When you find the right home, we will take you through a step-by-step process to help you make the purchase. You know the seller’s asking price, now you need to make some decisions.
Preparing to Offer, Preparing to Negotiate
You may be in a strong bargaining position to make an offer below asking price if, for example, you are paying cash, or have been pre-approved for a loan.
We will do our best to find out why the home is on the market. For example, if the seller is moving for job-related reasons or is divorcing, they may be in a hurry sell. Alternatively, if the seller is in no hurry or “just testing the waters,” nothing short of a full price offer may do. We’ll need to be in constant contact during this negotiating period. Things can change quickly. But here’s what you need to do first:
- Decide how much you should offer. Consider factors such as the home’s length of time on the market, reasonableness of price, availability of financing and other costs.
- Decide if you want legal representation. In most places, legal representation is the rule rather than the exception (and we highly recommend it) but its up to you decide whether to use an attorney. If you do retain one, be sure you retain one who specializes in residential real estate in your area.
- Know what happens to your earnest money. The earnest money deposit shows that you’re serious about buying the home. This deposit is held by a third party such as your Sales Associate’s brokerage, title company or escrow agent until the sale is closed or contract is cancelled. If you buy the house, it is applied to the down payment or closing costs. If you fail to buy the house after the seller has accepted your offer, he or she may have the right to keep this deposit. Discuss strategy with your Real Living Sales Professional.
- Require the seller to do a title search to prove the title is clear. The title should show no substantial claims or liens against the property. The type of proof varies by area, and your Professional can tell you which kind is used where you live.
- Decide what type of deed you want. You’ll most likely specify that the seller convey the property to you with a general warranty deed that transfers ownership rights (or title) to you.
- Decide what conditions (contingencies) you want to place on buying the house. Your purchase may be made contingent on obtaining financing, a building inspector’s satisfactory report or selling your present home. Real estate contracts today already include many of these typical real estate contingencies.
- State what you’re buying. Common items to be specified in the contract include appliances, light fixtures, shades and drapes, storm windows, and flowers, shrubs and trees. But be ready. All these things can become negotiating points.
- Determine what special provisions should be included, such as for property taxes, insurance costs and utility bills. Read all the small print. Ask your Sales Professional any questions.
- Determine the closing date and possession date you want. Your Sales Professional can tell you who typically acts as a settlement agent in your area. Allow yourself plenty of time for financing and all the paperwork in the transaction.
The Seller’s Response
We will take the offer to the seller or seller’s agent. The seller will accept, reject or counter your offer with changes in some of the terms. You may either sign or counteroffer at this point.
We will negotiate the often emotional, sometimes maddening details of offers and counter-offers. These may include whether the buyer or seller pays points, who pays for the any repairs to the property, or the buyer wanting to keep the rec room pool table. During this phase, an Agent can be a steadying, objective presence, helping both buyer and seller look beyond the emotions that often drive negotiating tactics.
Withdrawing an Offer
In most cases you can withdraw your offer up to the point when it is accepted. If you do wish to cancel the offer, it’s a good idea to consult with a real estate lawyer. You don’t want to lose your deposit, or be sued for damages perceived by the seller.
Coming to Terms
When you both agree to the terms, you should sign the document; it then becomes a valid contract. (In some states, a binder agreement is required before the final contract is drafted; ask your Agent if this applies to you.
If not, you are free to walk away, and cannot be held liable for the contract. Only when an offer is accepted and signed by both parties is the contract binding.