In theory, there's no rule about how quickly a seller has to respond to purchase offers. You can take as long as you want before responding since there is no official time frame. However, the industry standard is to get back to interested buyers within 24 to 72 hours. This is a common courtesy observed by many professionals in the industry.
The exception is for certain states, such as California, where an offer will be considered revoked if it's not signed by the seller and delivered back to the buyer by 5 P.M. on the third day after the buyer signs it. A buyer can enter a specific date into the agreement or keep the default of the third day. In this case, all money paid by the buyer, such as earnest money, would be promptly refunded.
In states that don’t have specific rules and guidelines, sellers usually respond within one to three business days.
When an offer from a qualified buyer comes in, you can respond in one of three main ways:
1. Accept the Offer as-is
This is the best case scenario for any buyer making an offer. Should you receive a spectacular offer where you agree to all the terms, conditions, and contingencies in the purchase contract, it could be worth signing on the spot. Accepting an offer sans any changes means the buyer can now move to the home inspection.
2. Send a Counteroffer
While some offers may be close to what you were looking for, some may still contain a few deal breakers on your end. This is when you can make a counteroffer, which lets you come back with a proposed price or change of terms to meet your needs and keep the conversation going. When you respond to an offer with a counteroffer, it may include different things, such as:
A higher price.
A lower price but with a proposal to take out appliances or furniture initially included in the price.
A different split of the closing costs.
Different contingencies or the conditions to be met to complete the deal.
A change in the closing date.
Once you send a counteroffer, the buyer will have a deadline for them to respond. They will only have a chance to accept or deny the offer.
3. Reject the Buyer's Offer in Writing
Especially in a seller’s market, it isn’t uncommon to receive multiple offers on your property. While you’re not obligated to send a written rejection to an offer, it is considered the polite thing to do. This signals to the buyer that it’s time to move on to another property. However, once you’ve rejected an offer in writing, it is difficult to extend that buyer a counteroffer should your original accepted offer fall through.
While you or your listing agent may acknowledge receipt of a buyer's offer, that’s not the same thing as responding to it. Here are several reasons why you may not respond:
Offer Is Too High or Too Low
A lowball offer or an offer that is significantly below the asking price could be insulting and may signify that the buyer isn’t serious. Meanwhile, an offer that is too high may not be realistic, especially if the buyer will need financing. The lender will only approve a loan after an appraisal is completed and within the home’s market value.
You Want to Review All Offers at Once
If you want to review all offers at once, it’s a good idea to wait until all offers are in before responding to buyers. The only downside is that other qualified buyers who are hoping for a quick reply may simply withdraw their offers.
You’re Waiting to Hold a Public Open House
If you have an open house scheduled soon, it may be wise to hold off on reviewing offers until after the event to increase your chances of receiving the best offer.
Work With a Top and Experienced Real Estate Agent
Entertaining and reviewing purchase offers will be a lot less stressful when you have a real estate professional by your side. They will help you pick the “best” offer for your circumstances and not just automatically the one with the highest offer price. Working with an experienced realtor will also ensure that you are well educated on the process.
Create a Pros and Cons List
With the help of your agent, you can create a spreadsheet to clearly see the benefits and drawbacks of all offers on the table. Will you choose a higher offer price but with a shorter closing period, or a slightly lower offer price but with a flexible closing date? Working through the pros and cons will help you settle these considerations depending on your current situation, and hopefully will help you make the best decision.