Make (or accept) an offer on residential real estate - Connecticut overview.
The potential buyer of a piece of residential real estate in CT will make a written offer. This offer will contain the relevant terms, such as property address, purchase price, closing date, mortgage amount, date by which to obtain mortgage, inspection terms, date by which to accept and any other relevant terms or conditions. Depending on where the property is located, the offer may be made in the form of a 'binder' or on a full purchase and sale agreement. In Fairfield County, the binder is usually used, while most of the rest of the state goes directly to contract. A binder is a one page summary of the terms so that an attorney can draft the full contract.
Make (or accept) an offer on a binder form (Fairfield County, Connecticut).
Typically in Fairfield County offers are made on a binder. Although the exact form of the binder differs by area and by real estate agent, typically the binder is a one page form that contains the basic terms of the transaction. This includes purchase price, deposits, property address, personal property included with the sale, mortgage amount and date, inspection provisions and signatures of the parties. Typically one percent of the purchase price is paid at the time of the offer. The seller may accept or make a counter-offer. If an agreement is reached, the executed binder is forwarded to the seller's attorney for a full contract to be drafted for execution by the parties. Although the binder is completed with the expectation that a full contract will later be signed, in certain circumstances the binder can be enforced as a contract. The property condition disclosure report is also included. You should consult an attorney before signing a binder.
Make (or accept) an offer on a contract form (New Haven and Hartford Counties and most of CT).
Most areas of Connecticut go 'straight to contract,' which means that the buyer's offer is made on a contract form, and acceptance of the offer results in a fully binding contract. Most areas have an 'official' contract approved by the local Board of Realtors and the local Bar Association (see example at link below). The contract form contains all the 'boilerplate' provisions, and the terms specific to the transaction must be added to the form and agreed to by the buyer and seller. The property condition disclosure report is also included. Although the contract form does not usually contain an automatic attorney review contingency, it is a good idea to have an attorney review the contract before it is binding (before you sign it). Since the contract forms used in different areas and even by different brokers have differing provisions, you should always have an attorney review the terms and provisions before you sign it.
Include important provisions in the contract or binder.
Whether the offer is made on a binder or a contract form, there are certain important terms that must be included. These include the address of the property, the names and signatures of the buyer and seller, the purchase price, deposit and closing date. These are the basic terms needed to make a binding agreement. In addition, for the protection of the buyer there must be a mortgage contingency provision which would include the amount and terms of the mortgage and the date by which the mortgage must be obtained. The buyer should also have an inspection contingency provision, which allows the buyer to have a building inspection on the premises by a certain date. There should also be a listing of any personal property included with the sale, such as appliances, draperies, etc. In addition, any special provision, such as an agreement that the seller pay part of the buyer's closing costs, would need to be included. Anything not included will not be a part of the binding contract.
Forward a copy of the contract to your lender and attorney.
Your lender will need a copy of the fully executed contract as part of the underwriting process for your loan. You should also consult the lender if you make any subsequent changes to the contract, such as credits for repair items, as these may affect the underwriting of your loan. If you have not done so already, you will need to send a copy of the contract to your closing attorney.
Coordinate the closing with your attorney and real estate agent.
If you are the buyer, your attorney and your lender should be in contact once you have loan approval. If you do not receive loan approval by the date in your mortgage contingency, your attorney will need to ask for an extension. The lender will need certain information from the attorney regarding the title to the property. The buyer's attorney will order and review the title search and prepare the title insurance commitment for the lender. As the closing date approaches, the attorneys will prepare the closing adjustments, working with the other attorney and the lender, and will coordinate the closing date. The buyer's attorney will prepare the title insurance. A walk through is done the day of closing with the real estate agent to be sure the house is empty and in agreed condition.
What if it is a short sale or there are other issues?
If you are selling or buying a property through a 'short sale' when the seller owes more on the house then they will be selling it for, it is especially important to consult an attorney before a binding purchase and sale agreement is executed. Please feel free to ask me or your real estate attorney for advice on any issues. Most attorneys, such as myself, offer a free initial consultation and are happy to quote a fee for representing you on your real estate matter.