What is a counteroffer?

Updated June 25, 2021

During the back and forth of real estate negotiations, the counteroffer is a prime tool used by the seller to respond to a prospective buyer’s initial offer. It sets the tone for the rest of the process.

It works like this: The buyer makes an offer; the seller makes a counteroffer; the buyer makes a counter-counteroffer and so they go until they agree on all the terms of the sale or agree that they can’t agree and break off communication and negotiations.

The sales price is the driving force of the counteroffer/counter-counteroffer routine, but other points of negotiation often come into the picture.

Buyers and sellers also jockey over the timing of the date of possession, the amount of the earnest money deposit, the home warranty on appliances and the inclusion/exclusion of specific pieces of personal property such as furniture, window treatments and lighting fixtures.

Counteroffers, which come with expiration dates, can be responded to verbally or in writing by the buyer, but the seller is not obligated to reply to any offers the prospective buyer submits.