Breaking Down the Offer

For a seller who has a house in the market for quite a while, it’s exhilerating to get a call telling you that someone is making an offer. You go through a series of emotions – intitially you feel ecstatic, the next moment when everything sets in, you start to worry thinking that the offer may may not be as good as you were hoping for.

Agents usually don’t tell you the price offer over the phone because there are other things to consider aside from the price – contingencies, seller concessions and real property requests.

Don’t stop at the price. Look at the rest of the offer. Focus on how much net you’re going to get.

Your agent should be able to explain to you the parts of the contract. But it’s better if you already have prior knowledge about real estate contracts. They could vary depending on your state but generally they should be similar.

Here are the basic parts you can expect in a contract: 

  • Earnest money deposit – As the name suggests, it is intended to show that the buyer is sincere. If the offer doesn’t seem favorable, the buyer sets a large earnest money. In most cases, the buyer is the one who decides where the money will be deposited – usually not to the seller but a third party like an escrow, attorney or sometimes a broker’s trust account. The earnest money is usually counted towards the downpayment. If for some reason the sale will not push through, the money deposited will be returned to the buyer. Typically, real estate contracts have a section on any disputes going to arbitration, and most of the time, sellers do not get even a portion of the earnest  money.
  • Purchase price – This is what you’re most interested in. This is most probably the first thing you want to look at. But don’t rejoice until you’ve given a thought on what the buyer wants to include in the offer.
  • Mortgage contingency – This is usually the first contingency you will see. This states that the buyer is acquiring a loan with a specific term and rate. You need to analyze this carefully. Some buyers use this to hold you down while they scout for better bargains. Make sure that the terms specified are realistic such as a 30-year, 5 percent fixed-rate loan with no points when that type of loan carries a 7 percent rate with 1.5 points in your area. Another thing you should be mindful of is the time limit. If not, the buyer might take as long as they want, leaving you tied commited to them and your house unsold. In this contingency, the buyer can also specify if they want you to carry back a first or second mortgage.
  • Seller concessions – The buyers could ask for anything – especially if they know that there isn’t much competition out there. But if the property is a hot item, you can expect the buyers not to ask much seller concessions because they know there isn’t much chance they’re going to get it.
  • Inspection contingencies – This states that the buyers can back out of the deal if the outcome of the inspections show that the house is too much of a problem. There is even a contingency that is dependent on the approval of their mother-in-law. So again, the contingencies should be realistic.
  • Personal property – The buyer can ask for anything that is physically attached to the house being sold. They are considered part of the transaction. It can be the book shelves, light fixtures, kitchen counter. So, those that are not attached to the house like appliances or furnitures still belong to the seller. So if there are things attached to the house that you want to keep, make sure you have them listed. On the other hand,buyers can state the items that they want removed from the house before closing; such as storage bins or boxes of useless items. 
  • Appraisal contingency – The buyer adds this contingency to ensure that they acquire enough amount for the sale price. There are some unlikely cases when the bank doesn’t give an appraisal high enough for the price of the house, usually it happens when there are more seller concessions. Example, the agreed upon price is $300,000 but includes up to $10,000 in buyer closing costs, the house may not appraise if it’s really worth $295,000.
  • Buyer selling property contingency – This applies when the buyer is also trying to sell their property. This means that they can only push through with the sale if they have already sold their house. There is a risk that the seller will let you wait for months. To protect sellers from this, there is usually a 72-hour clause, also known as a kick-out clause. This clause allows the seller to keep the house on the market. If there is another offer, the buyer has 72 hours to fulfill the agreement or the deal is off.

Clear the Clutter and Sell Your House

f you want to sell your house, aside from the washing and the scrubbing, you need to remove the clutter. This doesn’t only mean taking taking out the obvious trash like, empty cans of paint or boxes of unused items that have been sitting in the garage for as long as you could remember. It also means removing personal items from the house. To you, these things are special and looks part of the house. But to potential buyers, they are clutter.

When you show your house to buyers, they need to be able to visualize themselves living in it. But they can’t do this if there are too many personal things like souvenir items from your vacations or events, personalized wall decors and pictures. Instead of making them feel like this house could be theirs, it will make them feel like they’re intruders.

