Buyers charging at an open houseMultiple offers continue to be a common occurrence in Silicon Valley right now, at least among well priced, well presented homes that are reasonably accessible. When facing multiple bids on a property, some sellers will just take the one they like best, or do a verbal negotiation to get the sale price and terms where they want it. This leaves those on the outside wondering “Why didn’t I get a counter offer?”

When there are an abundance of home buyers for one property, it can be overwhelming for the seller.  Some home owners may want to issue a multiple counter offer to the best qualified, most serious bidders.  (It is unlikely that every buyer will get one if there are a lot of bidders, as some may be too low or have terms that are too cumbersome.) Some sellers will issue just one, regular counter to the top buyer – but that is increasingly less popular, since if that buyer rejects the counter, the seller may then be back to Square One.

How to sellers choose which offer to counter?

Often, the highest price is not the offer with the best terms, even in a bidding war.  Home sellers want both, of course – the least risk with the most cash. (Sometimes there are other factors, too, such as a rent back, escrow length, or other issues beyond cash and risk.)  In those cases, frequently the Realtor or real estate sales person (the listing agent) will coach the seller to counter one or more of the better buyers (best prices and terms) to improve the final sale on both counts.   Some sellers don’t want to do this, though – it’s stressful, they are afraid that everyone will say no and they’ll be left with the property unsold.  Alternatively, then, they may counter only one offer – and tell the buyer’s agent that they are the only one, at least for now. If negotiations don’t work with the first buyer, the listing agent may go back to the others.

When you are waiting for a response to your purchase offer…

Meanwhile, everyone waits, everyone wonders what’s going on.  The longer it takes to hear back, usually the lower the odds are that their contract will be the successful one, or even one getting a counter offer. Sometimes, though, the seller just wants to sleep on it.

Lost out?

If you heard that you didn’t get it, it’s helpful to ask for some feedback. Some listing agents will tell your buyer’s agent “you were close, but the other offers had no contingencies” or “we got 10 offers, and yours was in the bottom third”. This is a great opportunity to learn so that  your next offer attempt has a better chance.

Without that information, you will be left wondering, again, “Why didn’t I get a counter offer?” “Why didn’t the seller at least give me a second chance?”  Buyers wonder this all the time.  Some buyers submit 5 or 10 offers, all unsuccessful, and they still wonder.  The harsh reality is simple: your offer wasn’t good enough.  Either your price or your terms (or supporting documents) didn’t cut it. Write your contract as if you only have one chance, because that’s the reality most of the time.





  • Mary Pope-Handy

    Silicon Valley Realtor, selling homes in Los Gatos, Saratoga, San Jose, Silicon Valley, and nearby since 1993. Prolific blogger with a network of sites.

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