A real estate purchase agreement, also known as a “Sale and Purchase Agreement (SPA),” is a binding contract that outlines the terms of a real estate transaction. The document is completed by a buyer, who presents the completed document to a home seller as a means of “making an offer” on their property. The seller then has the option of accepting, declining, or negotiating the offer and conditions presented by the buyer.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Asset Purchase Agreement (APA) – A document completed when a party will be purchasing some (or all) of a company’s assets. Assets can include equipment, software, licenses, know-how/processes, inventory, and more.
Business Purchase Agreement – A contract used to outline the sale of a company between a buyer and a seller.
Car (Vehicle) Purchase Agreement – Also known as a “bill of sale,” this form is used to legally document the sale of a new or used motor vehicle.
Commercial Real Estate Purchase Agreement – Establishes the terms and conditions for the sale of a business-only property (e.g., retail, industrial, office space, etc.).
Land Purchase Agreement – For structuring a deal in which land is sold from one person (or entity) to another. Can be used for residential, commercial, agricultural, or mineral development.
Stock Purchase Agreement – A contract used for selling shares of stock of a company.
Option to Purchase (Property) Agreement – A rental form that combines a fixed-term lease with a purchase contract, giving the tenant the ability to purchase the rented property if they so choose.
Residential Property Disclosures (50 states) – Provided to potential homebuyers to inform them of both existing and previously repaired issues on the property.
Lead-Based Paint Disclosure – Must be given to potential homebuyers if the property being sold was built prior to 1978.
A purchase agreement is a form used for making an offer on a home. It contains a set of conditions and contingencies that are presented to the seller of a home, who will either accept, deny, or counter the offered price, and may wish to negotiate some of the conditions included in the contract. If the seller accepts, the seller and buyer will sign the form, officially making the agreement “under contract.”
The following guide is a general outline of the home buying process for residential properties.
The first step prospective homebuyers should take in the buying process is to identify exactly what they can and can’t afford. After all, there is no sense in finding the “perfect” home only to find out that it’s out of the buyer’s affordable price range. There are several important things that the buyer will need to get in order before they consider purchasing a home.
The Downpayment – A buyer should reserve a minimum of five percent (5%) for a downpayment on a home. However, the higher the downpayment that the buyer can make, the better it will be for them in the future. Paying a greater down payment (15%, for example) will accomplish the following:
- Get the buyer a lower interest rate;
- Make the homeowner more interested in selling;
- Reduce the need for paying private mortgage insurance (PMI); and
- Result in a smaller mortgage payment.
Credit Score – In short, the higher the buyer’s credit score, the better the mortgage rate they’ll be able to get. Additionally, they’ll be able to take out a greater mortgage with less money down (if they so choose). In general, a credit score above 660 will allow buyers to acquire a home loan, although a score above 700 should be strived for.
Income & Expenses – While amassing a significant sum for a downpayment will reduce the loan amount and the rate, the buyer will still need to afford the monthly payments involved with the loan. The buyer should take a hard look at their income and expenses to ensure they will be paying no more than forty percent (40%) of their income towards all of the home expenses. Home expenses take into account insurance, taxes, and other related costs.
SmartAsset “How much house can I afford?” Calculator – This is a useful tool for prospective homebuyers for getting an estimate of the home price they can afford.
A pre-qualification letter is an official form given to a potential buyer by a bank or mortgage lender. It is provided after the buyer submits their income, assets, and expenses, and provides them the necessary information for pulling up their credit score.
While not a technical requirement, obtaining pre-qualification can open up many more doors during the research and touring stage, and make sellers more interested in showing their property. With that said, it is not a guarantee. Just because a buyer acquires a pre-qualification letter doesn’t mean it is guaranteed they will be able to obtain a loan.
According to Zillow’s Housing Trends Report for 2019, eighty-two percent (82%) of home buyers used a real estate agent or broker to assist with the home buying process.
Why use a realtor for buying? Some of the more common reasons include:
- It doesn’t cost anything additional (the seller typically pays the realtor fees).
- Increased confidentiality due to the broker’s fiduciary duty.
- Negotiation is significantly easier (since the realtor will be doing it).
- Agents have superior attention to detail (and know what to look for).
Prospective buyers can use some of the following methods to find a realtor:
- Browse online search tools (such as the “Find a REALTOR” search tool).
