Tip for sellers – the contract
You hired a listing agent, prepared your home for sale, and put it on the market. You staged your home for showings, left so buyers could see it uninterrupted, and one (or several) of them made an offer. The buyers completed their inspection and now it is time to get the contract signed. What does that really mean? How long might it take? What should you know?
The following describes the process for Orange County, New York with updates for Montana. This process does differ depending on where you are purchasing your home. (Update: in Montana, the accepted offer/contract are the same document and happen concurrently. The inspection would happen after the contract is signed, not before. Also, in Montana attorneys are rarely used and the process is managed by the title company.)
After the inspection items have been discussed and it’s time to get a contract signed, your agent will supply various documents to your attorney. Those documents might include a copy of the listing and the purchase offer. They might also include a Memorandum of Agreement which defines additional info such as attorney contact information and real estate license numbers. Your agent will also include a list of what was agreed to in terms of inspection repairs, if there are any. There may be other items supplied as well.
Using those documents, your attorney will draft a contract. Typically they use boiler plate contracts, changing or eliminating sections that do not apply. When completed, the contract will be forwarded to the buyers attorney. In the past, this would be done by US Mail or overnight mail which could take additional time, but now of course, the contracts are typically emailed.
Once the buyer’s attorney receives the contract, he will review it. Usually he will also prepare an addendum with additional buyer-related caveats. Sometimes the attorneys will discuss the addendum right away, which could add time to the upfront process. Other times, the attorneys may discuss issues after the buyer has signed which also adds more time to the process. Regardless of which way this works, after the buyer’s attorney has reviewed the contract, he will set up an appointment with the buyers to come in and sign the documents.
The day they sign the contract is the same day their down payment must be provided to their attorney. The money will go into an escrow account where it will stay until the closing. It does not go to you at the time of contract signing.
After they’ve signed the contract, the deal is still not officially “in contract.” The contract is then sent back to your attorney. If there were not already discussions about the same, the attorneys may discuss any issues with the addendum. Conversations may be held with both the attorneys and their clients. At the end when agreement is reached, you will go into your attorneys office and sign the contract.
Now that both parties have signed, you have a fully executed contract and the mortgage process can begin.
A few other thoughts on this process
Contract signing impact on purchasing timeframes
In Orange County NY, the time required to sign the contracts could add from a week or two to the purchasing cycle. Depending on the availability of both attorneys, the speed and methods of sending documents back and forth, the efficiency of the attorney’s staff, the signing of a contract could take quite a while. Many sellers still allow showings of their home until the date the contract is signed. All parties in the process should make an effort to speed things up. For example, when your attorney’s office contacts you to sign your contract, you should pick the first available time and make a point to get there ASAP!
Update: in Montana, the signed seller/buyer document which discusses timeframes, contingencies and other details is the contract. There is no delay between accepted offer and contract.
Time is of the essence (not)
Also in the Orange County NY area, dates in contracts are not usually handled in a “time is of the essence” manner. For example, if you have negotiated a specific closing date with the buyer, it is important to note this is NOT a set-in-concrete date. In fact, attorneys will tell you that the closing date could be plus or minus 30 days. And if indeed you are 30 days past the agreed-upon closing date and still have not closed, there is an additional process required to “force” the parties to the closing table. So please do not schedule time off of work or hiring a moving company until you have actually been notified by the attorneys of a closing date.
Update: In Montana, every date on the contract must be followed.
Review your contract
Also, you should carefully review your contract before you sign it. Hopefully your attorney will send to you in advance so you will have already read it and will have your questions ready. If not, read pertinent paragraphs while you are with the attorney. Make sure the closing date is the same as what you agreed to during the negotiation process. Also confirm that the down payment and mortgage amounts are correct. You should check to ensure that any items that are supposed to be included or excluded in the sale are listed properly. If you had asked for any contingencies, those should be reviewed for accuracy as well. This is the document that will shape the rest of your sale process. It needs to be accurate.
Update: In Montana, your agent will review the document with you, going over each section and making sure you understand the contract.
And that’s it! Once your contract is fully signed, you should receive a copy via email. The buyers will need this in order to get the mortgage process fully underway. Getting to the closing table is now mostly up to the speed of the buyers and their financial representatives. Next step is the appraisal!
For more seller related tips, click here.
For assistance selling a home in Montana, feel free to contact me at 406-270-3667 or firstname.lastname@example.org.