You find a great apartment online, call to schedule a showing, only to find out the apartment was just rented. So you head out on the road, find another rental, take a tour and fall in love with the place. But when you call back the next day to say you’ll take it, you find out it was rented on the spot to someone else.

If you live in a fast-paced rental market, apartment hunting always seems to go like this for you—but it doesn’t have to.

You can find a great rental for a great price and sign the lease if you understand how to work with the market.

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When you have found a home you want to buy and submitted a purchase offer to the sellers or the sellers’ agent, the sellers have the right to accept it or make a counteroffer.

The likelihood of your receiving a counteroffer depends on several factors, including whether your local market is skewed in favor of buyers or sellers, how long the home has been on the market, how eager the sellers are to move, and whether your offer comes close to the sellers’ expectations.

Typically, a counteroffer will include a higher price and/or a larger earnest money deposit, a different closing date, a change in the contingencies or the timing of the contingencies, or an exclusion of specific fees. You can accept it, reject it, or make a counteroffer in return.

A counteroffer will always include an expiration date. If you don’t respond by the seller’s expiration date, the offer is void and the seller can accept an offer from someone else.

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