Common Real Estate Contingencies

This article originally appears on the Windermere Real Estate Blog, here.

Contingencies help to spell out the specifics of a real estate transaction by dictating what must happen so the contract becomes legally binding. If certain conditions aren’t met, the applicable contingency gives the buyer and the seller the right to back out of the contract per their agreed-upon terms. When selling your home, a buyer may make their offer with contingencies attached. Here are some common contingencies you might see in a buyer’s offer and what they mean for you.

Home Inspection Contingency

A home inspection contingency allows the buyer to have the home professionally inspected within a certain window of time. If the buyer finds outstanding repairs that need to be made, they can negotiate them into their offer. If the seller chooses not to make the repairs outlined in the buyer’s home inspection report, the buyer can cancel the contract.

As a seller, it’s important to be transparent in listing any issues with the home. This is why many sellers find a pre-listing inspection to be beneficial: it provides transparency about the home’s condition ahead of time and can help to streamline the buying process, which can be especially helpful when selling in competitive markets.

Financing Contingency

Also known as a “mortgage contingency,” a financing contingency gives the buyer a specified period of time to secure adequate financing to purchase the home. Even if a buyer is pre-approved for their mortgage, they may not be able to obtain the right loan for the home. If they are unable to finance the purchase, the buyer can back out of the contract and recover their earnest money, and the seller can re-list the home.

The seller won’t be on the hook if the buyer fails to cancel the contract. Even if the buyer is not able to secure financing by the agreed-upon date, they are still responsible for purchasing the home if they do not terminate the contract.

Appraisal Contingency

An appraisal contingency states that the home must appraise for, at minimum, the sales price. It protects the buyer in that it allows them to walk away from the deal if the property’s appraised value is lower than the sales price, and typically guarantees that their earnest money will be returned. This can be an issue in certain markets where demand is driving prices up to numbers that appraisals don’t reflect. Depending on the agreement you make with the buyer, you may be able to lower the price of your home to the appraised amount and sell it at that price. When selling your home, remember that there is a difference between appraised value and market value. An appraiser’s value of a property is based on several factors using comparative market analyses, whereas market value is what buyers are willing to pay for a home.

Home Sale Contingency

If a contract includes a home sale contingency, it means that the buyer is tying their purchase of a home to the sale of their existing one. Though it is common for homeowners to buy and sell a house at the same time, attaching a home sale contingency to an offer does create some added variability in a real estate transaction that sellers should be aware of before accepting such an offer. This contingency allows buyers to sell their current home and use the proceeds to finance the purchase of their new one. Although you will have the right to cancel the contract if your buyer’s home is not sold within a specified time, you’re still waiting on them for the deal to go through, which means you could potentially miss out on other offers while you wait.

Title Contingency

Before the sale of a home goes final, a search will be performed to ensure that any liens or judgements made against the property have been resolved. A title contingency allows a buyer to raise any issues they may have with the title status of the property and stipulates that the seller must clear these issues up before the transfer of title can be complete. If an unpaid lien or unpaid taxes turn up in the home’s title search, this contingency also allows the buyer to back out of the deal and look for another home. A majority of sellers will pull a pre-title report to provide transparency for a smooth transaction.

These are just some of the contingencies you may encounter in a buyer’s offer. Work closely with your agent to understand the terms of these contingencies and how they impact the sale of your home as you go about finding the right buyer.