- Go to open houses and speak with agents.
- Speak to family and friends to see who they recommend.
- Browse reviews online.
With the help of their agent (assuming one was hired), buyers can begin searching for a home. The buyer should create a list of “must-haves” to narrow down the scope of properties to a more manageable list. On the other hand, buyers should avoid being overly picky to avoid unnecessarily limiting their options. Informing the agent of their specific interests is highly recommended, as they will conduct research on their own time and know exactly where to look. The following are platforms for finding homes for sale:
Once the buyer finds a home they’re interested in, they can ask their agent to set up a private showing of the property.
If the buyer takes a tour of a property that they like, and they want to more forward with negotiations, they will complete a purchase agreement. The form serves as an offer, informing the seller exactly what the buyer is willing to pay, what contingencies they have (if any), and the other aspects of the arrangement. If the seller deems it to be a fair offer, they’ll accept it. However, buyers should be ready for the seller to try and negotiate a few sections of the offer to better suit their needs. This process can go back and forth for quite a while until the parties finally agree or they both go their separate ways.
If the parties come to an agreement, they will sign the purchase contract. The buyer will then provide the seller with their earnest money deposit, which shows their intent to purchase the property as long as the remaining steps go as planned.
To ensure they’re not buying a property with underlying issues (such as lead walls or contaminated water), the buyer will hire an inspector to go through the house thoroughly. Every property has different systems and features, so the inspection may take time and could cover a great number of concerns. The most common areas an inspector will cover include the following:
- Structural components
- Plumbing / electrical systems
- HVAC systems
- Heating elements
The buyer is typically responsible for paying for the inspection, although they can require the seller to pay if it’s written in the purchase contract. The price of a home inspection will range from $200 to $496. “Going cheap” on an inspection is not recommended, as any defects the inspector finds could wind up saving the buyer hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars.
If the buyer will be paying for the property with a loan, they will need to obtain a mortgage through a financial institution. Assuming the buyer anticipated the down payment (by saving up for a down payment, ensuring their credit score is worthy, and the other recommendations from step 1) this process should go smoothly.
However, even if the buyer was pre-approved for a loan, the financer will require the property to be appraised by a neutral 3rd party appraiser. An appraiser is a person that is paid for by the mortgage provider. The appraiser’s job is to determine the property’s value in a non-biased way by going through every aspect of the property in painstaking detail. Mortgage providers require this as they want to ensure they are loaning for an investment that is worth it in the long run. As long as the appraiser gives a value of the property that is in line with the dollar amount of the loan the buyer is requesting, the buyer should be able to obtain the loan.
Once the mortgage application has gone through successfully, the parties have conducted a final walkthrough, and all contingencies have been removed, the parties can close on the home. At closing, the parties will be signing numerous documents and paying for the closing costs, among other activities. If the closing process goes off without a hitch, the buyer will be the official owner of their new home.
To be effective, a purchase agreement needs to contain the following elements:
The contract will contain space for recording the property’s full address, property type (condominium, triplex, single-family, etc.), and legal description. The legal description of the home can be found in the deed and should be copied over word for word.
Purchase Price + Financing
Arguably the most important section of the contract, the purchase price is the full amount the buyer is willing to pay for the property. Also included in this section (or sometimes in its own section altogether) is how the buyer will finance the purchase; covers whether the buyer will be paying in cash, receiving financing from the seller, or with a new mortgage (bridge loan, VA loan, fixed-rate, variable, etc.).
A contingency is a clause that states a certain condition must be met prior to a buyer going through with the purchase. Depending on the desirability of the property and the state of the market, the number of contingencies will vary greatly. Other than the offered price, contingencies are one of the most commonly negotiated terms of a purchase agreement.
Earnest Money Deposit
The earnest money deposit is paid by the buyer to the seller upon the signing of the purchase agreement. It shows the seller that the buyer is wholly invested in purchasing the home, and gives the seller the confidence to proceed with the deal. If the buyer backs out for a reason not covered by the contract, the seller gets to keep the deposit. The deposit is often held by a third party (such as a real estate brokerage or title company) in a trust account.
