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If you’re using an agent, he or she will shepherd you through this part of the deal. If you’re going it alone, you’ll have to come up with a starting offer based on your own research. Be very specific in your offer about any improvements or repairs you want the seller to make before closing or about any appliances or other items you understand to be included in the deal. Spell it all out. Be painfully clear.
Terms to know:
Counteroffer. The seller may accept your initial offer, no questions asked, but most likely he or she will make a counteroffer, accepting some terms but making changes or raising the price. This process goes back and forth until either you agree or the deal goes bust.
Contingencies. Acceptance of the sales contract can be made contingent on (that is, dependent on) certain circumstances, such as the sale of the buyer’s home. As a first-time homebuyer, you should probably stipulate two contingencies in any circumstances: that a house passes any inspections you want performed, and that the contract is approved by a real estate attorney.
Acceptance. If the seller accepts your offer, do a little happy dance! Then get moving on finishing the deal; contingencies like inspections generally have a time limit attached.
Earnest money. You’ll pay this amount (usually stipulated by the seller but negotiable; a common amount is 1 percent of the purchase price) as your deposit on the house. You’re saying to the seller, I intend to buy this house and you can safely take it off the market. The money generally goes into an escrow account at the seller’s real estate brokerage and counts toward your down payment.