Home shopping can be a nerve-racking process! Some days, it may feel like you’ll never find the right combination of location, good schools, back yard, and square footage. But then you find it! The one! Your agent helps you write an offer, and now you’re nervously waiting for some word from the seller. And you’re dying to know — how after making an offer on a house do you hear back?

Let’s help you set some expectations.

a person checking their phone to see if they've heard back after making an offer on a house.
Source: (NordWood Themes / Unsplash)

Short answer: One to three days

It’s unlikely your phone will ring that night. A one-to-three-day wait is pretty standard.

Chris Creegan is an experienced agent in Orlando, Florida, who works with 66% more single-family homes than other agents in his area. He says that in the 2021 housing market, “Sellers are really trying to hold out for multiple offers and to use that to bid against each other.” If you’re in a hot market, it could take a few days to hear anything.

Some states will ask sellers to reply within a certain amount of time after receiving the offer, or your agent can write a “reply by” date into the offer. One reason for this is because while you’ve got an offer out on a house, it’s not a good idea to make an offer on another property. If sellers take days to weeks to reply, you could miss out on other possible homes!

In some states an offer expiry is standard, and you can also add an expiration date to your offer to try to nudge the seller to respond. Creegan advises his buyers to not get involved in a long wait period, as often the sellers are just using his buyer’s offer to push the overall home price higher.

The seller will either accept your offer (you win!), make a counter-offer (asking for a higher price, different dates on the closing timeline, or different terms or conditions, perhaps), or reject your offer — you will have to start over and make an entirely new offer if you still want this house.

You might not hear back at all, that said! Sellers don’t have an obligation to respond to your offer, though it is the polite thing to do.

An hourglass timer, showing how long it might take to hear back after making an offer on a house.
Source: (Alexandar Todov / Unsplash)

Long answer: Why it can take at least a day to hear back about an offer on the house

If buying a house is an important financial decision, so is selling one. Sellers need time to consider their options, and it could take longer than a day or week to hear back. Here are a few reasons why there could be a delay.

The seller doesn’t know about your offer yet

Perhaps the seller didn’t see the offer right away. Maybe they’re on vacation, or maybe their agent had a closing to attend and couldn’t send your offer over immediately. It’s going to depend on how frequently they communicate with their agent and how responsive both of them are.

The market is busy

If the market is busy and the seller’s agent is fielding multiple offers, your offer might get lost in the shuffle. Here’s where having a great agent on your side can help.

“Having an agent that is communicative and spends the extra time to talk to the agent and explain the benefits of the offer,” Creegan explains, “means that they can encourage the other agent to push the sellers to take the offer.”

If your agent is calling and following up, the seller won’t forget about you!

The seller is fielding multiple offers

If you’re in a seller’s market, expect it to take longer to hear back. In one week in July, Creegan saw 19 offers on one property.

“Being able to go through and review all offers and understand the differences of each offer — it does take time,” Creegan points out.

And if one offer has an escalation clause, but another would give the seller more time to find a new home, the seller may be weighing multiple variables and their relative importance to the seller right now.

The seller is waiting (or hoping) for a higher offer than yours

It could be that the seller is waiting for a higher offer than yours.

Many sellers have a price in mind that they’d like to get for their house. They might want to keep your offer in their back pocket while they wait to see if anyone else comes in higher.

If you’re worried this might happen and you could lose out on your dream house, consider adding an escalation clause in your offer. Escalation clauses allow you to beat another buyer’s offer amount in increments up to a highest and best amount.

Say you offer $150,000, with an escalation clause in $1,000 increments up to $159,000. This means that if someone else offers $155,000, your offer would be automatically elevated to $1,000 more ($156,000). But if someone offered $160,000, you’d likely lose out because that’s above your cap.

There’s an event scheduled (like an open house) that will generate more offers

Agents schedule open houses to bring in foot traffic and generate more offers. If they’ve already put an open house on the calendar and advertised it, they’re unlikely to cancel that event because you’ve made an offer. The open house will proceed, and then the seller will consider your offer along with any others that might have come in.

The seller has set their own offer timeline

Some sellers like all offers to be submitted on the same day because it’s easier for them to review everything at once. Their agent can set up a time to lay them out side by side and talk the seller through each offer.

If their listing states that they won’t respond until Friday at 6 p.m., take some deep breaths and settle in for the wait.

It’s a foreclosure or short sale

If it’s a foreclosure or a short sale, the bank is involved — it’s just going to take longer!

Banks will also collect multiple offers and review them, just like sellers. Sometimes they’ll list a house at a lowball price just to get people interested and bidding up — and they don’t have to accept any of those offers.

Even if you made a competitive offer, it has to pass through more bureaucratic red tape to get approved. The bank may also need to follow local and state laws regarding a foreclosure or eviction.

A person looking on their laptop and phone to see how long it will take to hear back after making an offer on a house.
Source: (Christina @ wocintechchat.com / Unsplash)

What should you do to expedite an answer?

Pay attention to the seller’s instructions (if any) around when they want offers submitted. If they’ve asked buyers to wait until submitting offers until Monday at 8 a.m., have your agent draw up your offer and wait to submit it.

Another way to hurry things along is to put an expiration date on your offer to nudge the seller. Creegan says this can be a frustration, however, if they ignore the expiration date but still accept your offer. Because the offer had technically expired, everyone would have to re-sign and re-initial the offer.

In his opinion, the best way to win a house and get a quick answer is to “write a really competitive offer and incentivize the seller to accept.”

An expiration date helps with this, but so does having an agent who talks to the listing agent to find out what would sweeten the deal. It’s not always money, either. Sometimes it’s a later close date, or a rent-back period.

Pro tip: Don’t put a bunch of offers on a bunch of homes at once! You could get into trouble with your earnest money if more than one gets accepted.

Remember: The seller doesn’t have to respond at all

While their agent will likely urge them to respond, if only to maintain cordial relationships with other agents, sellers don’t have to respond at all. If it’s been a few days or over a week with no word, resubmitting a better offer is probably your best bet to winning the house.

If there’s still no response, it’s time to move on.

How long after making an offer on a house do you hear back? It depends on multiple factors outside your control. But you can control who you pick as an agent, and their communication and negotiation skills can help speed along the time between offer and acceptance.

Header Image Source: (J. Balla Photography / Unsplash)