As the end of 2020 approaches, demand for homes remains high, and mortgage rates show no signs of changing. Ultimately, despite a rise in jobless claims, the ongoing pandemic is driving home sales.
“This offer is contingent upon the following.” This is a common phrase used in real estate purchase agreements and contracts. Home buyers across Washington State often make their offers contingent upon certain conditions or events. In this article, we’ll look at some of the most common contingencies used by Washington home buyers.
What Is a Home Buying Contingency?
“Contingency” is a word with a lot of different meanings. When it comes to real estate, a contingency is basically a necessary condition of the sale. It’s something that must happen in order for the sale to go through. For instance, a purchase agreement in Washington might be contingent upon an acceptable home inspection being completed.
Real estate contingencies are essentially a way for home buyers to protect themselves against unforeseen events. They can give the buyer a way to back out of the deal without sacrificing the earnest money deposit, if the situation warrants it.
Here are three of the most common contingencies used by home buyers in Washington:
- Inspection contingency: Sure, that house looks great from the curb. But what’s happening on the inside? What’s the conditions of the roof, the foundation, and the electrical system? These are things a professional home inspector will evaluate. And that’s why many buyers in Washington choose to make their offers contingent upon a home inspection. If the buyers feel the property has too many issues or needs too much work, they can use their contingency to walk away from the deal.
- Appraisal contingency: This is similar to the home buying contingency above, in the sense that it protects buyers from things that are beyond their control. A home appraisal is typically required whenever a mortgage loan is being used. A licensed appraiser will evaluate the property to determine its market value. A home appraisal contingency protects you, the buyer, if the appraisal comes in below the sale price (and the seller is unwilling to lower the asking price).
- Title Contingency: Within a real estate context, the “title” is a record of homeownership. It shows who owns the home currently, and sometimes who has owned it in the past. Title companies review these legal documents when a home buyer is taking ownership of a property. Most of the time, title issues are resolved before closing — if there are any issues. But in cases where such issues cannot be resolved, the title contingency allows the buyer to exit the deal instead of having to pay for someone’s property dispute. (See also: Title insurance policies)
Be Mindful of Contingencies in a Hot Market
Home buyers should realize that the problems and issues mentioned above are the exception, not the norm. In many cases, real estate transactions move along smoothly and end with a successful closing. And when issues do arise, they can usually be worked out. For instance, if a home appraises below the asking price, the seller could adjust the price to reflect the actual market value.
It’s also important to consider the nature of your local real estate market, before including a contract contingency. As a general rule, home buyer contingencies are less common in a hot housing market.
In an active market, sellers can be fairly sure they’ll receive multiple offers. So they might have the luxury of choosing the one with the fewest “strings” attached. Asking for too many concessions, or including too many contingencies, could work against a home buyer in a hot market (like Seattle).
In a highly competitive market, some home buyers choose to waive these and other common contingencies, in order to make their offers more appealing. This is why it’s wise to seek help from an experienced real estate agent who can advise you on such matters.
Have questions? Sammamish Mortgage is a local, family-owned company based in Bellevue, Washington. We serve the entire state, as well as the broader Pacific Northwest region. Please contact us if you have mortgage-related questions.