No matter how clean your house is, if there are many things, it will look crowded and it will be unappealing to buyers. I know, these things are important and special to you, so removing them from where they’ve always been will be heartbreaking. But you don’t have to get rid of them, you just need to move them away from the house you’ll eventually part with too. Consider renting a warehouse where you could still keep them.

You need to clear the house from clutter but it doesn’t have to be empty. Just aim to make the house look neutral.

Classify your things according to things you’re going to keep, donate and throw away. It might actually be high time for you to go over your stuff – especially those you haven’t even seen for years and say goodbye to them for good. You can think about selling some of your things in a yard sale or online but it will take time and effort – two things you usually don’t have enough of when you’re in the process of selling your home. If however you are intent on selling some of them at a later time, eBay and Craigslist are the most popular sites to turn to. But you’d be doing yourself and a lot of people a big favor if you just give away as much as you can.

Here are some tips for clearing the clutter:

  • Take out unnecessary furniture to make the room look more spacious.
  • Clear the foyer or mudroom of shoes, coats, umbrellas and other outdoor items.
  • Remove big equipment like a drum set or treadmill.
  • Take out your photos so the buyers can imagine their own photos in the house.
  • Throw away old magazines, newspapers and books. If you have time and creativity, recycle.
  • Arrange your wires neatly. Make sure it doesn’t look messy and won’t cause accidents.
  • Remove everything you have in your nightstand – tissue, medicines, magazines. But you can keep the lamp, clock and a book to add to the look.
  • Organize your bookshelves so they look orderly. Add a decor like a vase or an artwork to make it look pretty.
  • Clear your kitchen countertops. But you can leave important items like a microwave and toaster. Don’t forget to clear the fridge from personalized magnets, pictures, your children’s drawings, coupons or whatever you always stick there.
  • Put away plants that look unhealthy.
  • In the bedroom, take out shoes, clothes and toys off the floor and make sure the bed is done.
  • Tidy up your bathroom by hiding razors, toothbrushes and shampoos in a cabinet. Prep up your room by putting fresh soaps, towels or maybe plants.
  • Take out some clothes in the closet so they don’t look too full.

Determining Your Net Profits

When you sell your home, you can’t expect to take home all of the sale price. There are many fees to pay – commissions, taxes and miscellaneous and they can take out up to 7% of the sale price.

How do you determine your net profit? When you receive an offer, your real estate agent will give you a Seller’s Estimated Net Proceeds worksheet, which will give you an idea of all the costs that will be deducted when you close.

Here are some of the costs that could are usually deducted from the sale price. They may vary depending on yoru state.

  • Mortgage payoff balance.
    They can include your own home loan, second mortgages and home equity lines of credit.  
  • Loan payoff fee.
    Some lenders charge an administrative fee to pay off your loan.
  • Lien release document.
    If you need to pay for a contractor, court judgments or for property taxes, you’ll need to settle them first before you could close the sale.
  • Prepayment penalty.
    Ask your lender if you’ll need to pay for a prepayment penalty if you pay for your loan early.
  • Recording fees.
    If you previously loaned on the house, you’ll need to pay this fee to show that you’ve paid for it already.
  • Commissions for agents.
    This is the fee you pay to both your agent’s brokerage and your agent’s brokerage. Usually this takes off 6% from the sale price. This amount is split by the two brokerage and they are in charge of paying each agent.
  • Notary fees.
    You pay a notary to confirm your identity and verify the documents.
  • Escrow fees.
    The escrow serves as a third party. An escrow ensures that the money is protected while negotiations and processing of necessary documents are still ongoing. You could split the escrow fee with the buyer.
  • Title search fees.
    Before the sale of a home could be finalized, a title company does a search on public records to verify if the property is free from any issue and can be sold.
  • Seller concession. 
    You and the buyer might agree to the price of a house but the buyer asks for a 3 percent closing cost concession.  3% is given back to the seller to pay for the closing costs.
  • Repairs.
    If repairs are necessary, you’ll need to set aside a portion of the sale to spend for it. Sometimes it’s the buyer who requires it and sometimes, the lender.
  • Home warranty.
    There are times when the buyer asks the seller to pay for a home warranty which offers protection for the buyer’s first year in the house.
  • Termite letter. 
    Some states require this. It indicates that the house is free from termites.

There may be more costs not mentioned here. It’s best to ask your real estate agent so you can anticipate and prepare for it.