Is there a limit on the number of real estate counteroffers home buyers and sellers can make?
You might be wondering this if you're in the throes of negotiating a real estate deal. You offer X, the seller counteroffers with Y, you volley back and hope it's over; yet on and on it goes, like a never-ending tennis match. Exactly how long can this last? Is there a limit to real estate counteroffers?
Alas, there is not.
“Unfortunately, there’s no legal limit to how many counteroffers buyers and sellers can make,” says Michele Lerner, author of "Homebuying: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time." “Counteroffers can be made as part of the negotiating process until there’s a signed agreement between the buyer and seller, or the seller decides to take their home off the market.”
Real estate counteroffers, explained: Why won't they stop?
In some cases, a stream of counteroffers might be a stalling tactic on the part of sellers who are really hoping a better offer rolls in. That makes sense for them, but it’s plenty frustrating if you’re trying to buy the property.
“One way to get past your frustration and perhaps move negotiations forward is to mentally put yourself in the seller's position,” Lerner says. “If you owned this home, you might want to hold out for the highest possible offer, too.”
If you really want this home—and suspect sellers are holding out for more money—then one thing you can do to safeguard your deal is to include an escalation clause, which basically says, "I will pay a certain price for this home, but if the seller receives another offer that's higher than mine, I'm willing to increase my offer."
Kathryn Bishop, a Realtor® in Studio City, CA, says if you do include such a clause, you should make sure to get in writing that the escalation applies only to a verified offer. “Verification includes a copy of the highest offer to the buyer's agent and a copy of the proof of funds or pre-approval so these can be verified.”
How to end a real estate counteroffer stalemate
In some cases, it’s really not about money. Your Realtor should be able to find out from the listing agent what the sellers really want and if there are other interested buyers.
“If the sellers are looking for flexibility on the closing date or want you to waive the home inspection contingency, you may be able to win their signature on a contract without offering more money,” Lerner says. “You should still have a home inspection for information purposes so you know what you are buying. You can also offer to have the sellers live in the home rent-free for a period of time if they need to find their next home.”
Sean Keene of the Keene Group in Oregon says he’s seen as many as six counteroffers in a deal—which is too many.
“After the first couple, people are getting petty over little things," he says. "The agents should be on the phone talking it out way before that point and get it done.”
Sometimes, however, the deal is just not meant to be.
“Unfortunately, you may also find you simply cannot compete, and the sellers will accept another buyer’s offer,” Lerner says. “In that case, you’ll need to move on and look for a home in the same area or another neighborhood that meets your requirements.”