Offer

Blog Series: Offers to Purchase

Whether you are working with a realtor or not (If you are, be sure to review our last post discussing listing agreements), in order to make your dream home your own you will have to submit an Offer to Purchase (commonly referred to as “Offer”).

Quite simply, an Offer is the contract that will guide and govern you through your real estate purchase.  By law, an Offer to purchase real estate must (1) be in writing; (2) describe with specificity the real estate you wish to purchase; (3) be signed by all parties – including both spouses if both will own the property.  Wis. Stat. § 706.02.  This rule is called the Statute of Frauds.

Most Offers drafted by attorneys and realtors will be on the standard form WB-11 approved by the Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing.  This form contains several sections and deadlines, including those setting the purchase price (including earnest money), contingencies, title, closing and occupancy.

Purchase Price

Undoubtedly one of the first and most important discussions between a seller and a prospective buyer is the purchase price.  As discussed in this previous post, significant thought should go into the determination of the purchase price.

To demonstrate that the he or she is serious about the potential purchase, a buyer will commonly submit earnest money  within a few days of acceptance of the Offer.  Upon a successful closing, these funds are applied as part of the purchase price.  If for some reason the sale doesn’t close, the earnest money may either be returned to the buyer or retained by the seller (depending on the language in the Offer).

Contingencies

Offers routinely include several contingencies depending on the specifics of the transaction and the property.  More common contingencies include those for financing the transaction, inspection and appraisal of the property, and title.  Attorneys may draft additional, specific contingencies depending on your particular circumstance. Contingencies must include a completion deadline – calculated either from the acceptance of the Offer or backwards from the proposed closing date – as well as what actions must occur in order for it to be satisfied.  In the event a contingency is not satisfied or the deadline is missed, the parties may waive the contingency, extend the deadline for compliance, or, in some cases, terminate the transaction.  Multiple individual contingencies will be discussed in detail in future posts.

Closing and Occupancy

The Offer will set a deadline and place for the transaction to close and when the buyers will take occupancy.  Occupancy is usually provided immediately upon closing.

The above constitutes a simple overview of residential Offers to Purchase.  If you are looking to submit an Offer, or have already submitted an Offer but have questions or concerns, we strongly recommend that you meet with an experienced real estate attorney.  If you would like to meet with own of our experienced real estate attorneys, please contact our office at (608) 837-7386.

Disclaimer:  Please note that reading and/or commenting on this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship with Eustice, Laffey, Sebranek & Auby, S.C. absent an express agreement between the firm and the client.  Contacting Eustice, Laffey, Sebranek & Auby, S.C. or any of its attorneys or employees via this website or via email does not create an attorney-client relationship.

We would be pleased to communicate with you by email. However, please note that if you communicate with us-through this website, via email, or otherwise-in connection with a matter for which we do not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged or confidential and may be disclosed to other persons.

Blog Series: Do I Really Need a Real Estate Attorney?

 

All too often we are asked “I have a realtor, why do I need an attorney too?”[1]

According to realtor.com, the answer is “yes” if any of the following questions apply to your transaction:

Buyers

  • Are you an out of town buyer?
  • Are you buying a property that is a short sale or bank owned?
  • Are you buying a property that is part of an estate sale?
  • Are you buying a commercial property?
  • Are you buying a property that could potentially have some structural issues?
  • Are you buying a property in a problematic area such as a flood zone or areas with adverse conditions (tornado prone, radon, toxicity levels, etc.)?

Sellers

  • Are you selling a property that is in some state of distress?
  • Are you the heir or executor of a property whose owner is now deceased?
  • Are you selling a house with a non-cooperative partner?
  • Do you have that gut feeling that something could possibly go wrong based on knowledge you have about the property?
  • Do you have judgments or liens in your background?[2]

Even if none of the above applies, there are many other reasons why an experienced real estate attorney will prove to be a valuable asset to your buying or selling experience.

  1. Your real estate attorney only represents your rights and interests. A realtor may not step in to settle a dispute for fear of upsetting a party and losing the transaction.
  2. Your real estate attorney is trained to spot issues and solve problems that may not be readily apparent to others involved.
  3. Your real estate attorney is able to modify the “standard” contracts often used in residential transactions to avoid issues, problems, and disputes. Similarly, they can use your knowledge of the property to make the contracts most favorable to you.
  4. Your real estate attorney will walk you through your options throughout the transaction, including, for instance, if an issue arises upon inspection, or in the title work. They will be able to let you know whether you can walk away from the deal, and what will happen to the earnest money.
  5. Your real estate attorney will review and clearly explain to you the complex documents you will receive, including loan documents, title work, encumbrances, and closing documents.
  6. Your real estate attorney will attend the closing to ensure that no last minute issues arise, and that it progresses smoothly.
  7. And finally, your real estate attorney will give you the peace of mind of knowing you are in good hands!

