Making an Offer
When I've found the home I like, how do I make an offer?
When you've found a special house you want to call home, you'll probably feel excited and a bit nervous. Let the sales professional know you're ready to write an "offer to purchase" -- a written document that declares how much you are willing to pay for the home provided that certain conditions are met. Because it's a legally binding contract that you will sign and date, it may be a good idea to have a lawyer review it, within the grace period noted in the contract.
This is the time when it is most important for you to keep in mind that, unless you have specifically retained the services of a buyer's agent, the sales professional is working for the seller. As the legal agent of the seller, he or she is obligated to help the seller get the best price, and will report to the seller any confidence you share.
It's best to make your offer without sharing with the agent your willingness to offer any higher price if the seller does not accept your offer.
Your offer should have a time limit for the seller to accept it, reject it, or make a counter-offer. If a counter-offer is made, you will have some time to respond. Often, several offers go back and forth until an offer is accepted, or one party decides to end negotiations.
How do I determine the amount of my initial offer?
There is really no rule to use in calculating an initial offer. Naturally, the buyer wants the best value and the seller want the best price, but negotiations can be influenced by many factors, such as a seller who may be changing jobs and wants to sell quickly, or a buyer who is set on a specific home.
After you've looked at the home's features, asked questions, checked comparables, and talked about it with your sales professional, you should have a good idea of what the home's value is in the current market. Consider what you can afford, and make an offer that you consider to be fair.
Most buyers and sellers negotiate on price, with both sides "giving" a little until both agree.
At that point, you typically will begin the process of arranging for an inspection and applying for a mortgage. See the "Financing" section of this book for more information.
What is "earnest money" and how much do I need?
When you sign an offer to purchase, your sales professional will ask you for " earnest money." This refers to a monetary commitment that shows you are serious about wanting to buy. Usually, you will be asked to write a check for one to 10 percent of the sale price.
This money will be held in a special escrow account. If your offer is accepted, your earnest money will be included as part of your down payment. If your offer is not accepted, you'll get back all your earnest money. But keep in mind that if you back out, you may forfeit the full amount.
Is there any way I can protect myself against emergency repair bills in my new home?
Yes. Home warranties offer you protection against many potentially costly problems not covered by your homeowner's insurance. Such warranties have become increasingly popular in recent years, and for good reason. The coverage can save you thousands in the event of a major mechanical breakdown at a time when your cash reserves have been depleted by your down payment and moving expenses. For more about home warranties, see the information on the ERA Home Protection Plan.