How to Make an Offer on a House
Learn about all the aspects of making a successful offer

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What You Should Know

  • Conditions protect you from having to close on a home if certain activities cannot be done or fail. Common conditions include financing, home inspection, and repairs.
  • A real estate agent can help you determine the price to offer on a home based on comparable sales, how competitive the market is, and your budget.
  • Your deposit is usually held in trust by the seller's agent, and is to show good faith during the real estate transaction.
  • Your closing date is usually 60 to 90 days after the offer is accepted by the seller.
  • An irrevocable date is how long your offer is valid for, meaning a date that allows the seller time to review the offer is important.

Searching for a home and finding the right house can be a long process, especially in the competitive Canadian housing market home buyers in major cities are facing today. The process of finding and making an offer on a house has the following set of steps:

  1. Get pre-approved for a mortgage,
  2. Find a local real estate agent with experience who can help guide you,
  3. Search for houses within your budget,
  4. Find a home that you would like to live in and put an offer on it

When you are putting together an offer to purchase real estate, many aspects of the offer need to be considered.

Offer Components
ConditionsTo protect you from your offer being binding in certain scenarios
Purchase PriceHow much you're willing to offer to purchase the home
DepositHow much you will pledge for the first installment when the contract is accepted
Closing DateWhen you will take possession of the home
Other Offer TermsIrrevocable Date, Title Search Date, Included Fixtures, and Walkthrough

Conditions

Conditions can be included in your offer so that you do not need to close if the conditions cannot be met. Some of the most common conditions include:

ConditionWhat is it?
Home InspectionYou will be able to get a home inspection on the property, and the sale is based on the home inspection coming back without major issues.
FinancingThe sale will be contingent on the buyer being able to get the needed financing to close.
Sale of PropertyThe sale is contingent on the buyer being able to sell their existing property within a certain period of time.
TenantsWhen closing the sale, the buyer may request that the tenants vacate the property, or allow them to stay if they choose to.
RepairsIf the buyer wishes to ask the seller to perform any repairs before the transaction is closed.

Firm offer vs a conditional offer

The difference between a conditional and a firm offer is that a conditional offer is contingent on the conditions being met before the sale goes through. A firm offer however does not have any conditions tied to it, meaning the transaction has nothing stopping it from going through. Because firm offers have a better chance of going through, they are more desired by home sellers than conditional offers.

What is a bully offer in real estate?

A bully offer is when a buyer presents an offer before the date the seller has set, and also has a date for when the offer is to be accepted by before the set date. The goal of a bully offer is to get the seller to accept the offer before seeing other offers. Some listings will indicate no bully offers, however bully offers are still fairly common, especially in competitive real estate markets in Canada.

How can conditions protect you?

Conditions can be helpful because they protect you from having to close on the sale if the condition is not met. This can mean protecting you from being sued for not closing on a property, which may happen if you do not have the ability to perform the transaction. For example, if you have an offer that is conditional on obtaining financing, this will mean that if you can't get financing from a lender, you will not be obligated to close. If you couldn't get financing but didn't have this condition however, you may be sued for not meeting your obligation to close.

Price

The amount of money you decide to offer on a house will depend on the property itself, the market and the area it is in, the amount of money you feel comfortable offering, and how badly you want the home. If the market you are looking to purchase in is ultra competitive, such as the Toronto housing market and the Vancouver housing market, it may mean you need to bid above the listing price to win the home. When determining what price to pay for a home, make sure you are comfortable with the amount you are paying.

Who can help you determine what to bid?

A real estate agent can be a very helpful person when it comes to determining how much to bid on your offer. Since a good real estate agent will have done some research on the local housing market and what comparable properties have gone for, they can help you determine what you may need to win a bidding war. As well, a real estate agent can help put you in a position to find another property if you do happen to lose the bidding process on a home. Since a real estate agent will not directly cost you anything, getting their expertise as a home buyer is recommended.

What should I do if I receive a real estate counter offer?

Getting a counter offer can be common if you are making an offer on a home that does not have many offers on it. Navigating through a counter offer can be easier with your realtor, and you will decide if you would like to counter, decline the offer, or to accept the counter offer and purchase the home. If the counteroffer is to purchase the home at a higher price, you should consider if the counter price is a price you are willing to pay.

