Every Boston condo for sale that you may want to buy must have a real estate purchase agreement—a legally binding contract signed by Boston condo buyers and sellers that confirms that they agree upon a certain purchase price, closing date, and other terms.

While the forms and wording vary across the country, there are certain words common to all that you’ll want to have down, cold. Why? Because they spell out crucial info such as how much money you’re paying, when you pay it, under what conditions you can back out of the deal, and more. Here are seven terms you are likely to come across in a real estate purchase agreement, and why you need to check these provisions carefully before you sign on the dotted line.

Boston condos for sale: Earnest money

What it is: Checking the Boston Beacon Hill condos purchase price on your contract is par for the course, but you also have to cough up some money immediately, in the form of an earnest money deposit, or EMD. That’s the cash buyers commit to completing the sale to show sellers they’re serious. The amount of the deposit is negotiable between both parties, but is usually about $1,000 when the Offer is accepted and about to 10 – 2% of the purchase price at the P&S. Once an offer is accepted, the money is typically held by the seller’s broker or a title company, to be used as a credit toward the buyer’s down payment and closing costs.

The caveat: If you back out of the transaction for any reason or contingency outlined in the purchase agreement, you get your earnest money back (more on contingencies next). However, if you decide not to buy the house for any what-if that is not included in the agreement, the seller can keep the earnest money.

Contingency

What it is: “A contingency in a deal means there’s something the Beacon Hill condo buyer has to do for the process to go forward.

Why it matters: Contingencies protect you by giving you the ability to back out of the sale if something goes wrong, typically without losing your earnest money deposit.

Settlement date

What it is: The settlement date, or “closing,” is the day when all involved parties meet to make the sale official.  Boston condo Buyers and sellers typically negotiate a settlement date that is mutually agreeable.

Why it matters: When choosing a settlement date, make sure you’re giving yourself ample time to fulfill the home inspection, appraisal, and any other contingencies. If you don’t meet your obligations to the purchase agreement by the settlement date, you could be considered “in default” and potentially lose your deposit.

Possession date

What it is: The possession date is the day when buyers can move into their new home. Sometimes home buyers take possession of the home on the day of closing, and sometimes they agree to wait days or weeks after closing. Generally though, 30 to 45 days is the most common time frame.

Why it matters: The possession date is negotiable, and it can affect the strength of your offer. For instance, if the seller needs a few extra months to find a new place to live, offering a 60-day possession date could make your bid more attractive. Alternatively, some sellers allow the buyers to move in before settlement; this may occur if the house is already vacant.

Escrow

What it is:Escrow is a secure holding area where important items (like the earnest money check and contracts) are kept safe until the deal is closed and the house officially changes hands. Although customs vary by state, the escrow holder is usually someone from the closing company, an attorney, or a title company agent.

Why it matters: The purchase agreement states whether the buyer or seller (or both) pays escrow—with the fee for this service typically totaling about 1% to 2% of the cost of the home. If you try to back out of the deal without a legitimate reason, you will forfeit your portion of the escrow money to the seller.

Delivery

What it is: When buyers and sellers sign a purchase agreement, they must agree to an accepted form of communication during the transaction as defined by the terms under “delivery,” says Marks. In today’s day and age, email is generally an acceptable method of communication, but some people (say, older buyers or sellers) still prefer snail mail when receiving important documents, like the release of a home inspection contingency.

Why it matters: Your buyer’s agent must abide by the terms of the delivery when communicating with the listing agent or seller. If documents aren’t delivered properly, it could delay or even void the contract.

Home warranty

What it is: In a nutshell, a home warranty is a policy that covers the cost of repairing many of a home’s appliances if they break down. Basic coverage starts at about $300 and goes up to $600 for more comprehensive plans.

Why it matters: Many home sellers will offer to pay for the first year of a buyer’s home warranty to entice buyers to bite, especially if the appliances in the house are old and/or it’s a buyer’s market. However, this must be written into the purchase agreement.

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