You might think that once a buyer makes an offer on your home that the stress of the sales process will disappear. In reality, though, that offer is just the first step of what is often a long and emotional negotiation. If that first offer comes in far too low, you'll have to negotiate with your buyer until you can reach agreement on a fair price. And if you can't? Then the sale might fall through.
Determine the Change(s) You Want
Study the buyer's original offer. Determine what you like and what you don't like about it. Often, the price that the buyer is quoting -- especially on a first offer -- will be too low. Other times, the buyer's offer might specify that you must replace your home's roof, shore up its foundation or make other expensive repairs before the sale closes. Your buyer might even specify a closing date that is too soon or too far off.
Draft Your Counteroffer
Write a counteroffer that addresses your concerns. If your buyer is offering too little, write a counteroffer that boosts that price to a level you'll accept. If you don't want to make any expensive repairs, write a counteroffer that states that you will not be replacing roofs or making other costly improvements to your home.
If the closing date is an issue, write a counteroffer that states when you would like to close. You could provide a range of acceptable dates. You can either draft this offer on your own or you can tell your real estate agent -- if you are working with one -- what you want to see in it. Your agent will then share the completed letter with you for your approval.
Set a Response Time Limit
Add a date and time by which you expect to hear a response from the buyer. This will help move the negotiation process along. If you don't hear back from the buyer within this time, you can assume that the buyer is rejecting your counteroffer.
Send Your Counteroffer
Fax or email the signed counteroffer either directly to the buyer -- if she is not working with a real estate agent -- or to the real estate representing her. You can either send this offer to your buyer directly or you can have your real estate agent send the offer.
Wait for a Reply
The buyer will have three options: She can either submit another counteroffer, accept your offer or reject your offer outright and drop out of the bidding for your home.
Review the Buyer's Counteroffer
The buyer may make a counteroffer to your counteroffer; if so, review her new offer. Determine if you are close enough that another round or two of negotiations will close a sale. If you are too far apart, you might want to simply reject the buyer's counteroffer and hope to find a new buyer who will be more willing to accept your terms.
Don Rafner has been writing professionally since 1992, with work published in "The Washington Post," "Chicago Tribune," "Phoenix Magazine" and several trade magazines. He is also the managing editor of "Midwest Real Estate News." He specializes in writing about mortgage lending, personal finance, business and real-estate topics. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Illinois.