House
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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.


  • When considering multiple counter-offers from the same person, number the the offers to avoid confusion. Use these numbers, as well as the date and time of the counter-offer, when accepting or declining terms. Use terms such as, "The seller accepts the price of (insert price from counter offer) listed on counter-offer #1, dated (calendar date) at (time)." This avoids confusion when dealing with sales terms from multiple counter-offers.

    Use a different colored highlighter to mark the top of counter-offers from multiple potential buyers, if allowed in your state. In hot real estate markets, sellers sometimes make the same counter offer to numerous buyers at the same time. The highlighting helps keep the counters matched with the original offers.


  • Put all contract terms in writing to protect both buyer and seller.