Closing Date + Costs
The closing is the period of time in which the parties finalize the contract and officially transfer ownership of the property from the seller to the buyer. Typically both parties share in the closing costs, although the seller can expect to pay more because of the agents’ commissions (buyer and seller agents). Buyer closing costs are typically two to five percent (2-5%) of the property’s purchase price, whereas the seller’s closing costs can amount to between eight to ten percent (8-10%) of the purchase price.
Step 1 – Parties
To start completion of the purchase agreement, the Buyer will need to enter the “Effective Date” of the contract. This is the date the contract will become effective, or valid. The day, month, and year should be entered in the appropriate spaces. After this, the “Buyer” and the “Seller” will need to be identified. For both parties, enter their full names, street addresses, cities, states, and ZIP codes into the applicable fields.
Step 2 – Property Description
To accurately describe the property, the Buyer will need to enter a description of the property they are purchasing. For the “Property Type,” state what kind of property is for sale. Some of the options are “Condominium, Duplex, Triplex, Fourplex, PUD (Planned Unit Development), and Single Family Home,” to name a few. Then, enter the full address where the property is located. On the next line, enter the “Tax Parcel Information” (also called the “Tax Map & Lot Number”). This can be found by contacting the county recorder’s office in the county where the home is located. Using the bottom three (3) lines, enter a description of the property. The description can be found on the deed and should be copied word for word.
Step 3 – Included Personal Property
If the sale price of the property includes other items, such as a TV, couch, vehicle lift, treadmill, etc, it should be written into the agreement. All of the property that is listed will be considered as the “Property” being purchased.
Step 4 – Earnest Money
Earnest money is a deposit made by the Buyer to infer their commitment to purchasing the home. Enter the total amount of money ($) being offered as earnest money. In the first space, enter the value as a dollar amount (e.g., “$5,000”); in the second space, enter the value in words (e.g., “FIVE-THOUSAND”). Check the box corresponding to the type of payment being made (either cash or check). If the state requires the deposit to be placed in a secondary trust account, check the appropriate box to indicate whether it will be deposited with the listing or selling broker. Add any other provisions related to the earnest money if necessary in the two (2) lines provided.
Step 5 – Purchase Price & Financing
Enter the amount the Buyer is offering to purchase the property for. In the first line enter the numerical value (e.g., “$500,000), followed by the written value in the second line (e.g., “FIVE HUNDRED-THOUSAND”).
Next, the Buyer will need to list how they are paying for the property. The three (3) options include a New Mortgage, Cash, or Seller Financing.
New Mortgage: If they are purchasing via a mortgage, check the box corresponding to the type of mortgage being used for the property. Included options are VA (Veteran’s Association), FHA, SDHDA, Conventional, or another type of loan (which can be listed on the provided line). Then, check the box corresponding to the method by which the loan status letter will be delivered: 1) to the Seller (include the date), or 2) attached to the contract. Proceed by entering the number of “legal banking days” the Buyer has to make an application for the new loan (among the other loan-related tasks).
Cash: If the Buyer is making a cash offer, enter the total deposit they are willing to make for the home. It says “remaining balance” because the dollar amount should be subtracted from the earnest money deposit being made to the Seller. The Buyer should provide a letter of verification from their banking institution to confirm they have the funds available for the cash offer. Check the applicable box to indicate whether the verification letter will be 1) attached to the contract, or 2) delivered to the Seller (enter the date if this option is checked).
Seller Financing: If the Buyer will be receiving financing from the Seller, the following details will need to be entered into the corresponding fields:
- Loan amount ($)
- Down payment ($)
- Interest rate (yearly %)
- Term (length of the loan – check whether it is in months or years)
- Documentation; attach/send documentation relating to the Buyer’s ability to purchase according to the purchase price & the Seller’s financing:
- Enter the date the Buyer has to provide the documentation to the Seller.
- Enter the date by which the Seller has to approve the Buyer’s documentation.
Note: If the Seller doesn’t approve of the Buyer’s documentation, the Seller has to return the Buyer’s documentation within five (5) business days.
Step 6 – Sale of Another Property
If the Buyer’s purchase of the property is based upon whether or not they need to sell their own home first, check the second (2nd) box and enter the mailing address of the property that will be sold followed by the number of days from the effective date by which the property needs to be sold.
Step 7 – Closing Costs
Check whether the closing costs (appraisal fees, title insurance, surveys, notary fees, etc.) will be the responsibility of the Buyer, the seller, or both. The most common option is for the fees to be split up between both parties. However, agents’ fees are almost always the responsibility of the Seller.
