A REALTOR® can help you find your perfect home, but only you can decide how much you are willing to offer for it. The REALTOR® can supply you with information about the selling prices and marketing time of other houses in the area.
Once you have determined the amount you are willing to offer, the REALTOR® will help you prepare a written offer. In most transactions you will offer to deposit earnest money with the escrow agent. Earnest money manifests your sincerity in making a reasonable offer and abiding by the terms of the written contract.
Your REALTOR® will help you prepare an offer using standard forms. The offer, if accepted, will become a binding contract. This document is the most important paper you will sign because it lays out all the terms of the transaction. It will contain such things as:
- a legal description of the property
- any property that will be transferred with the home
(blinds, curtains, fireplace screens, etc.)
- the price,
- financing conditions and contingencies
- amount of earnest money deposit
- name of the escrow agent and title company
- proration of insurance, taxes, and interest
- fees to be paid and who pays for which
- rights to inspect the property and for repairs to be made
- dates of closing and possession
- and what happens if either party defaults on the contract.
Inspections and warranties
Before signing the contract, take precautions to protect yourself against unseen defects in the home. An inspection by a qualified inspector or other professional can provide you with unbiased opinions about the condition of components and systems in the property such as the foundation, mechanical systems, plumbing systems, appliances, etc.
If you can, accompany the inspector at the time the inspection is conducted. When ordering the inspection, ask the inspector the approximate time needed to complete the inspection so you can reserve sufficient time from your schedule. Be sure to ask the inspector to detail the scope of the inspection. Not every inspector inspects every component in a house. For example, does the inspector inspect foundations, air conditioning and heating units, roofs, swimming pools, septic tanks, etc.? The cost of home inspection depends on the size of the home, but the price could prove to be worth it. It's also a good idea to get a termite and other wood destroying insect inspection.
You may also want to investigate the possibility of buying a residential service contract. Such a contract is an agreement with a residential service company that certain items will be repaired by the company if such items fail to function after you move in. If you buy a new home, the builder may offer a warranty as well. Whether you buy a residential service contract or receive any other warranty, find out how claims will be processed and how any necessary repairs will be made.
The REALTOR® working with you will present the contract to the seller's agent or seller. The seller has three options: accept, reject or make a counter offer. A counter offer is a rejection of the offer with a simultaneous offer from the seller to the buyer. If a seller makes a counter offer to you, you then have three options: accept, reject, or make another counter offer. Whoever makes an offer or counter offer is giving the power of acceptance to the recipient of the offer or counter offer.
Once you and the seller unequivocally agree to the written terms and both of you sign, the document becomes a binding contract.
As part of the contract you may have the right to have the property inspected and certain repairs may be required to be completed. Be sure that you pay close attention as to when certain items must be completed. Otherwise, you may waive some contractual rights. For example, the contract may provide for you to deliver a copy of the inspection report to the seller within a specified time and to deliver a list of the items you require to be repaired. If you fail to provide the information within the specified time, the contract may provide that you waived certain rights.
The contract may also set out other contingencies that have to be satisfied. We cannot address all conditions and contingencies. Read the contract carefully, know its terms and comply with its requirements timely.
If repairs are required, the contract will specify who will bear the cost of the repairs, who will arrange for the repairs, and when the repairs must be made. Before you close, be sure that the condition of the property meets the required condition specified in the contract.