You've just listed your home and prepared yourself for at least three months of showings, perfect housekeeping and piles of Realtor business cards thrown on your kitchen counter from the army of people about to be escorted through. But suddenly you're getting offers left and right. One of them looks terrific, so you call your listing agent and communicate your acceptance. Is it a done deal? Can you pack now? How do you know this is the one? After all, you've heard some nightmare stories about escrows getting to the 11th hour and the whole thing falling apart.
Before you accept an offer on your home, it's not a bad idea to talk with your REALTOR® under what terms you will accept an offer, aside from the price and timeframe for move out. How many safeguards can you or your real estate agent write into your acceptance verbiage when countering on an offer to purchase your home? As many as you want to or need to. Oftentimes, homeowners who list their homes for sale are so overwhelmed by the response to their home, that several offers being thrown at them at once makes them accept one with not a lot of thought to protecting themselves beyond the usual lengths of time given for inspections and a designated close of escrow date.
If your buyer is not pre-approved (not just pre-qualified) for a loan, you may write into your acceptance a contingency stating that your buyer obtain a full loan approval (pending the appraisal) within a week or two after acceptance. A pre-approval is a formal loan approval, stemming from a completed and submitted loan package, with its terms stating that the buyer is approved to buy a home up to a certain price, considering the funds at hand and the loan amount acceptable to the lender. All that need to be filled in is the property address. If an extra day or two is needed for the approval, it shouldn't be a problem to extend that part of your agreement. If your buyer is nowhere close to an approval by that date, however, it's wise to continue marketing your home for back-up interest.
You may inform your agent that you will not consider any contingent offers hinging on the successful sale of a buyer's current home, unless their home is already in escrow (this would be "contingent upon the successful close of escrow"). Even then, you can write in that their buyer must be non-contingent and must obtain formal loan approval within the same time frame, avoiding a "domino effect" with all escrows falling out in rapid succession.
If you anticipate a disorganized move-out (and who doesn't?), hoping to leave time for a slow transfer of furniture and belongings, have your agent counter the escrow time as "close of escrow plus two days," or something similar, so that you can pay a daily rental fee to the new owners, allowing extra time for the move. If you are purchasing a new home, leaving a cushion of time is a very wise move, since completion times are often estimates only.
If yours is a divorce situation and nothing is yet finalized on that count, make sure that your Realtor arranges for the buyers' funding check be written to both you and your spouse (if you have owned the house jointly) and placed in a trust account, for disbursement according to the final divorce agreement. This is a time when you don't need even more conflict added to the equation.
Make a list of all of the items that are not considered a part of the purchase price before offering your house for sale and give them to your agent. Most items affixed to your property remain there and are considered part of the real estate, so it is best to remove any you plan to take with you before any potential buyers even see your home. If you are currently undecided as to which you'll take or leave, these items can become bargaining tools later on, when an acceptable offer comes through. Items like custom-made mirrors, heirloom light fixtures, pool equipment, workshop benches, garage storage units, and area rugs cut specifically for a certain room, are some of the more commonly asked-for goodies.
Preparing yourself for the unexpected is probably one of the more important favours you can do for yourself when selling your home. Going over your ground rules for acceptance can save time, emotions, and hassling over the details when all you really would like to concentrate on is what household stuff you want to get rid of before packing. Sit down with your Realtor before your listing hits the multiple listing service displays, and discuss your parameters, so that you are ultimately the one in the driver's seat when an acceptable offer presents itself.