As a buyer, you can usually counter offer the seller of a home when you disagree with sale terms. By agreeing to make provisions that are favorable to you, the seller gets you to commit to buying the house. The counteroffer stage occurs before the seller agrees to sell you the home, and you can still counteroffer after obtaining a seller's "final offer." The seller can also refuse to negotiate further and move on if your counter isn't compelling enough, however.
A counteroffer allows you to continue negotiations while declining a former offer. The objective of a counteroffer is to iron out the details before a final offer is accepted. Once the terms of the final agreement are reached, and both sides have signed the contract -- including all counteroffers -- in acceptance, each party must abide by the terms. To try to change the contract after a final offer has been accepted is difficult and risky, unless you have a compelling reason for the change of heart.
Seller's Final Offer
A seller may deliver her final offer after several rounds of counteroffering or simply after seeing an initial offer. The seller's motivation to sell and her negotiating ability usually influence when she will answer with her final offer. A motivated seller typically engages a buyer in negotiations for as long as it takes to sell the home under the most favorable terms, whereas a seller who is committed to getting a specific price or terms has less tolerance for counteroffering.
Depending on market conditions -- whether buyers have a hard time finding homes or sellers have difficulty finding willing buyers -- you might successfully counteroffer after a seller's final offer. This requires a bit of bluffing on both sides and the patience to stomach the period of uncertainty. A seller who sends you a final offer may mull her decision and after a few days decide to move forward with you if she hasn't received competitive offers in the interim. A counteroffer during this period can re-open negotiations, especially if your counteroffer improves terms for the seller, such as her bottom line.
You might have compelling reasons to counteroffer a seller's final offer. For example, perhaps you research the property and discover that the home is worth much more than you thought because of a recent high-end comparable sale or amenity you were previously unaware of. Or the property might be worth significantly less than you thought due to structural or title issues that came up during an inspection or public-records search. Counteroffering with documentation to support your new bid may help you successfully negotiate a deal after a seller's supposed "final offer."
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