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What Does Contingent Mean?

What Does Contingent Mean

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What Does Contingent Mean In Real Estate?

One of the most frequently asked questions from novice home buyers and sellers is, “what does contingent mean in real estate?” So, let’s demystify this real estate jargon.

In the simplest terms, a contingent offer in the realm of real estate is an offer made on a property that the seller has accepted, but it includes certain conditions or ‘contingencies’ that must be satisfied before the sale can be finalized. This means the sale hinges on these conditions, and the transaction cannot proceed until they are met.

These contingencies act as a safety mechanism, allowing both the buyer and the seller to back out of the contract under specific circumstances without facing legal consequences. They help ensure that both parties have the best possible outcome from the transaction.

How Does A Contingent Offer Work?

Now that we understand what a contingent offer is, let’s break down how it functions in a real estate transaction.

  1. The journey begins with a buyer expressing interest in a property. They decide to make an offer but include certain conditions in the offer contract that need to be met for the sale to push through.
  2. The ball is now in the seller’s court. They review the contingent offer and can choose to accept it, reject it, or negotiate the conditions and terms.
  3. If the seller is satisfied with the offer and its conditions, they accept it, and the property trust status shifts from ‘active’ to ‘contingent’ in the real estate listings.
  4. The buyer then works to fulfill the contingencies – these could range from securing a mortgage loan to having the home pass an inspection.
  5. Once all contingencies are satisfactorily met, the property status moves from ‘contingent’ to ‘pending’, meaning the sale is ready to proceed towards closing. If any contingency is not met, the buyer or seller can choose to cancel the contract.

Common Contingencies In Real Estate

There’s a wide variety of contingencies in real estate, designed to protect both parties from potential pitfalls and losses. Let’s delve into some of the most common ones.

Home Inspection Contingency

This type of contingency provides the buyer with the right to get the home professionally inspected. If significant defects are discovered during the inspection that could entail substantial repair costs, the buyer can choose to renegotiate the price, ask the seller to fix the issues, or even walk away from the deal without losing their earnest money.

Mortgage Contingency

A mortgage refinancing contingency safeguards the buyer in the event they’re unable to secure a mortgage after making an offer. If the buyer’s loan application is rejected and there’s a mortgage contingency in place, the buyer can cancel the contract and recover their earnest money deposit.

Appraisal Contingency

An appraisal contingency is typically included in a home purchase contract to protect the buyer if the appraised value of the home falls short of the selling price. If this happens, the buyer has several options: they can make up the difference in cash, renegotiate the price with the seller, seek additional financing, or back out of the deal, often without forfeiting their earnest money deposit.

Title Contingency

This contingency allows for a period where the buyer can perform a title search to ensure the seller has a clean, undisputed title to the property. If issues such as liens, easements, or other encumbrances are discovered, the buyer can request these be resolved or choose to exit the deal.

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Home Sale Contingency

This type of contingency benefits the buyer who needs to sell their current home before buying a new one. If the buyer’s home doesn’t sell within a certain timeframe, they have the right to terminate the contract, ensuring they won’t be stuck with two mortgages at once.

What Does Contingent Mean In Real Estate?

What Does Contingent Mean In Real Estate

In the real estate world, the term ‘contingent’ can often be a source of confusion. So, let’s dive into it and simplify this complex concept. In essence, “contingent” means that the sale of a property has conditions attached to it that need to be fulfilled before the transaction can be completed.

When a property is listed as “contingent,” it suggests that the seller has accepted an offer from a buyer, but the finalized sale is ‘contingent’ or dependent on certain conditions or ‘contingencies’. These contingencies typically include aspects like securing a mortgage, a satisfactory home inspection report, or the seller’s ability to find a new home. If these contingencies are met, the transaction moves forward, but if not, the deal could be called off.

How Does A Contingent Offer Work?

A contingent offer follows a systematic process in the world of real estate transactions:

  1. Firstly, a potential buyer finds a property they are interested in and makes an offer. However, this offer comes with certain stipulations – the contingencies – that must be satisfied before the sale can be completed.
  2. The seller reviews the offer and its contingencies. They can then decide to accept the offer, negotiate the terms, or reject it outright.
  3. If the seller accepts the offer, the property status changes to ‘contingent’. It remains in this state until all the contingencies have been satisfactorily met.
  4. The buyer now works to meet the set contingencies. They may need to secure financing, get a satisfactory home inspection, or sell their current home, among other things.
  5. Once all the contingencies are fulfilled, the property status moves from ‘contingent’ to ‘pending’, indicating that the sale is about to be finalized.

Contingencies Can Come With Risks

While contingencies are designed to protect the interests of both parties, they do come with certain risks. For instance, with a home inspection contingency, unexpected issues might be revealed that could cost a significant amount to fix. This can lead to renegotiations or, in the worst-case scenario, the deal falling through.

A financing contingency can also pose risks. If a buyer cannot secure the necessary financing and has this contingency in place, they can withdraw from the deal. While this protects the buyer, it can leave the seller back at square one, needing to relist their property.

The same can be said for a home sale contingency. If the buyer’s current home doesn’t sell in the stipulated timeframe, they can opt-out of the purchase. Again, while this protects the buyer from owning two homes, it can leave the seller in a difficult position.

