How Soon After Seeing a House Should You Make an Offer?

The 2024 FHA Loan Handbook

“How soon after viewing a house should I make an offer?”

This is one of the most common questions first-time home buyers ask when it comes to making an offer on a house. And it’s an important subject that requires careful consideration.

Let’s start with the short version before exploring the different scenarios:

  • If you’re in a competitive real estate market where homes typically receive multiple offers at the same time, you might want to make an offer as soon as possible after viewing the home.
  • Once your offer has been accepted, you’ll have an opportunity to conduct some due diligence on the property to include a home inspection.
  • But the key is to make an offer as soon as you can, to get ahead of other buyers.
  • In a slower market, where homes take longer to sell, you might have more time to “sleep on it” before submitting an offer.

Your offer strategy should be based on current real estate market conditions in the area where you are buying a home. Research your local market, consult with your agent, and adjust the timing as needed.

How Soon to Make an Offer on a House

In the real estate world, the timing of the offer can make the difference between getting the home—or losing it to another buyer. It’s that simple.

Submitting an offer in a timely fashion (and for a reasonable amount) can increase the chance that the seller will accept it. Waiting too long, on the other hand, could result in a missed opportunity and a more frustrating home search.

So, how soon after seeing a house should you make an offer?

Graphic explaining how soon to make an offer on a house

Real estate market conditions can vary significantly from one city to the next. So there is no single standardized answer to this question. But you might find the following guidelines helpful:

  • Hot market: It’s generally best to submit the offer ASAP, even on the spot. 
  • Warm market: You should present your offer within one or two days.
  • Cooler market: You might be able to think about it for a few days.

There aren’t hard-and-fast rules. But they do give you a general framework to work with, as to how and when you want to submit your offer. An experienced real estate agent can guide you through this process, based on their knowledge of local market conditions.

Example Scenarios: With or Without Competition

This will make more sense if we look at some highly realistic scenarios.

The first scenario shows how the process might work if you’re the only buyer submitting an offer on a particular property. The second scenario depicts a multiple-offer scenario where there are competing buyers (and therefore more urgency).

Scenario 1: Solo Offer in a Slower Market

If you’re buying a home in a slower real estate market, where homes tend to stay on the market for a good long while, the offer process might look like this.

  • Showing: You walk through a home and immediately think, “this could be the one.”
  • Price Check: After the showing, you discuss the asking price with your agent. She pulls up a list of comparable home sales in the area (comps) to estimate the property’s market value.
  • Offer Time: Two days later, you decide you want to buy the home. So your agent puts together a reasonable offer, possibly slightly below the asking price. You feel confident because there haven’t been many showings, and it’s been on the market for a while.
  • Acceptance: The seller receives your offer and, after some internal discussion with their listing agent, they decide to accept it. Negotiations are minimal, and you might even get a few concessions from the seller, like covering closing costs.

In this scenario, the offer was submitted two days after the viewing.

Scenario 2: Multiple Offers in a Hot Market

In a highly competitive and fast-moving real estate market, you might need to make an offer within hours of viewing the home. Or even right there on the spot, once you leave the house. Here’s how that process might play out.

  • Hot Property: You tour an attractive home in a desirable neighborhood. The place is immaculate, and multiple showings are happening throughout the day.
  • Urgency Strikes: After learning that at least one other buyer has submitted an offer, your agent advises a quick decision. So you rush back to the agent’s office, take a quick look at comparable sales, and submit an offer electronically to the listing agent.
  • Offer Frenzy: Within 24 hours of the showing, you are caught up in a multiple-offer situation that turns into a bidding war. Some buyers are even waiving their contingencies to make their offers more appealing to the seller.
  • Negotiation Dance: Realizing the competition for their home, the seller requests a “highest and best” offer from all interested buyers. This means they want to move fast and avoid prolonged negotiations. So you revise your offer to an amount slightly above the asking price. 
  • Outcome ‘A’: After a tense wait, the seller decides to accept another buyer’s offer because they offered the most money with the fewest contingencies. So it’s back to square one for you. Or…
  • Outcome ‘B’: It turns out you made the strongest offer and, in the eyes of the seller, appear to be the most “solid” buyer based on your mortgage financing situation. So they accept your offer and sign the agreement.

In this scenario, the initial offer was submitted within hours of the viewing.

These scenarios represent the two extremes of a broad spectrum. Real estate markets can range from cold to hot, with some balanced and neutral territory in between. The point here is that you need to adjust your purchase offer strategy to reflect local market conditions.

On-the-Spot Offers: A Sign of the Times

In recent years, many real estate markets across the country have experienced inventory shortages that make things harder for buyers. A shortage occurs when there aren’t enough homes on the market to meet the demand from buyers.

(Existing homes, in particular, are in very short supply these days.)

In a tight real estate market with limited supply, home buyers typically have to be more aggressive if they want to succeed. And this applies to the offer submission process as well.

In a highly competitive and fast-moving real estate market, home buyers will often huddle up with their real estate agents outside of a house they’ve just viewed, to submit an offer right there on the spot. Real estate agents often use this “mobile office” approach.

But not every situation requires such extreme measures. In a slower or more balanced real estate market, you might be able to “sleep on it” before making a final decision about a property.

It bears repeating: The offer strategy should reflect local market conditions. And that might mean making an offer on the fly, immediately after viewing a property.

You Can Still Have the Home Inspected

Rushing the offer process to edge out other buyers doesn’t take away your ability to have the home inspected. At the Home Buying Institute, we encourage all buyers to have a comprehensive inspection prior to purchasing a house.

Even if you find yourself in a hot market where you have to make an offer quickly, you can still choose to have a home inspection.

(Whether or not you ask the seller to make repairs is the subject of a different article. But you could at least have an inspection to determine if the property has any serious issues.)

And if it does have serious problems you’re not willing to take on, you could use a contract contingency to back out of the deal while recovering your earnest money. This is the kind of thing you want to think about before you get caught up in a competing-offer situation.

Disclaimer: Every real estate transaction is unique, so portions of this guide might not apply to your specific situation. This article is intended for a general audience and does not constitute financial or real estate advice. Your agent is your best resource during the offer process.

Brandon Cornett

Brandon Cornett is a veteran real estate market analyst, reporter, and creator of the Home Buying Institute. He has been covering the U.S. real estate market for more than 15 years. About the author

The 2024 FHA Loan Handbook