What is Countersigning?
When you make an offer, or place a tender, on a house it will either be accepted, rejected, or you will start negotiations with the vendor. If you start negotiations you will presented with your original sale and purchase agreement countersigned. This countersigned agreement is usually the original contract you submitted with some changes made by the vendor, signed by the vendor. They may have changed anything on the agreement including the price, the settlement date or the conditions.
It is usual for these negotiations to be handled by the real estate agent and you should have any amendments to the sale and purchase agreement approved by your lawyer before signing - especially if the amendments are changes to the conditions of the contract, or parts of the standard contract have been crossed out. You may choose not to accept the changes made by the vendor, and can either countersign the agreement again (making your own changes) or end the negotiations.
Every time the sale and purchase agreement is amended and submitted to the other party it is, in law, the rejection of the previous offer and the making of a counter-offer. This amendment of the sale and purchase agreement is often referred to as countersigning. All changes to the agreement need to be initialled (this can mean a lot of signing!). Only when the countersigned document is accepted without any amendment and signed is a legally binding contract formed.
Just because you have countersigned and countersigned and finally agreed - this does not mean that the house is sold - you may still have conditions to work through before the contract goes unconditional - find out more about going unconditional.