As you can see, even if your transaction is “simple,” an attorney can provide you with valuable assistance and peace of mind so all you have to worry about is moving in!

Disclaimer:  Please note that reading and/or commenting on this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship with Eustice, Laffey, Sebranek & Auby, S.C. absent an express agreement between the firm and the client.  Contacting Eustice, Laffey, Sebranek & Auby, S.C. or any of its attorneys or employees via this website or via email does not create an attorney-client relationship.

We would be pleased to communicate with you by email. However, please note that if you communicate with us-through this website, via email, or otherwise-in connection with a matter for which we do not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged or confidential and may be disclosed to other persons.

 


 

[1] To be clear, we love our realtor friends and colleagues, and nothing in this post is meant to minimize the hard work they put in on a transaction.

[2] http://www.realtor.com/news/ask-a-realtor/do-i-really-need-a-real-estate-attorney/

Contingencies: Providing Protection from Uncertainty

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So you’ve decided on a property.  It looks great. You think you can afford it.  And you are closing on your current home soon.  What could possibly go wrong?  Hopefully nothing. However, in the event the house isn’t as great as it looks, you can’t actually afford it, or your current house doesn’t sell, your Offer should address what happens.

A contingency is a future event that might occur, but is not certain.  Essentially, it is a paragraph in your Offer to deal with the uncertainty.

Contingencies have three basic parts:

  1. The action necessary to satisfy the contingency;
  2. A deadline for the action to occur; and
  3. Consequences if the action does not occur.

An example:

Buyer’s obligation to close this transaction are contingent upon Buyer closing on the sale of Buyer’s current home located at 100 Wilburn Road, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin by March 30, 2014.  If the sale does not close by March 30, 2014, Buyer may terminate this contract and Seller shall return the earnest money.

As set forth above, there are consequences if the contingency is not satisfied on or before the deadline.  A well-drafted contingency will clearly state these consequences so that everyone is aware ahead of the deadline.  Most often, the consequences involve the termination of the contract and a distribution of the earnest money.  A buyer or seller can always choose to waive any unsatisfied contingency.

The most common examples of contingencies in residential real estate transactions are those for financing, appraisal, inspection, and title.[1]  These “standard” contingencies are located on the form Offer.  Depending on the particulars of the transaction and the real estate, additional standard contingencies may be necessary.  These may be included on an addendum to the form Offer.

Financing

Most residential real estate purchases will involve some sort of financing.  A financing contingency will set forth not only the basic loan terms (amount, interest rate, term, etc.), but also the type of loan.  A financing contingency is satisfied when a buyer provides the seller with a loan commitment for a loan meeting the terms set forth in the Offer.

Inspections

Unless you are intimately familiar with the home you are purchasing (and even if you are), an inspection is a vital part of any transaction.  It will inform you of the current condition and any defects in the house you are purchasing.  If defects are found, the inspection contingency will provide whether the Seller will be allowed to fix – or cure – the defects.  If so, the seller will have an agreed upon time to make any required repairs.  Disputes regarding inspection contingencies often arise as to who will actually conduct the repairs, and whether the defects were sufficiently cured.

Appraisal

An appraisal is a valuation of the real estate you are purchasing.  An appraisal contingency will require that the valuation state the home is worth at least the amount of the purchase price.  If the appraisal comes back below the purchase price, the Buyer will typically have a right to terminate the Offer.  In some cases, rather than lose the transaction, parties may agree to decrease the purchase price accordingly.  If, however, the appraisal comes back higher than the purchase price, the contingency is simply satisfied and no action is necessary.

Title

When you are buying real estate, you will want to ensure that you are receiving merchantable title.  This means there are not unexpected easements, judgments or other liens, or other encumbrances preventing you from fully enjoying the real estate.  In order to satisfy this contingency, the seller will have to provide the buyer with a title insurance policy showing either (1) there are no issues on the title; or (2) if there are, they will be taken care of on or before the closing.

As stated above, this is by no means an exhaustive list of the possible or appropriate contingencies for any particular real estate transaction.  In order to determine which contingencies are appropriate for your transaction, we strongly recommend you meet with an experienced real estate attorney.  If you would like to meet with one of our experienced real estate attorneys, please contact us at (608) 837-7386.


[1] Note: This list is by no means exhaustive.  Entire books are written about contingencies for use by real estate lawyers in residential real estate transactions.