The next step to buying a home is to make an offer in writing and submit it to the seller. This can be done on your own or through your real estate agent and is accompanied by a deposit. This deposit, called “earnest money,” indicates a serious intent to purchase and is usually a pre-determined amount. This deposit is refundable in most cases and will only be charged if your offer is accepted. Be sure to thoroughly understand the stipulations of the money that’s exchanged as it can vary.
Offers typically include:
- The price you're willing to pay.
- When you want to move in.
- What kind of inspections you'd like to have (structural, electrical, plumbing).
- If your ability to buy the house depends on your ability to get financing.
- The amount of time both you and the seller have to make all these things happen (usually 30 to 60 days).
Counter offer – the seller usually has 24 to 48 hours to consider your offer or make a counter offer. A counter offer, under the terms you’ve offered, indicates they want to sell you their house, but they want to make a change.
Consensus – when you both agree on terms, you have a deal! You sign a contract and your earnest check goes in to an escrow account.
Walk-through – another step that your real estate professional will usually request is a walk-through of the home done very close to closing. This ensures that the home is in the same condition that it was in when you signed your contract. You will want to do your walk-through as close to your closing date as possible. For example, you can check to make sure the appliances are still intact if it was indicated that appliances were part of the sale of the home. You will also want to make sure the power is on so you can test out the electrical elements in the home. You can also check for any damage that may have occurred possibly when the seller was moving out and be able to inquire with the seller or their agent prior to closing.
You may want to make your offer “contingent on inspection,” which means your offer isn’t really valid until the home has been carefully examined by a qualified home inspector who is trained to take a critical look at various aspects of the home including:
- Heating and cooling systems
- Electrical system
- Windows and doors
- Exterior grading to make sure water drains away from the home
- Termite or insect infestations
Your lender or agent can recommend inspection services, or do a search for 'Home Building Inspection Service'.