Step 8 – Closing
In this section, the date and time of the closing are established. Enter the day, month, and year upon which the closing will take place, followed by the time (check whether it’s AM or PM) the Buyer and Seller will meet to sign all the documents.
Step 9 – Survey
If the Buyer intends to complete a survey (required if they are obtaining a mortgage), they should check the appropriate option of the four (4) provided. Then, they will need to check whether the survey will be paid for by the Buyer or the Seller. Ssince the purchase agreement is often used for making an offer on the property, the Buyer should only require the Seller to pay for the survey costs if they believe there is a good chance their offer will be accepted.
If the Buyer intends to waive the survey, they will need to place their initials in the space provided.
Step 10 – Title
In this section, the Buyer needs to enter the number (#) of days they have to notify the Seller of any matters in the title search they find unacceptable. If the Buyer doesn’t notify the Seller in the time provided, it is assumed that they “Accept” the title for what it is. In the next paragraph, enter the number (#) of days the Seller has to remedy any issue(s) discovered in the title search report. If they do not remedy the issues in the number of days provided, the Buyer has the right to cancel the agreement and recover the Earnest Money that they initially deposited.
Step 11 – Inspection
An inspection is a pivotal step in the home buying process. If the Buyer acknowledges the importance of having an inspection of the home, they should initial the space provided. If the Buyer’s offer depends on them being able to obtain a property inspection (highly recommended), the first box should be checked. If not, check the second box. If the Buyer will be performing an inspection, enter the number of days the Buyer has to provide the Seller (or their agent) with the results of the inspection.
If the Buyer agrees to an inspection and one (1) or more issues are found, list the number of days the Buyer and Seller have to negotiate on a settlement for the issues. Then, enter the number (#) of hours that have to pass after the negotiation deadline before the contract terminates.
Step 12 – Appraisal
An appraisal is a requirement if the Buyer will be applying for a mortgage for the property. Check one (1) of the provided options.
- Check “Shall not” if it doesn’t matter whether or not the property’s appraisal is equal to or greater than the purchase price as established by Step 5.
- Check “Shall” if it is a contingency that the appraised value is at least equal to (if not greater) than the established purchase price. And in the event the appraisal is lower than the purchase price or required repairs are discovered, the parties will negotiate the contract further. Enter the number (#) of days the parties have to negotiate a new price (or other conditions) until the agreement terminates (and the Buyer is refunded their Earnest Money).
Step 13 – Termination
For the “Termination” section, enter the number (#) of days the Seller has to return the Buyer’s Earnest Money deposit (in full) in the event of the contract’s termination.
Step 14 – Dispute Resolution
This section covers what will occur in the event the parties enter into mediation over a dispute over one (1) or more conditions of the contract. If the mediation costs will be shared among the Buyer and Seller, select “Yes.” If the costs will be the sole responsible of the Buyer, select “No.” Regardless of the option chosen, the Buyer(s) should enter their initials in the spaces provided.
Step 15 – Governing Law
Enter the state in which the property is located to confirm which state laws will govern the provisions of this purchase agreement.
Step 16 – Offer Expiration
Because the Buyer doesn’t want to be stuck in “limbo” (i.e., waiting for the Seller’s response indefinitely), they will need to enter the full date (day, month, and year) followed by the time (check AM/PM) in which the agreement will be revoked if a response is not heard from the Seller. If the contract is revoked, the Seller would be required to reimburse the Buyer all deposited Earnest Money.
Step 17 – Disclosures
If the Buyer intends to attach an addendum or disclosures to the contract, they should check the second (2nd) box and provide a description of any attached documents. If there are no attachments, the first (1st) box should be checked.
Step 18 – Additional Terms
If the Buyer has any additional terms, conditions, or contingencies they would like to add, they can do so in the three (3) lines provided under the Additional Terms and Conditions section.
Step 19 – Signatures
Depending on the number of Buyers and Sellers (and if both parties have agents representing them), not all signature fields may need to be used. However, at minimum, the Buyer will need to inscribe their signature (by hand or through eSign), followed by the date on which they are signing. The Buyer’s agent should provide the same information.
If the Seller chooses to accept the purchase offer, they (and their agent) will provide their signatures, the signing date, and their full printed names.