Etiquette Of Countering And Refusing Home Offers: What to know as the owner and the buyer

home buyer and home seller negotiating

Buying your first house is such an exciting process… until you get into the thick of it. By the time you're shopping for your new home, whether it's in sunny San Diego or the mountains of Denver, it can seem like the biggest hurdles are behind you. By then you've saved the money you need, gotten pre-approved for a mortgage, and have even found the area (or maybe even your dream home!) where you want to live.

Then comes the offering and counter offering process. Whether you're on the seller side and fielding offers that are less than ideal or you're on the buyer side and being met with radio silence, the offering phase of the home buying process can be a stressful one.

Luckily, there are plenty of people who have done this before you! Here are tips and tricks from both sides of the home offer process.

The Buyer Side: What To Know If Your House Offer Was Declined

Getting a rejection on your offer is tough. It can be disappointing and demoralizing, especially if you had your heart set on that one special house. Here's some things to know:

Can sellers reject my full-price offer?

The thing is, sellers are allowed to reject any offer they want as long as it's not for discriminatory reasons. Sellers can reject full-price offers, offers that they feel are too low, and even offers that they feel are too high — especially if they're worried that the funding won't actually come through in the end.

Sellers can reject an offer if they simply don't feel like (for non-discriminatory reasons) that you're not the right person for the place that they've grown sentimentally attached to. If your agent doesn't get along with the seller's agent, that could be a reason a seller might pass on an offer, too.

Sellers also aren't required to offer a reason for why they reject an offer, so you might be stuck with very little information about why your offer wasn't selected. That can be hard to stomach, but all is not lost. A rejected offer doesn't mean the end of the process.

What to do when a seller rejects your offer: Making a counter offer as a buyer

When sellers reject an offer, some of them will come back with a counter offer in response to your original offer. Now, the buyer is in the driver's seat and it's your turn to accept, reject, or counter the offer. (More on art of counter offers in a bit).

If a seller doesn't provide a counter offer with their rejection, don't fret. You still have the chance to make another offer if you really want the house and have the ability to go beyond your first offer. There's always the option to offer more money, but there are other elements to tinker with, too. You change the amount of the earnest money deposit you offered, for example, or you can waive other demands you might have made in your first offer for repairs, upgrades, and the like.

The seller side: Do I have to accept an offer on my house?

Whether it's an original offer or a counter offer, sellers are allowed to reject any offers they receive as long as the reason isn't discriminatory as defined by the Fair Housing Act.

However, if you receive an offer that's close but not quite what you're looking for, you'll probably want to make a counter offer alongside your rejection. This gives you the opportunity to ask for what you want in an offer and see if the buyer is willing to make some changes. It's all just one big back and forth process!

The etiquette of refusing a home offer

While there aren't many rules to rejecting an offer, there are etiquette guidelines to follow:

  • Respond in a timely manner. It can be especially hard to be prompt when you're furling a ton of offers, but remember that people's hopes and dreams are hinging on your decision. The sooner you let them know, the better. Whatever you do, don't leave buyers hanging. If you just let offers expire rather than respond to them, you're very unlikely to get counter offers from them.

  • Either simply refuse the offer or provide a counter. If you're sure that you don't want a buyer's offer and aren't interested in seeing counter offers from them, just refuse the offer outright. If you want to counter, make your desired changes to the purchase agreement and send it back. The cleaner you can keep the document, the better for everyone involved.

Real estate counter offer etiquette

Just like there's etiquette guiding the seller side of the home buying interaction, there's also etiquette to guide the buyer side as well:

  • Politely decline a counter offer that doesn't work for you. If the seller comes back with a counter offer that isn't a fit for you, all you need to do is politely and promptly decline or counter with an offer of your own.

  • Avoid knee-jerk reactions like rushing into a panic buy. Candice Pagliarulo Hodgson, an owner and principal broker at Lyv Realty in Massachusetts's North Shore area, told NextAdvisor that she advises her clients to ground themselves in their numbers before bidding and counter offering. When your dream home feels like it's on the line, it can be easy to go overboard — a decision you could regret later and one that could deeply annoy sellers if it doesn't pan out.

  • Don't take a rejection personally. This is a financial translation above all else. Don't scoff at a rejection. Instead, if you want to pursue a counter offer, take the rejection for what it is: a trigger for the next step in the process.

The whole offering and counter offering process can be stressful. It's possible to go it alone, but finding the right realtor can be key to transforming a stressful process into a do-able one. Plus, even if this is all new to you, it isn't to them. Any good realtor will be by your side, walking you through everything you need to know about the offer and counter offer process.