Contingent. It’s a harsh word in a seller’s market. Sellers don’t want to wait for you to sell your current home to close the deal. It’s not unheard of for sellers to pass up a higher offer that is attached to a contingency. Here is what you need to know and what you can do to get through the process.

What is a contingent offer?

There are a few types of contingent offers that are dependent on home inspection, financing, and/or the sale of the buyer’s current home. The seller accepts your offer, but the process doesn’t start until the contingency is met. If the home doesn’t pass inspection, the offer is void. If you don’t come through with financing in time, the offer is void. Or if you don’t sell your home in time, or a better offer comes in during that time, the contract is void.

The problem is, the contract is binding until the contingency is fulfilled. The home you thought you were buying could be swept out from under you by a buyer who doesn’t have a contingency in their contract.

Inspection

You’re not required to have a home inspection in most cases. However, it is highly recommended that you do get an inspection done. An inspection contingency is different from the other two options in that it’s in the buyer’s favor. If the home does not pass inspection—i.e. there are too many major flaws that would need to be addressed—the buyer can back out. An inspection contingency can also require the seller to fix any issues before the contract is fulfilled. This can be done in several ways. Either the seller addresses the problems prior to closing or they give the buyer credit toward the cost of repair.

This can play out in favor of the seller by limiting the obligations to make repairs. If the cost of repair is too high, they can withdraw from the contract. Although it could be argued that it’s still saving the buyer from falling into a money pit.

Financing

You can put an offer on a home without having financing in place. Someone is out casually looking at homes, they find one they love, they put in an offer, and then they need to get financing in place. The easiest way to avoid this is to get pre-approved for financing. However, with online mortgage applications, you can get the process in place rather quickly these days. But understand that sellers will prefer offers with pre-approved financing if there are multiple bids.

The easiest way to avoid this issue is to get pre-approved. In a seller’s market it can be the reason you offer is accepted. The chances are the seller has a contingent offer and needs to sell their home to buy a home. If you can get the deal done faster, you’re going to be the top offer.

Sale of home

According to the National Association of Realtors, 67% of home buyers have bought a home before. That means most people are going to need to sell a home while also buying a home, a sale of home contingencies. Most sale of home contingent offers have two clauses attached:

  1. A 30–60 day timeline before the deal expires. Meaning your home must sell in that period or the contract is automatically void.
      
  2. The seller can leave the house on the market and accept other offers, allowing you usually 72 hours to continue the contract or drop out.

Overall, an inspection contingency is more in favor of the buyer—it keeps you from getting into a house that is going to be more of a problem than it’s worth. You can easily avoid a financing contingency by getting pre-approved by your lender. If you have to sell your home before you buy a new one, like most people do, don’t worry too much about it, but be prepared to work on getting it sold fast. Contingent offers are a normal part of buying and selling homes, and they are just another aspect to be considered.

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