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Most buyers are working with a real estate agent who
supplies forms for entering into a real estate purchase agreement with a
seller. The terms of the contract involve many significant points in addition
to the purchase price, including financing, contingencies, title work and
closing date. Due to the detail and liabilities associated with this
transaction, it is important to consider enlisting the services of your own
attorney to review the contract. The so-called “standard” contract may contain
clauses that are not in your best interest. Real estate attorneys will often
review or consult on a purchase agreement for a nominal fee, which is well
As with any business transaction, each party has certain
responsibilities. In real estate, the script goes something like this:
•You and your real estate agent fill out the purchase offer
form, and you and your attorney may review it before you sign. If your attorney
drafts the purchase contract instead, you will need your agent’s help in
gathering all the necessary information.
•The document specifies the amount of your offer, and a date
and time after which the offer expires. Depending on the custom in your area
(and how hot the housing market is), this may be anywhere from a few hours to a
few days. A typical expiration time frame is one or two days.
•The document will also spell out the terms of your offer —
how you propose to finance the purchase, when you wish to close, how you wish
to handle the findings of the professional home inspection, and any other
conditions that must be satisfied for your offer to hold.
•Usually, your agent presents your offer to the seller’s
agent, who then presents it to the seller along with a check or money order
that is your good faith “earnest money” deposit. Although in some states you
don’t legally need to make a deposit with your offer, most sellers won’t take
the offer seriously without it.
•If the seller accepts the offer as written, signs it and
gets the document back to you within the specified time limit, you are now
legally bound by its terms.
•If the seller does not accept the offer as written, he may
reject it entirely or modify a number of clauses, sign it and send it back as a
•You then have three options: accept and sign the
counteroffer as written; reject the counteroffer and walk away; or modify it
and send it back as a counter-counteroffer.
•Each counter is technically (and legally) a rejection of
the prior offer and constitutes a new offer in itself, with its own time frame
•You and the seller may go back and forth several times
until you reach agreement or one of you calls it quits.
•Once you and the seller have come to an agreement — having
both initialed all the changes, signed and dated the document — you each will
have tasks to carry out in order to bring the transaction to closing.
•The seller, for example, now has a certain number of days
within which to make a full disclosure of anything he knows to be defective on
the property. Upon receipt of this disclosure form, you will have a certain
number of days to review it and to modify or rescind your offer if you wish. As
with everything else, this rescission must be in writing and presented to the
seller or the seller’s agent. If this happens in a timely manner, you will get
your earnest money deposit back.
•Your responsibilities include instructing your mortgage
lender to begin processing your loan, which in turn involves having the
•You are also responsible for getting the home inspected
within the allotted time period and arranging to have the home insured to
satisfy your mortgage lender.
•A few days before the scheduled closing, you will do a
final walk-through of the house, to check that any requested repairs were made
and that everything is in the condition agreed to in the purchase contract.
How to decide what price you will
To prevent worry on your part about your offer price, ask
your real estate agent to prepare a CMA, or comparative market analysis. A CMA
report will compile information from the comps you should already have seen —
individual descriptions of similar properties that are or have recently been on
The report will include the list and sales prices for
properties that have recently sold as well as list prices for pending sales,
meaning the seller has agreed to sell the house to a buyer, but the transaction
hasn’t closed yet. (A property in this situation is sometimes described as “in
escrow.”) The CMA can also include active listings and expired listings —
houses that didn’t sell and were taken off the market.
Typically, the CMA report is designed to let you quickly
compare elements such as square footage, age of the home, number of bedrooms
and baths, size of major rooms and amenities such as fireplaces and swimming
pools. It may also list property taxes and school districts, and it should also
tell you how long each property has been or was on the market.
Using all this information, you and your agent can add or
subtract dollars for the plusses and minuses of the other homes to come up with
a probable market value for the home you’re interested in. (And be sure to
check Zillow.com for the latest market values for your target house and others
in its neighborhood.)
Factors to consider;
•How the house and the asking price stack up compared to
other recent sales (remember the CMA).
•Is your home in a strong buyers’ or sellers’ market, or is
more or less neutral? In a buyers’ market or a neutral market, you may have
more leeway on some of the elements of your offer (price being just one). In a
sellers’ market, where houses can become the objects of bidding wars and end up
selling well above their asking price, your options may be rather more limited.
•Seller’s motivation. If you know something about the
seller’s circumstances, you may be able to improve your chances by making an
offer that accommodates his or her needs. The seller’s agent is not likely to
volunteer information that would put his or her client at a bargaining
disadvantage, but you or your agent may be able to glean some bits of useful
•Length of time on the market. If the home has just been
listed, and the market is modestly in the seller’s favor, he may refuse your
below-asking price offer in hopes of getting the full price from the next
person. If a prior deal has fallen through, however, and your financial
situation looks strong, the seller may well find your low offer quite
I recently did or almost did a home inspection in Teaneck,
NJ.The house was unoccupied (a short
sale).As I was outside talking to my
client the realtor was opening the house up.I could see the realtor step inside and go any further. She stopped, looked, and then turned to
us.There was a look on her face that was unforgettable.She calmly stated “The house is leaking”.To make this story short, the heat was not
on.The water in the upstairs bathroom
pipe froze and burst the pipe.When the
temperature warmed up the pipe unfroze and the water was flowing.
So, here is a list of 22 items we think can help in cold and
extreme cold weather.
1.Stay indoors if possible. If you must go outdoors, officials urge you
dress warmly and wear loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing. Wear a scarf over your mouth to protect your
2.Watch for signs of hypothermia, including
uncontrollable shivering, weak pulse, disorientation, incoherence and
drowsiness, and frostbite, including gray, white or yellow skin discoloration,
numbness and waxy feeling skin.
3.Have safe emergency heating equipment in your
home, as well as a flashlight, portable radio and three days' worth of food in
case the power goes out.Infrared
heaters and sun heat heaters. They’re cost efficient and not a fire hazard; if
it gets too hot it will shut off.
4.To prevent frozen pipes, letting your hot and
cold faucets drip overnight and open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to
uninsulated pipes under sinks on exterior walls.
5.Locate the water shut-off valve in your home in
advance of a water emergency, so you know where to go if a pipe bursts, DC
Water spokesperson Pamela Mooring advised.
6.Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use
an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside
7.If you are going away for an extended period of
time, be sure to maintain adequate heat inside your home at no lower than 55
8.Do not place a space heater within three feet of
9.Go ahead and program your local utility contact
information into your cell phone now, before you need them.
10.People should make sure door seals are caulked,
use draft guards under doors and wrap pipes with freeze tape.
11.Set fan to on to circulate air.
12.Pull all curtains and blinds shut in order to
keep heat in.
13.Close doors to rooms that are not used, as long
as there is not water in them.
14.Use shrink wrap internal window film to
15.Make sure vents are not covered by furniture
16.Check propane tank to make sure you have plenty
17.Leave cabinet doors under sinks open in extreme
18.Avoid overloading electrical circuits with
19.Be careful with fireplaces that haven’t been
used or chimneys that have not been cleaned.
20.Make sure your heating equipment has been
21.Bank snow around house.
22.Block off unused fireplaces, because they can
suck the heat out.