Making an Offer They Can’t Refuse: Understanding Real Estate Contingencies

Taylor Yates  |  May 13, 2024

Making an Offer They Can’t Refuse: Understanding Real Estate Contingencies

In the world of real estate, making an offer on a home is not just about stating a price. It's about carefully crafting your proposal with certain conditions known as contingencies. These contingencies provide a safety net for buyers, allowing them to back out of a sale under specific circumstances without financial penalty. Here’s a detailed guide on the main contingencies to include in your offer to ensure you’re making a competitive and secure bid.

1. Mortgage Contingency

The mortgage contingency is one of the most critical components of a home purchase offer. This clause ensures that if you cannot secure financing from a bank or lending institution, you are not obligated to complete the purchase. It protects you from losing your deposit and gives you a way out if your loan approval falls through. Be sure to understand the specific terms, such as the deadline for securing financing, which is typically 30 to 60 days from the date of the contract signing.

2. Inspection Contingency

An inspection contingency allows you to have the property professionally inspected within a specified period (usually 5 to 10 days after the offer is accepted). If significant defects are found, you can renegotiate the deal to include repairs, ask for a reduction in the sale price, or even withdraw your offer without penalty. This contingency safeguards against unexpected structural issues, ensuring you know exactly what condition the home is in before finalizing the purchase.

3. Condo Document Review

When purchasing a condominium, a condo document review contingency is crucial. This condition allows you to review the condo association’s financial documents, bylaws, and other pertinent records. You’re looking for any signs of financial mismanagement or upcoming assessments which could impact your decision to move forward with the purchase.

4. Appraisal Contingency

This contingency ensures that the home’s market value is at least equal to the purchase price. If an appraisal comes in lower than the price you’ve agreed to pay, you have the option to renegotiate the price with the seller, make up the difference in cash, or back out of the deal. This is particularly important to ensure you are not overpaying for the property.

5. Radon Contingency

Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, can pose health risks if present in high levels. A radon contingency allows you to have the home tested for radon gas. If the levels are above the EPA’s recommended action guideline, you can request mitigation, renegotiate, or withdraw your offer based on the findings.

6. Pest Contingency

Especially crucial in areas prone to infestations, this contingency allows for a pest inspection to determine if there are issues with termites, carpenter ants, or other pests. Similar to other inspections, this clause can enable you to renegotiate or pull out if significant pest issues are detected.

7. Other Contingencies to Consider

Depending on the property and location, you may want to consider additional contingencies such as:

  • Environmental Hazards: Checking for soil contamination or hazardous materials.
  • Legal Compliance: Ensuring the property meets all local zoning laws and building codes.
  • Sale of Existing Home: This can be vital if you need to sell your current home to finance the new purchase.

Incorporating these contingencies into your offer can make it stronger and more appealing because they demonstrate to the seller that you are serious and have planned carefully. However, they also ensure you are protected if things don’t go as expected. When drafting your offer, it's essential to work closely with a real estate agent who understands local laws and market conditions. They can help you tailor the contingencies to suit your needs, giving you the best chance of making a successful and smart home purchase.


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