No News from the Seller? — Not Necessarily Good News
What’s the standard time frame for a seller to accept an offer? There’s no such thing as a standard time frame, it depends on how active the market is, how many other offers (if any) the seller is considering as well as the seller’s individual situation and availability (i.e. one of the spouses being out of town, etc.)
It can vary based on the buyer’s needs, the seller’s needs—even customs in a local real estate market. Time frames are initially specified by what the buyer or his/her agent specifies on the purchase agreement. Once the seller sees the offer, he has the opportunity to amend the time frame specified by the buyer; but to do so constitutes a counter-offer, a brand-new offer that the buyer doesn’t have to accept.
Most buyers want the seller to respond in the quickest time frame possible. This is especially true in strong seller’s markets prevailing in a majority of the country today. Characterized by few available properties, buyers are eager to hear a positive response back on their offer in order to lock up the property.
Conversely in a buyer’s market where many properties are available, a buyer could feel less urgency to hear back promptly from the seller. But by giving the seller a leisurely time frame in which to respond, all buyers run the risk of the seller “shopping” that offer to other potential buyers. It’s possible that during a long time frame for acceptance, the buyer making the initial “catalyst” offer could lose out on the property entirely, without the ability to make a counter offer to match a competing buyer’s price or terms for the property.
What can you do if you fail to note a reasonable time frame for acceptance on your purchase agreement to the seller? Right the wrong immediately, notifying the seller’ agent (ideally in fax or email, rather than by phone) the time frame under which the offer will remain open. If it’s been several days since presenting the offer to the seller (as with the questioning buyer I encountered!) asking for an answer in twenty-four hours could be acceptable.
No matter how you initially contact the seller with this information, back up your request with a written addendum (faxed, mailed or emailed to the seller’s agent). This will not only reinforce your interest in the property but could be an opportunity to move the seller to a decision—hopefully in your favor.