Thus, while contingencies are protective measures, they inherently carry the potential for deals to fall apart. Understanding these risks allows both buyers and sellers to navigate real estate transactions with open eyes, ensuring a smoother process.

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Common Contingencies In Real Estate

When planning to buy a house, one key question that often arises is, how much money should I save before buying a house?” Part of this calculation should include potential expenses that could arise due to contingencies in a real estate transaction. Let’s delve into some of the most common contingencies in real estate that can impact the overall cost of buying a house.

Home Inspection Contingency

The home inspection contingency is a crucial part of many real estate contracts. This contingency allows the buyer to have the property inspected to identify any major issues that might affect the home’s value or require costly repairs. If the inspection uncovers substantial problems, the buyer has the right to back out of the contract, request the seller to fix the issues, or renegotiate the offer. Buyers should set aside some funds for potential repairs, which can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the property’s condition.

Mortgage Contingency

A mortgage contingency clause protects the buyer by stating that the contract is contingent on the buyer securing financing from a bank or other lending institution. If the buyer fails to get a loan for the purchase, they can withdraw from the contract without penalties. As for how much money should I save before buying a house in this case, you should consider the down payment (typically 10-20% of the home price), closing costs (about 2-5% of the loan amount), and an extra cushion in case the interest rates are higher than expected.

Appraisal Contingency

An appraisal contingency is a clause that allows the buyer to back out if the home’s appraised value is less than the purchase price. This is crucial because mortgage lenders will only lend up to the appraised value. If the appraised value comes in lower than the agreed price, the buyer will need to cover the difference out of pocket, renegotiate the price, or back out of the deal.

Title Contingency

A title contingency ensures that the property has a clear and lawful title, free of any liens, disputes, or other legal issues. If any issues arise during the title search, this contingency allows the buyer to cancel the deal. While the title search itself isn’t typically expensive (usually a few hundred dollars), resolving title issues could be, depending on the complexity.

Home Sale Contingency

Lastly, a home sale contingency is for buyers who need to sell their current home to afford a new one. If their existing home doesn’t sell within a specified period, this contingency allows them to back out of the deal. In terms of savings, this contingency can help prevent the financial burden of ending up with two mortgage payments if the current home doesn’t sell in time.

Typical Contingencies In Real Estate Transactions

When navigating the real estate landscape, you’ll likely encounter certain safeguards designed to protect the parties involved. Known as contingencies, these provisions are commonly incorporated in property deals. Their specific utilization will depend on factors like market conditions, the buyer’s personal situation, and the guidance of their real estate agent. Here’s a closer look at some prevalent contingencies.

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Home Inspection Contingency

A home inspection contingency clause is quite vital for buyers. This clause allows a professional home inspector to scrutinize the property’s condition, examining not just the evident facets, but also those that may be overlooked, such as drainage or roof flashing. If significant defects, specified in the contract, are discovered, this contingency offers the buyer an opportunity to renegotiate or even cancel the agreement.

Put simply, the existence of a problem doesn’t automatically equate to contract termination under a home inspection contingency. The buyer and seller can come to an agreement on the rectification process, ensuring a win-win solution for both parties.

Mortgage Contingency

Mortgage contingency is all about ensuring that the buyer can secure the necessary financing within a defined timeframe. To streamline this process, prospective buyers are advised to obtain pre-approval for a mortgage. While pre-approval doesn’t guarantee the final approval, it significantly enhances the buyer’s chances by demonstrating their serious intent and financial credibility.

However, maintaining a stable financial profile is crucial throughout this phase. Any changes, like switching jobs, experiencing a credit score drop, or encountering any financial hiccups, can jeopardize mortgage finalization.

Appraisal Contingency

Often tied to mortgage applications, an appraisal contingency is essential to ensure that the asking price aligns with the property’s actual worth. Even if both buyer and seller agree on a price, the lender will not extend a mortgage pre-approval exceeding the appraised value.

This contingency becomes particularly relevant in hot or volatile markets, where home values can fluctuate rapidly. If the appraisal comes in lower than the agreed price, buyers can either offer additional cash upfront or renegotiate the deal.

Title Contingency

The property title offers a historical account of property ownership. However, a “clean title” isn’t always guaranteed. Sometimes, properties come with encumbrances, like unresolved easements or old mortgage liens.

Title contingencies provide a safety net for buyers against such issues. A thorough title search should uncover any discrepancies before the deal is closed. Buyers are also advised to secure title renters insurance, which offers protection against potential future claims.

Home Sale Contingency

A home sale contingency is tied to the buyer’s financial circumstances, stipulating that the transaction will proceed only if the buyer’s existing property sells first. Although this provides a safety net for the buyer, sellers may be hesitant to accept such an offer in a seller’s market.

But don’t fret if you’re not in a position to buy the new house outright before selling your existing one. Certain strategies, like bridge loans or extended closing dates, can provide the necessary leeway. Although not every seller might be open to a longer closing period, it can be a win-win in certain scenarios. For instance, it can benefit sellers who are still searching for their next home or wish to stay put until the end of a school year.

Robbi Cahya Yudha

As an experienced professional in the mortgage loan and property market, Help individuals and families achieve their homeownership dreams.  My mission is to simplify your real estate journey and secure the best possible outcomes in this ever-changing market.