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Important Details for Buyers

Important Checklist to Consider Before Writing an Offer

It’s been said many times that the devil is in the details, which implies that while something might seem simple at first glance, the individual steps needed for completion may take more time and effort than first expected.

This is especially true when purchasing a home. Sure, you may already know about things like getting pre-approved for a mortgage, and getting a home inspection. But do you know the other important, little discussed, items in a sales contract that could impact your buying experience?

Details make a difference. If you are thinking of buying soon, you need this list now!

EARNEST MONEY. When you are ready to write an offer, bring your checkbook. Buyers usually submit an earnest money deposit of approximately 1% of the contract price. Amounts can vary, but be prepared to write a check that will be deposited within two business days of an accepted offer.

ADDITIONAL INSPECTIONS. Yes, you have heard about the general home inspection, but because our state is a “buyer beware state,” you will also want to consider having independent professionals assist with these items:

  • RADON TEST. You may elect to have radon testing as part of the home inspection process. If you do have radon testing performed, this should be addressed in the initial offer to purchase. More information about Radon may be found at www.epa.gov.
  • SEPTIC SYSTEM. If the home has a septic system instead of municipal sewer, you will want to determine that the septic tank is operational. A standard home inspection does not usually include assessment of septic systems. A separate, specialized septic inspection by a septic professional is recommended. 
  • TERMITE INSPECTION. A seller may have an active termite bond with a local pest company, but you will still want (or be required) to have a termite inspection. Your agent can help set this up after you have an accepted offer, and can assist with getting any termite bond transferred to you after closing. 
  • SURVEY. A current or recent survey from a registered land surveyor, will not likely happen automatically. It is not usually required by the lender or closing attorney. If you have questions about the boundaries of the property, you will want to make provisions for a survey in your offer. 
  • APPRAISAL/SQUARE FOOTAGE. Any representations, either verbal or written, concerning the square footage & measurements of the property are not guaranteed to be accurate (and this is indicated the MLS detail sheet). If you have an appraisal, the appraisal report will have a limited sketch of the home and an estimated square footage number as measured by the appraiser. Note that the square footage number on the MLS not usually considered inaccurate unless there is at least a 10% difference between that number and the appraiser-measured number. You should  verify square footage & measurements before you write an offer, if that is important to your purchase decision. 

PROPERTY TAXES. The tax year begins on October 1 each year. Taxes are assessed and paid in arrears. If you have a mortgage, you may be required to put money into an escrow account each month to pay this annual bill. Property taxes could more than double depending upon the tax classification and homestead exemption status for the tax year. This could impact your monthly mortgage payment. Check the most recent tax bill and the current tax status of a home before you write the offer.

WIRE FRAUD. All purchasers and sellers should be aware that they may be targets for wire fraud in any real estate transaction. You are strongly encouraged never to rely on emails that claim to change wire instructions and should always verify wire instructions by calling a phone number to the closing attorney that you have used before or can otherwise verify. 

SCHOOLS. With the tremendous growth in the area, some neighborhoods have been re-zoned by their respective school systems. It is the buyer’s responsibility to verify the school zones & bus service for any property of interest before writing an offer. 

HOMEOWNER/HAZARD INSURANCE. When talking with homeowner’s insurance providers, you may want to inquire about hazards not covered by the basic policy; examples include: sinkhole, earthquake, soil movement, etc. It is recommended that all options be discussed with your insurance provider. Select your insurance provider as soon as possible after getting an accepted offer to prevent delays in closing. 

FLOOD ZONES. Be aware that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has established a flood zone classification system. Flood zones that require extra insurance coverage may mean additional costs. For more information, go to www.msc.FEMA.gov

APPLIANCES. It is normal for built-in appliances to transfer with the property. Appliances such as the refrigerator, washer, dryer, free standing stoves, & counter-top microwave typically do not transfer with the property. If you see these items, and you want them to come with the house, make sure that’s in your offer.

HOMEOWNERS/CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATIONS. The house you want may be in a community governed by a Homeowner’s or Condominium Association which would include membership in that Association obligating you to comply with its Covenants, Bylaws, rules and regulations. You should request and review any Association documents, including information on periodic dues or assessments that you will be obligated to pay once you own the home. 

If it seems overwhelming, remember that you don’t have to do it alone…..Our team is ready to help you navigate the process! Whether you want to start planning or buy now, we can help. Use the contact information below to connect with an agent.

Rebecca Lowrey

Realtor/Team Lead

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Our agents write often to give you the latest insights on owning a home or property in the local area.