Deposit

Your deposit amount is what you are providing to the sellers in trust as a sign of good faith throughout the closing process of a home. Usually a deposit is submitted within 24 hours of an offer being accepted. The terms of the deposit will be offered by the buyer, however the seller could counter offer for how much they would like as a deposit.

Who holds the deposit?

The deposit is usually to be held in trust by the seller's agent until the sale is set to close. The deposit will be insured by the brokerage, meaning if anything is to happen with the real estate agent, the deposit is still protected.

How should I decide on the deposit amount?

With the help of your real estate agent, you will come to an amount to include in the deposit section of the agreement of purchase and sale. Since a deposit is to show good faith and to have the transaction go smoothly, including a larger deposit than just $1000 is common. Below shows how the size of your deposit may be different depending on the offer price and how much of it will be in the form of a deposit.

$250,000$500,000$750,000$1,000,000
1%$2500$5000$7500$10,000
2%$5000$10,000$15,000$20,000
3%$7500$15,000$22,500$30,000
4%$10,000$20,000$30,000$40,000
5%$12,500$25,000$37,500$50,000

Where the home you are purchasing is located will directly affect your deposit amount. You may only require a 1% or 2% deposit if you are purchasing in a less competitive area such as in rural areas. However, if you are buying a home in a city such as Vancouver or Toronto, you may need a 5% deposit or more.

Closing Date

The closing date you choose is when the home will become yours, meaning it is important to leave enough time to perform the buying procedure and to satisfy all the conditions involved. How long you decide to put your closing date for will depend on when the seller is looking to close, along with when you are able to close. It is common to see closing dates 60 to 90 days from when the offer is accepted or irrevocable, giving you ample time for the sale process.

There may also be special circumstances that mean the closing dates can be farther or closer from the time your offer is accepted. It may be common that you as a home buyer have already sold your home and need to move in sooner because your home sale closes soon.

What happens if you make an offer on a house and it is accepted?

Congratulations! If you have your offer on a home accepted, you will move on to your next steps, which include getting a lawyer, making a deposit, meeting with your lender, and conditions being met if you have any. Your real estate agent will still be there to support you through the closing process, walking you through it and making it less stressful.

What happens if you make an offer on a house and it is not accepted?

Although it can be dejecting to make offers for houses and not succeed, it is important to remain optimistic about your prospects. If your offer is not accepted, you will continue on in your house hunt. It may also be common in a very competitive housing market to take a break from searching, if many offers still haven’t been successful.

Other Offer Terms to Consider

Besides the 4 important terms above to consider when making an offer, other components in an offer for a home include:

Your irrevocable date

This is the date that your offer will be good until. With this date, you will provide both a day and a time for how long your offer will be on the table for, and any time after the irrevocable time your offer will be voided. The most important part of choosing when to set your irrevocable date is so that the seller has ample time to review your offer. Usually if there is a time on the listing that the seller is going to make a decision by, it's common practice to have the irrevocable time shortly after this. However, be careful of putting an irrevocable date weeks after you submit the offer, as your offer will still be valid.

Included fixtures & chattels

This will indicate what you are wanting the seller to include with the home if your offer of purchase and sale is accepted. The most common fixtures and chattels that you can include are:

  • Appliances such as fridges, stoves, dishwashers, washer & dryers,
  • Sheds,
  • Light fixtures, and
  • Blinds & window coverings

Usually the listing information will also have what is included in the purchase, however if not it can be a good idea to have your real estate agent check with the listing agent or seller. If there are fixtures or chattels not included in the purchase but you would like the seller to include, you can speak with the seller's agent then put them into the offer you are making.

Title Search Date

The title search date is known as the last date that your lawyer can identify and request the seller's lawyer to fix any issue regarding the title for the property. Your real estate agent will be helpful in determining when to set the title search date, as to leave enough time for the lawyer to get the title, review it, and identify and relay any issues they find related to it.

Walkthrough Date(s)

It is very common to include 1 or more walkthrough dates in your offer, so that you can inspect the property before the deal closes. This can be helpful so that you are able to make sure everything is still good with the house, and can be a time where you inspect any repairs that you included in your offer of purchase and sale. Usually it is common to schedule at least one of the walk throughs before the sale closes, so that you are able to view the property before it becomes yours.

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