Once you find the home you want, it’s time to make the seller a written offer to purchase. Depending on the circumstances your offering price might be higher, equal to, or lower than the seller’s asking price. Remember that the legalities of this phase are very important. If you have any questions or concerns, they need to be addressed right away. After all, no one has ever said at their closing, “I wish I had asked fewer questions.”
After the offer is drawn up and signed, it will usually be presented to the seller by your REALTOR®, by the seller’s REALTOR® if that’s a different agent, or often by the two together. The seller may accept your offer, reject it, or counter your offer.
- OPTION 1 – Rejection: If the offer is rejected, that’s that, and the sellers could not later change their minds and hold you to it.
- OPTION 2 – Acceptance: If the seller accepts the offer, and signs an acceptance, you have a deal. If not, you are free to walk away, and cannot be held liable for the contract. You should receive a signed copy of the offer immediately. When you actually receive a copy of the offer signed by the sellers, you have what’s called a ratified offer (that is, a signed or accepted offer). This doesn’t mean that you own the house or that it has been sold. All you can say for now is that a sale is pending.
- OPTION 3 – Counter: If the seller likes everything except the sale price, or the proposed closing date, or some other condition of the sale, you may receive a written counteroffer, with the changes the seller prefers. You are then free to accept or reject it or to even make your own counteroffer. If you really want the home, this phase of the game can be nerve-racking. You worry about another buyer making the sellers a better offer and stealing the house away while you’re trying to get the price down that last $1,000. You don’t want to pay a penny more than you have to. The sellers don’t want to leave any money on the table.
The document becomes a binding contract only when one party finally signs an unconditional acceptance of the other side’s proposal. Each time either party makes any change in the terms, the other side is free to accept or reject it, or counter again.