Northern Virginia, DC & Maryland Real Estate

Offers and contracts

A buyer makes an offer by submitting a written and signed offer to purchase, which will become the sales contract when ratified by everyones signature. Once the seller and buyer sign the paper, they are bound by the contract conditions.

The presentation of a contract begins when the selling broker registers the offer with the brokers own office and notifies the listing broker of the offer. The listing broker then arranges a presentation appointment with the seller.

The listing broker will present the terms of the offer and act as an advisor to the seller. Part of the presentation is determining that the buyer is qualified financially to make the purchase. (Should either the seller or the buyer be out of town, the contract is presented via telephone and confirmed later by e-mail or FAX.)

Content of Presentation
Included in the presentation of the offer are a number of specific concerns. After all, once the contract is signed, it becomes the binding guideline for the transaction. Description of the offer will include, but is not limited to:
  1. Date, name and address of the buyer and you, and the legal description of the property.
  2. Amount of earnest money deposit, which will be held in an escrow account by the broker, unless otherwise noted.
  3. Sales price
  4. Size of down payment, and how the remainder of purchase price is to be financed. The offer should indicate the maximum interest rate the buyer is willing to pay, and the right to cancel without penalty if such financing proves unavailable.
  5. Proposed settlement and occupancy date, and daily rent provision for post-settlement occupancy if the seller cannot vacate and becomes the temporary tenant of the buyer.
  6. Contingencies, if any, such as satisfactory review by attorney, structural inspection, appraisal, or sale of the buyers present house.
  7. Other important provisions, including a list of items that convey with the sale, stipulation that title must be insured, and who is to pay various settlement costs.

Sellers Net Sheet Taken all together, this offer is reduced to dollars and cents on a sample net sheet, similar to the exercise during the listing appointment. The estimated outcome is determined, which allows you to consider an estimate of what you will walk away with after closing.
Sellers Action A decision on an offer should be made at presentation, if possible. You have three possible options.

  1. Accept the offer as written.
  2. Make a counter offer on unacceptable aspects. Counters are written in the margin of the contract or in addenda, and initialed by the home seller. A purchase offer with counters is not a ratified contract until the home buyer accepts and initials the counters. Buyers can withdraw, accept or counter the counter offer.
  3. Reject the offer, if it is totally unacceptable. (Outright rejection, without a counter, should be the last resort.)

A contract exists when all terms including changes are ratified by initials of all principals. When the contingencies are satisfied, the contract becomes enforceable.

Multiple Offers
All offers registered must be presented to you. They will be presented in the order registered. You should hear each offer completely and ask questions. No action is necessary until all offers are heard. If more than one offer is accepted or countered, an order of precedence must be established, such as primary, first backup, second backup. Be careful not to sell the home twice.

Questions And Answers
Is it best to turn down the first offers?
In any transaction, it is normal for the seller to wonder... Could I have gotten more? and for the buyer to wonder, Should I have paid less? When your reasonably priced house is put up for sale, the very first lookers may make an offer to buy. That does not mean that you have priced your home too low. It means qualified buyers and their brokers have been looking - and waiting - for the right house to come on the market at just the right price. The listing broker will advise the seller on all offers.

Does the sale of a condominium or a property within a Homeowners Association (HOA) require any special action?
The purchase offer for a condo sale or homeowners association property will contain, in compliance with the law, a requirement that the seller furnish the buyer with certain disclosure information and documents. Ask about condo and homeowners association resale procedures in your area.

Do buyers ever offer more than the listing price?
Rarely, but they do offer above list sometimes if they believe it makes their offer more acceptable than other competing offers. For the protection of all parties, it is best to include a separate statement signed by the buyers, indicating the buyers awareness of the list price and their reasons for the higher offer.

What do you do if the property does not sell?
The first step is to go over carefully with the listing broker why the property has not sold. Usually price and property condition are the key. Study and analyze what has sold in your area and at what price. Then relist the house after adjusting for shortcomings. Another option is to withdraw from the market and rent until the market improves, or simultaneously offer for sale or rent.

When will yard sign be removed?
Placing a sign in the yard is always done by mutual agreement between the seller & listing broker. The law in Virginia allows the sign to remain in the yard after contract ratification, even though for sale is changed to sold after contract acceptance. However, ask me about local sign ordinances.

If a buyer forfeits the deposit, who gets the money?
If the buyer fails to make full settlement, the deposited earnest money may be forfeited only after a release is signed by all parties. In the event of forfeiture, the deposit will be divided equally between the seller and the real estate brokers, but not to exceed the amount of the commission, or according to the sales contract.

If buying, go next to Between Contract and Closing walks you through post contract process.

If selling, go next to Paperwork after contract walks you through post contract process.