5 Contingency Clauses Buyers Should Know

Making a contingent offer is a great way to protect yourself when buying a home. It also lets you to back out of the contract if needed. Continue reading to discover the most important types of contingency clauses for residential real estate purchase offers.

What’s a Contingency When Making an Offer to Buy a Home?

When a buyer makes an offer on a home or property, it’s typically made with certain conditions as part of the purchase agreement. This means that the buyer is reserving specific requirements that must be met (or “satisfied”) before the offer is made final. Each of these conditions are referred to as contingency.

As an example, a typical condition is a satisfactory home inspection. If the buyer’s inspector finds a big problem with the home, like a bad foundation or leaky roof, then the inspection would not be satisfactory to the buyer. 

When a contingency isn’t satisfied, the buyer usually takes one of the following options:

  • Negotiate with the seller to lower the purchase price, or fix (or “cure”) whatever problem was not satisfactory.
  • Complete the transaction anyway and take full responsibility for the deficiency or fix it themself.
  • Walk away from the deal and (usually) get the deposit back (this is why a contingency can be referred to as a “walk-away clause”).

While contingency clauses come in many shapes and sizes, below we explore the most common contingencies that home buyers use to help them make the best offer on a home.

The 5 Most Common Contingency Causes

Almost all real estate purchase offers contain contingencies, and sellers will expect to see then in the contract. Some of the most common types of contingencies include the following:

1. Inspection Contingency

An inspection contingency allows you to send in a professional inspector, and sometimes trades professionals, to evaluate and test the home (within reason). It also allows you to more closely examine the condition of the house yourself.

Home inspectors perform a comprehensive evaluation of the entire house. The inspection will tell you, among many other things, the condition of the mechanical equipment like the water heater, furnace and AC. Also, because many Northern Michigan homes have their own wells, a well inspection is often a good idea.

This is a very broad contingency. If any problems are found during your inspections, you will have the opportunity to negotiate repairs, reduce your offer price, or back out of the deal altogether.

2. Financing or Mortgage Contingency

This contingency stipulates that you must be able to obtain the necessary loan before purchasing the home.

It’s important to remember that this is a step beyond a pre-approval.

Your lender will go through the underwriting process as a final step to assess its risk before you can get full approval.

3. Appraisal Contingency

As part of the underwriting process, your lender will order an appraisal of the property. A licensed appraiser will then determine the full value of the property.

If the property appraises for less than the loan amount, you will have to make up the difference in cash or walk away. You also may try working with another lender if you have enough time. Otherwise, you can try to negotiate an extension with the seller.

4. Attorney Review Contingency

An attorney review contingency is a fairly straightforward condition. It stipulates that your attorney (hopefully a real estate lawyer) must review and approve the purchase agreement prior to closing on the sale. Since most agents do not have a law degree, it’s in your best interest to have your attorney review the paperwork to make sure there are no mistakes or omissions.

5. Home Sale Contingency

With a home sale contingency, your offer is subject to the sale of your current home within a certain time period.

While this is a common contingency, it typically isn’t one that sellers like to see in an offer. Including this type of condition will risk your offer being rejected.

Making a Conditional Offer

Ultimately, the types and amount of contingencies that you include in your offer are entirely up to you. But it’s important to remember that there are always tradeoffs to consider with these provisions.

Contingencies are useful for protecting your interests in the deal. That’s why it’s highly recommended to always include an inspection at the very least.

But including unreasonable or too many conditions can quickly turn off a seller. When this happens, you may not get a second chance at a deal.

It’s important to work together with a knowledgeable realtor who’s a skilled negotiator. You may also want to seek advice from a real estate attorney. Working together, you’ll be able to determine the best contingencies that are fair and right for you.

All content on this website is for information purposes only. Any information contained herein is not intended to provide legal or financial advice, nor does it create an agency relationship. All information is made available without any guarantee, warranty, or representation of any kind. It is your sole responsibility to seek the services of your own legal, financial, accounting, and real estate professionals prior to any such related decisions or transactions.

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