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When you've found a special house you want to call home, you'll probably feel excited and a bit nervous. What’s next? An Offer to Purchase.

Let your agent know you're ready to write an Offer to Purchase. This is a document declaring how much you will pay for the home, provided that certain conditions are met.

There is no rule for calculating a realistic offer. Naturally, the buyer wants the best value and the seller wants the best price; however negotiations can be influenced by many factors, such as a seller who is changing jobs and wants to sell quickly, or a buyer whose heart is set on a specific home.

Once you've looked at the home's features, asked questions, checked comparable home prices and discussed the matter with your agent, you should have a good idea of what the home is worth in the current market. Consider what you can afford, and make an offer that you deem fair. When you make your offer to the agent, it’s best not to share any willingness you might have to raise your offer if the seller does not accept it.

Your offer should have a time limit for the sellers to accept, reject it, or make a counteroffer. If a counteroffer is made, you'll have some time to respond. It is normal for several offers to go back and forth until an offer is accepted, or one party decides to end negotiations.

Because an Offer to Purchase is a legally binding contract that you will sign and date, it may be a good idea to have a lawyer review it before you sign, or within the grace period noted in the contract. Your agent will help you with this. During this time, you’ll also begin arranging for an inspection and applying for a mortgage.

Earnest money

When you sign an Offer to Purchase, your agent will ask you for “earnest money”—that is, money that shows you are serious about wanting to buy. Usually, you will be asked to write a check for 1% to 10% of the sale price. This money will be held in a special escrow account.

If your offer is accepted, your earnest money will be included as part of your down payment. If your offer is not accepted, you'll get all of it back. But keep in mind that if you back out, you may forfeit the full amount.

Hiring an attorney

Because the legal contracts and other paperwork involved in buying a home are complex, many people prefer to work with an attorney. Your attorney will review contracts, make you aware of special considerations and potential problems. He or she can also accompany you to the closing to help make everything go as smoothly as possible.

If you don't know a real estate attorney, ask your agent for help. Agents work with many legal professionals, and can provide you with the names of several in the community.


At this point in the process, you will also want to get an insurance agent. Most insurance professionals have a lot of experience working with homeowners, and can offer useful tips about homeownership, particularly regarding home safety and keeping your premiums low. Work together to develop a homeowner's policy that meets your individual insurance needs.

At the closing, you'll need to provide evidence of a fully paid policy for your mortgage lender. We have professionals who can help with this.

Tracking your transactions online

Coldwell Banker’s HomeBase® transaction management system provides you with a safe, secure, user-friendly communication and documentation platform to keep track of your transaction, from start to finish.

This dedicated, secure website stores your transaction-related documents so you can access them at any time, from anywhere. It gives you:

  • Constant visibility into each step of the transaction process
  • Environmentally friendly, reduced-paper transaction
  • Convenient document retrieval during estate planning, renovations, financial planning or tax season

Your Coldwell Banker agent will be happy to help you set up a personal HomeBase account when you’re ready.

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