After looking at lots of homes (or maybe just a few), you have found the home that you want to make an offer on! Congratulations! In today’s real estate market, in many areas of Richmond, you can’t wait a long time to make that offer!
And, if you are a first time home buyer, you will never have written an offer before you need to know just what is going into your offer!
In our area, offers are made on what is called a Purchase Agreement, which is 9 pages long (and may be longer if you are including addendums). That is a lot of things to understand! So sitting down with your Buyer Agent when you write up the offer, or going over the contract when you first meet with your Buyer Agent, will go a long way to making you feel very comfortable with the offer you are about to make! Remember, this is a legal document you will be signing, so your Buyer Agent should be able to answer any questions you will have!
So just what is included in the Purchase Agreement?
What are the basics? Buyer and seller names, property address, property legal description, what is staying with the house, the addendum that are part of the contract, the closing date, your settlement agent, an acceptance deadline!
The Offer Price
This is the price that you are offering to the seller. You and your Buyer Agent should have a conversation about what is the best price to offer to the seller for their house. You and your Buyer Agent will likely look at a lot of things when deciding how to structure your offer – how well is the house priced to begin with, how long has it been on the market, are there multiple offers on the house, how does the house compare to others on the market, how does the house compare to the houses in the area that have sold recently, do you need closing costs, what type of loan are you getting, what appliances are staying.
Your offer will have certain contingencies built into it –
- Financing: is your offer contingent upon you getting a loan commitment (not just pre approval) from your lender!
- Appraisal: is it contingent on the house appraising for the purchase price – is it not contingent on the house appraising for purchase price – or will you make up any difference between the purchase price and appraisal if the appraised value is lower than your purchase price!
- Property Owners/Condominium Association: if you are buying a condo, townhome or a single family home in a neighborhood with an association, then you will have a 3 day right to review the association disclosure package to decide if you still want to live in the neighborhood!
- Property Inspections: do you want to make your offer contingent on doing a home inspection – will you be taking the home as is – or do you want to completely forego doing inspections on the house!
- Title: your offer will be contingent upon you getting a clean and marketable title to the property!
- Other Contingencies: there are other contingencies that you could have in your offer -a home sale contingency, perhaps you have someone you want to look at the house and approving the sale, etc You and your Buyer Agent will discuss those and add them to the offer if you desire.
You will most likely want to do any inspections you need to on the property. In today’s real estate market, many buyers have had to forego doing an inspection just to compete with the other buyers out there and some have turned to an inspector to do what is called a “Walk and Talk” inspection – here the inspector will not provide a report but will walk with you during your time you are looking at the house, look at major things such as roof, electric panel and maybe peek in the crawl space and then tell you what concerns, if any, they have had. But if you only have a 15 minute showing time slot, it is very difficult to imagine that the inspector can tell you a lot about the house.
In some cases, when a buyer has been competing with other offers, they have written an offer that is an “As Is” sale. In this case, the buyer still has the right to do an inspection and to terminate the contract if they are unsatisfied with the inspection findings, but they do not have the right to request the seller to do any repairs.
So what inspections do buyers do?
- Whole House – an inspector will go through the entire house top to bottom and let you know about any defects they see in the house. You will get a written report detailing the findings, as well as useful information such as the age of certain components and what recommendations they have for the future maintenance of the home.
- Roof – if the roof is old or you have concerns about it, some buyers choose to have a separate roof inspection done by a roofing company. This helps the buyer know exactly what the cost will be of any repairs or replacement that may be needed after closing.
- Radon – radon is an odorless, colorless gas that can contribute to lung cancer, so I am seeing more and more buyers choosing to get a radon inspection done. Although most buyers normally get a radon test done if they are buying a house, I am also seeing more and more buyers do a radon test on a well, if they are purchasing a well property.
- Fireplace & Chimney – many sellers in the Richmond area are now selling the fireplace, flues and chimney in as is condition with the seller doing no repairs. Many buyers, however, want to make sure that the fireplace is in good working order so they will choose to have a chimney inspection done at the time of their inspections!
