What Happens After a Home Buyer's Offer is Accepted?

The Home Buying Process is Just Getting Started

Realtor placing sold sign in front of house
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You might hear the tinge of excitement in your real estate agent's voice when she calls to say your purchase offer has been accepted by the seller. No matter how many times an agent delivers this news to a home buyer, it's always a thrill for the agent. It's probably a big relief for you, too, to hear that you got the house you wanted, and all those waves of anxiety may seem to dissipate. It's hard to be patient and wait for such important news.

If you're buying a home with a partner or spouse when you hear the offer has been accepted, you might spontaneously hug and kiss the other person and dance in circles, filled with joy. Call all of your friends.

So, go ahead, pour the chilled champagne, go out to dinner to celebrate, do whatever things you like to do when you get good news and feel like your life is finally on the right path. Come the following day, nobody wants to burst this bubble of excitement, much less your agent, but the fact is you're not quite there yet. The reality is getting your offer accepted is only the beginning. Now the real fun begins.

Depending on where you live, in many parts of the country, your home buying process is just getting started. You may have a home inspection to complete, perhaps you will conduct other types of inspections, and your lender will order an appraisal and start processing your loan.

All of these things could morph into some form of a renegotiation or adjustments to your transaction, including not buying the home at all by canceling the sale.

Let me take a minute here to say that after the purchase offer is accepted is when your real estate agent's help and guidance really pays off for you.

You might think that you need your agent solely to help with the initial negotiations, but there are often challenges that can crop up all the way to closing that require finessing. You might not even notice what your agent is doing behind the scenes or how your agent is helping you if your agent doesn't point it out.

Buyers can help to make the process smoother too. For starters, do not change or alter your financial situation. This means do not buy a car, do not make any major purchases, try not to add additional debt to any credit cards and, above all, this does not go without saying: do not quit your job. Don't even think about buying a refrigerator or a washer or dryer. Don't change your finances. Period.

Don't alter your personal situation. Don't go on vacation or get married or leave the country without discussing these things with your agent and mortgage lender. Just try to hang tight for 30 days and focus on closing your transaction.

3 Things That Can go Wrong After a Purchase Offer is Accepted

Be prepared to walk away from buying the home if you discover major defects that cannot be addressed in a satisfactory manner to you. You don't know what could be wrong with that home until you hire a professional home inspector.

Talk to your real estate agent about the types of repairs, if any, a seller might agree to complete. Most homes are sold in an "as is" condition, and sellers are not always required to make any repairs at all.

Be prepared to walk away from the home if you cannot obtain the type of financing you were qualified to get and the new terms are unacceptable. Just because you are holding a preapproval letter in your possession does not mean you are qualified to buy the home. Only an underwriter has the final say about your qualifications. You might not know if your loan will be approved until just days before you are ready to close. This can be very stressful.

Be prepared to walk away from buying the home if your appraisal is not high enough to justify the sales price the seller has accepted because there is no guarantee the seller will lower the sales price if the appraisal is low.

You might not want to pay the difference in cash. While you can ask a seller to lower the sales price to meet the appraised value, some sellers might prefer not to sell under those circumstances. Not every seller will be agreeable to working with you after a low appraisal.

The good news is experienced agents deal with these issues every single day. You can rely on your agent to help you get through the things that can go wrong after your purchase offer is accepted. Then, when it closes, you truly have reason to celebrate.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, BRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.