How Long Does a Seller Have to Accept an Offer?

By 

Jamie Ayers

Updated 

May 29th, 2019

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The ball is in the seller’s court — you’ve submitted an offer and now you play the waiting game. But how long will you have to wait? Here’s the typical amount of time a seller has to accept your offer and what their response may look like.

You’ve spent hours upon hours looking for the perfect home and you’ve finally found it! You submitted your best offer to the seller, but now what? Well, enjoy a martini, sit back, and wait.

Usually, the seller has about 72 hours to decide what to do with your offer, but the default amount can vary by state, or be determined by adjusting this deadline in the purchase agreement your buyer’s agent may submit on your behalf.

California, for example, defaults to 5 p.m. on the third day after the initial offer is signed by the buyer. If you completed paperwork on Monday at 2 p.m., the seller would need to respond by 5 p.m. on Thursday or the offer would expire. States vary on specifics, but generally, unless you give your agent authority to accept a response from the seller on your behalf, it isn’t official until it hits your hands.

An exception to the 48 to 72 hour norm is when a bank is selling the property, either due to foreclosure or as a short sale. In this case, a response can take longer — anywhere from five days to a month or more.

How long does the seller have to accept an offer?

Learn about how offers work and get the best deal with a Partner Agent.

What Happens After I Submit an Offer?

Submitting an offer on a home can feel like a first date — will they call? Will you get a second date? Will you get ghosted? After you submit your offer, the seller can either accept the offer as is, counter your offer, or simply not respond. Here’s a breakdown of how each of these options works.

Accept Your Offer

If your offer is a good one — meaning at or above asking price, with quick closing, and no contingencies — and it’s a buyer’s market, the seller may simply accept your offer as is prior to the specified deadline. This is the easiest scenario and then you can move on to the next step, requesting a home inspection and negotiating repairs.

Counter Your Offer

When it’s a seller’s market and/or the seller doesn’t like something in your offer, they may counter your offer with a change in price or terms. They may ask for more money, an earlier closing date, or removal of a home sale contingency — a relatively common stipulation you must sell your own home in order to be tied to the contract.

If a seller submits a counteroffer, the clock starts over and now you have 72 hours or whatever amount of time is noted in the counteroffer to accept, or re-counter. The better your initial offer, the less back-and-forth there will be, and the greater chance you’ll have at beating out other potential buyers.

Let the Offer Expire

The seller may simply let the deadline for their response pass by without contacting you at all. In this case, it signals that your offer was way off the mark in the eyes of the seller. Either you submitted a lowball offer or your terms and contingencies were too many — either way, the seller doesn’t want to waste their time even responding because they don’t think you’ll ever be able to come to a consensus.

Another possibility, especially in a seller’s market, is that the seller received so many other, better offers that they’re spending their time negotiating with the top offers, rather than sending you a rejection letter. If a seller doesn’t respond in the designated timeframe, the offer is voided and neither party is tied to anything legally.

What About Multiple Offers

Especially in a seller’s market, there’s a likelihood that the seller has received or expects to receive multiple offers for their home. This gives the seller leverage to negotiate to get the best terms possible. They may counter multiple offers — especially if their main driving factor is price. Or, they may hold off on contacting all of the offers except the best one — spending their time negotiating with that particular buyers.

How To Increase Your Chances

The key to having your offer accepted quickly is to know the market and what the home is worth. You don’t want to overpay, but you want to make sure your offer is more attractive than offers from other potential buyers. There’s a fine balance.

As a general rule, the less contingencies and the more bland the contract, the better — especially in a seller’s market when there are multiple offers to choose from. For example, a traditional loan may be more attractive to a seller than an FHA loan since the latter is known for having stricter rules related to repairs the seller must make in order for the buyer’s loan to go through. If the buyer’s loan doesn’t get through, the sale doesn’t go through.

Also, the more of a down payment you can make, the better. This also has to do with your mortgage getting approved. If you make a small down payment (some FHA loans require as little as 3.5%), and your lender’s appraisal comes in way under the agreed upon purchase price, your lender likely won’t approve the loan because it’s too risky — you’ve got too little of equity in the home from the start. Again, no loan, no sale.

Work With An Expert

If you’re looking to buy a home, connect with an experienced, local agent for guidance and support throughout the process. They can help you create a competitive offer in your specific market that is most likely to meet the seller’s expectations.

Clever Partner Agents are also able to offer on-demand showings — sometimes in less than an hour — so you know you won’t miss out on your future home, especially in a seller’s market. Plus, you’re eligible for a $1,000 buyer’s rebate on any home you purchase for more than $150,000 (in 40 states).

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