Writing an Offer in a Multiples Situation? Financing Tips (Part 2)

ten-dollar-billMultiple offers are a joy to home sellers and a nightmare for home buyers.  There are many disclosures warning of the dangers of overbidding and giving away too many rights in the purchase agreement, and rightly so.  You certainly never want to give up that which will make you overly vulnerable (such as no contingencies for financing or property inspection).   At the same time, though, to actually be the winning bidder, your offer must be better than everyone else’s.  Financing terms can really “make or break” your offer.  Today we’ll discuss a couple of those financing terms: the initial deposit  & the increase of deposit (and related issues of liquidated damages and default).

What are financing terms?   They are all the details of how exactly you will pay for the home and get money into escrow.  For example:

  • good faith deposit (initial deposit)
  • increase of deposit (if needed)
  • loan type (conventional, FHA, VA, seller carry?)
  • loan costs (will you pay or are you asking the seller to help pay?)
  • loan terms: are they realistic?
  • is there a pre-approval letter or a pre-qualification letter?
  • what is the total down payment amount? (and % of purchase price)
  • will you provide the “proof of funds” to the seller?
  • will you submit a copy of the check with your offer?

The initial deposit or good faith deposit is the amount of money that you’re “putting down” with your offer.  If your contract to buy the home is accepted, that check will be cashed within a day or two, so make sure that you write one that will not bounce!  In the San Jose area, most real estate agents write the offer such that there are three business days to get that money into the title company (which handles escrow services in northern California most of the time), but make sure you know how many days it is because it can be variable.  It is written right in the contract, so read & understand it.

(Please note that except for the initial deposit, the rest of the contract will reference days, not business days, if your agent is using either the CAR or PRDS purchase agreement form, both of which are standard in Santa Clara County and San Jose generally.)

Smart real estate agents will usually look for 3% deposit when a home sells, preferably in the initial deposit, but possibly part in that first check and the balance in an “increase of deposit”, which normally would happen when all contingencies are removed.  If you are competing against other homebuyers and your deposit is less than 3%, your position is weakened relative to theirs.

Why does the 3% target matter so much?  The reason is that it’s connected to the liquidated damages clause.  The liquidated damages clause is something buyer and seller would need to agree to for it to be enforceable, so in our PRDS or CAR purchase agreement forms there’s a place for buyers and sellers to initial it if desired (and in my experience, everyone does initial for it).  The deposit (and possibly increase of deposit)  is the potential penalty if the buyer defaults on the purchase.  (I’ll speak of defaults below.)

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