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California Residential Purchase Agreement Explained: What You Should Know

real estate purchase contract

Deciphering all the legalese of a residential purchase agreement — AKA a home purchase contract — can be a little daunting without some guidance, so use this post to learn about the 11 most important things to focus on when reviewing a California home offer.

Purchase Price

No explanation required here — the higher the amount, the better. In the real estate offer form most widely used by the California Association of Realtors (CAR), you will find the Purchase Price in section 1.

Close of Escrow Date

This is the date your sale is finalized and is also typically the day you will receive payment for your home. If you are looking at the CAR offer form, the Close of Escrow Date is in section 1.

Thirty to 60 days is the most common timeframe for closing escrow.

» MORE: How to Navigate the Escrow Timeline

Real Estate Agent Commissions

If the buyer is asking you to pay commissions, there will typically be information for a buyer’s agent and their brokerage written into section 2 of the CAR offer form.

Earnest Money aka Initial Deposit to Escrow

In California, the standard amount of earnest money is 1 to 3% of the Purchase Price. In the CAR offer form, you will find the Earnest Money Amount referenced in section 3A. If the buyer is offering less than 1 to 3%, beware of their ability to successfully close.

Loan Amount

This is found in section 3D of the CAR offer form. The lower the Loan Amount relative to the Purchase Price, the higher the probability that the buyer can successfully obtain a loan to close.

Purchase Contingent on the Sale of Another Property

In the CAR offer form, see if the buyer checked the box contained in Section 4B. If so, be very leery of the offer because the buyer is saying he or she must first sell their home in order to be able to buy yours. If the box is checked, their offer is commonly referred to as a contingent offer.

Included Items

Is the buyer asking you to provide things like furniture and electronics? See section 8B of the CAR offer form to find out.

Tenant Possession

If you have a tenant, see section 9D of the CAR offer form. It will tell you whether the buyer wants you to keep the tenant or boot them at Close of Escrow.

Contingency Removal Periods

Thecontingency removaldate is the date defined in the offer that buyer will remove contingencies and indicate a firm intent to close escrow. Did the buyer change the defaults for removal of contingencies? The check boxes in section 14 of the CAR offer will tell you.

Liquidated Damages, Mediation and Arbitration

Typically the buyer and seller will both want to agree to liquidated damages, mediation and arbitration. If the buyer has initialed all the boxes contained in sections 21 and 22 of the CAR offer form, the buyer is agreeing to them.

Remember, reviewing legal agreements is not for novices. If you need help, we recommend going with an agent who has at least three years of experience.

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