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House Shopping? Writing a Perfect Offer to Purchase

written by: NicoleHarms•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 8/16/2011

When writing an offer to purchase, house buyers typically rely on real estate professionals. If you are going to be doing this on your own or assisting your agent, it is helpful to understand more about these important contracts.

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    Getting Started

    Buying the house of your dreams starts with a winning offer. Writing an offer to buy a home is typically something your real estate agent or lawyer does for you to make sure the offer follows all of your state’s laws about buying and selling homes. Understanding the process can help you as you direct your agent in making an offer for your home purchase. ­

    To make an offer, you need the correct form for your state and the type of purchase. Each state has several different forms for the various types of properties and purchases available.

    Making a strong offer starts with finding the right form, and this is something your agent can help with. Once you have the form, the first section on most offer forms is the address of the property. Verify that this is accurate before filling in the rest of the form.

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    Stating Price

    The next thing to put in your offer is your preferred purchase price. Generally, you offer a little less than you want to pay because the seller may counter and give you an actual buying price that is close to your target price.

    When you state your price, include information about how you will pay. Typically, this is done with a deposit and a loan, and the sale may be contingent on your ability to get the loan. Outline the details of your deposit and loan in this section and include the amount you will pay as earnest money.

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    Information About Closing

    The offer form asks for information about the closing. Typically, one needs to set a date when the property will be paid for and the deed will be transferred from the seller to the buyer. On average, this happens from 30 to 45 days after the accepted offer. This section also states what documents the seller, buyer, attorneys or real estate agents will prepare and bring to the closing in accordance with any state requirements.

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    Addressing Contingencies

    Most offers are contingent on inspections. Include this information clearly on the offer. Federal law gives all buyers 10 days in which to inspect for lead paint unless this is waived in writing. You may want to have an appraisal, have the home physically inspected and have the home’s roof inspected. Some states require a termite inspection.

    Other contingencies may include selling your current home or obtaining a loan. Include anything that might prevent you from following through with your offer in the contingency section. Keep in mind that sellers may not accept offers with too many contingencies, particularly if they have offers on the table with fewer contingencies, so include only the necessary items.

    The contingency should include a statement that the seller will give the buyer and his or her inspectors access to the property for this purpose. You may also want to state that you will not call in government inspectors because the seller may not want them on the property for fear of citations for zoning infractions.

    The contingency section should state that the buyer has the right to conduct these inspections and request that the seller make repairs of any defects found as a result. It should then state that the buyer has the chance to back out of the contract if the seller refuses to repair the problems found during inspection.

    Some inspections are considered the seller's responsibility; others are considered the buyer's responsibility and this varies from state to state. The offer should clearly outline who is going to pay for the inspection and state how much of the repair cost the seller’s responsibility is. Often this is stated as a percent of the sale price such as three percent of the purchase price. Any expense above that is the responsibly of the buyer.

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    Repairs

    The contract should include a section dealing with repairs. If needed repairs are discovered during the inspection, state when those need to be fixed. For instance, you may say that all repairs must be completed at least a week prior to the closing date. Give the seller some slack by stating that this can change if both parties agree in writing.

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    Fee Payment

    The fees associated with the sale of a home may be negotiable. Before you write this section of the offer, call the listing agent to learn what is customary for your area. It may be customary for the seller to pay for the title transfer, or it may be customary for the buyer to shoulder all closing costs. Delegate the fees according to your desires when making an offer, but understand that if the manner is not customary for the area where the property is located, you invite a counteroffer.

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    Offer Expiration

    You want the seller to respond to your offer promptly so in the last section of the offer, state when it expires. Give the seller sufficient time to respond and call the listing agent to learn how much time is needed. Make sure that the expiration conforms to your state laws.

    In this section, state the party to whom the accepted offer should be delivered whether it is you or it is your agent. If possible, use an entity such as a real estate office or lawyer who is available to take the accepted offer at any time. If you are not available to take the accepted offer, another buyer could step in and trump your offer and take the home away from you.

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    Final Touches

    Include a section that states what items are included in the sale. Add in any instructions to the escrow agent or attorney. End the agreement with a place for the seller and buyer to sign the contract.

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