- HVAC – if the system is old, or there are repairs that may be needed based on the home inspection, some buyers are choosing to do a separate HVAC inspection on the unit!
- Oil Tanks – on many older properties in the area, there may be an underground oil tank. If so, many buyers are having the soil tested – if the soil is contaminated, then the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the individual counties/cities have regulations in place on how that is to be handled.
- Well – if the property is on a well, the contract states that the well water needs to be tested by a certified lab showing that it is free of contamination by coliform bacteria and this test needs to be provided by the seller. If the property is being sold as is or the buyers want a more detailed test, however, then this test falls to the buyers to do!
- Septic – if the property is on a conventional septic system, the septic system must be in good working order. Normally this inspection is provided by the seller, but if the sale is as is then this must be done by the buyer. There are a few different types of inspections here – a visual inspection which is nothing more than looking at the ground to see what happens, or you can choose to have a more in depth inspection in which the distribution box is opened & inspected and the system is pumped. This in-depth inspection allows the inspector to make sure everything is flowing properly and there is nothing impeding the proper operation of the system. If there is an alternative septic system on the property then there should be a maintenance agreement in place.
- Termite – termites are an issue here in the Richmond area, so it is important that you have a termite inspection done on the house. This is normally provided by the seller, but if it is an as is sale, then the buyer will need to have this done during the inspection time. The inspector will look, not only for termites, but other wood destroying insects such as powder post beetles and carpenter ants!
- Fungus & Mold – with our humid weather here in Richmond, it is possible for a crawl space to develop mold if it is not properly ventilated. If the whole house inspection notes possible mold or fungi in the crawl space or attic, you may wish to get a separate mold inspection done on the house!
- Structural – sometimes the whole house inspector may note some structural issues in the crawl space. Depending on the extent of the structural issues noted, he may not be able to give an accurate estimated cost to cure. In this case, it may be wise to have a separate structural inspection done by a structural engineer to know exactly what is needed to correct any structural issues found on the house!
There may be other inspections you may wish to have done once you have had the whole house inspection done. Your Buyer Agent should be able to recommend inspectors who would be able to do those for you.
Since Virginia is a buyer beware state, the seller doesn’t really have to do much disclosing! The law says that the owner of the residential real property shall furnish to a purchaser a residential property disclosure statement for the buyer to beware of certain matters that may affect the buyer’s decision to purchase such real property. Such a statement shall be provided by the Real Estate Board on its website.
When you look the form over, however, you will see that it is less of a “disclosure” statement than one saying the seller is not disclosing much of anything, or “makes no representation” about various issues concerning:
- the condition of the property or its improvements
- adjacent property parcels
- whether historic district ordinances affect the property
- whether the property is protected under the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act
- the presence of nearby registered sexual offenders
- whether the property is in a dam break inundation zone
- the presence of any wastewater system on the property
- any right to install or use solar energy collection devices on the property
- whether the property is located in one or more special flood hazard areas
- whether the property is subject to one or more conservation or other easements
- whether the property is subject to a community development authority
- whether the property is located on or near deposits of marine clays
- whether the property is located in a radon zone
- the existence of defective drywall on the property
- whether the property contains lead pipes or plumbing, and
- the condition or regulatory status of any impounding structure or dam on the property.
Basically, this form provides notice to the buyers that it is up to them to inspect and investigate the property on their own.
If the house was built before 1978, then the seller is required to disclose if they have actual knowledge of any lead paint hazards in the house.
If the house has defective Chinese drywall, if the house has had a meth lab that was not properly cleaned up, and if there is a waiver issued by the health department on their septic system – these are also things that a seller has to disclose to a potential buyer!
Other than these things, the buyer is really on their own to do their own due diligence on the property! For these reasons, it is a very good idea for a first time home buyer to have their own Buyer Agent AND to not have their Buyer Agent be the same agent listing the property for sale!
Have questions about buying a home? I am happy to answer any questions you may have on the process of buying a home! Feel free to DM me or email me and we can sit down and discuss! No obligation, no pressure! Feel free to call me at 804-566-0781!