Like marriage, home-buying is one part love, one part legal transaction, and starts with a proposal. When you’re ready to buy a home, making an offer is important: oral promises are not legally enforceable in real estate sales.

Realtors usually have a variety of standard forms (including Residential Purchase Agreements) kept up to date with the changing laws.

In many states, sellers must comply with certain disclosure rules, and a real estate agent will ensure that they do, as well as answer any questions you may have during the sale.

If you are not working with a Realtor, keep in mind that your purchase offer or contract must conform to state and local laws. State laws vary, and certain provisions may be required in your area.

Besides addressing legal requirements, making an offer should specify price and all other terms and conditions of the purchase. For example, if the sellers said they’d help with $2,000 toward your closing costs, include that in your written proposal and in the final contract—or you won’t have grounds for collecting it later.

After the offer is drawn up and signed, it will usually be presented to the seller by your real estate agent, by the seller’s agent, or often by the two together.

In a few areas, sales contracts are typically drawn up by the parties’ lawyers.

What to include when making an offer

Your purchase offer, if accepted as it stands, will become a binding sales contract—also known as a purchase agreement, an earnest money agreement or a deposit receipt. It’s important, therefore, the offer contain every element needed to serve as a blueprint for the final sale. These purchase offers should include the following:

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