Time is of the Essence… Those Pesky Deadlines (Home Buyers Version)

by | Aug 30, 2023 | Real Estate | 0 comments


Let’s talk about those deadlines…the pesky deadlines that we need to be aware of when buying a home…

Hello August and the last gasps of summer vacation.  Many people are thinking about school clothes, school supplies, and last-minute vacations. August always feels like we are getting close to a timeline.  Is it just me that feels like that?  We have been at the Clark County Fair all week and the Fair, to me, always feels like the beginning of the end of summer.  Real estate has timelines and deadlines as well…no matter what time of year you are buying, or selling.

  There are many people involved in your home-buying adventure…some you see, and some you never will.  In all there are 28 different people involved…and you know the old saying…  ‘too many cooks in the kitchen can spoil the broth’…but as long as we all work together, it goes forward the best way possible.  One thing I always like to say is, “There are never problems, there are only solutions”.  In every home-buying adventure, there are always ‘hiccups’…it happens every time.  What we try to do is to present solutions to these hiccups….instead of just saying, “We have a problem”.  While we can’t always foresee what hiccups, or problems will occur, once they do come up, we work really hard to provide you with solution options, & to go over those with you so you understand the options you have.  In the end, the final choices are always yours.  This is YOUR home-buying adventure….not ours.  We act as GPS…we can provide you with directions to your destination, but ultimately, you drive the bus to get us all there.  


   In real estate we have a phrase, “time is of the essence”, and it is an important one.  Everything in the process has a time limit, and you need to know what those time limits are since they affect you directly.  These time limits start from the moment you have an accepted offer on a home, but what are they?  Let’s talk a little bit about ‘soft’ deadlines, and ‘hard’ deadlines…  


Steps when buying a home…these are ‘soft’ deadlines…

* – Take a home buyer education class  (can not stress this step enough!)

* – Talk with a lender, and get pre-approved.

* – Talk with, and hire a real estate agent  (see past blog for questions to ask!)

* – Start looking for a home

* – Find ‘the’ home

……these steps have no timelines.  Don’t feel rushed.  Remember this is YOUR home-buying adventure, and the only deadline you have here is your own.  Sometimes this moves very fast, and sometimes these steps can take months.  Don’t compare your journey to someone else’s… you are an individual and everyone’s home-buying adventure is as unique as you are.

* – Make an offer on a home – *

….typically you have an “offer expiration date” as part of your offer.  This says that your offer expires at such and such date, and time.  Now, if the sellers respond to your offer after that date/time, the ball is in your court.  You can accept, counter, or walk away.  If the sellers accept your offer prior to the expiration date then you have a signed contract.  If the sellers accept your offer after the expiration date, you can still walk away since ‘technically’ the offer is already expired.  The seller doesn’t have to legally respond to your offer before or after your expiration date.  The sellers’ agent does have a legal responsibility to present ALL offers to the sellers prior to the expiration date/time.  If the seller counters your offer, meaning the sellers have changed something in the offer, the ball is in your court.  You have the right to accept the change, counter the counteroffer, or ignore it altogether.  An offer in a counteroffer situation is not a mutually accepted agreement, anyone else can still make an offer on the home….and the seller can still accept a different offer.  The offer is not pending sale until both parties have mutually agreed to all conditions of the offer.

Once you have a mutually accepted offer…the ‘hard’ deadlines begin…

** – It’s not just you with deadlines here.  Your Realtors also have deadlines.  Once you have a mutually accepted offer (CONGRATULATIONS!  You are now PENDING Sale!!), your Realtor will send over a copy of the signed around agreement to you, to the title officer (aka escrow company), and to your lender.  This is very important!  Your lender will contact you to come in to sign the paperwork to actually start your loan.  Remember… a preapproval is just a piece of paper from the lender that says “‘IF’ you find a home, and get a signed around mutually accepted offer on it, that the lender ‘could’ give you a loan based on the information that was provided by you to the lender at the time of preapproval”.  You don’t actually have a loan until you have a mutually accepted offer on a home.  You also don’t have an interest rate either… (see last month’s video on the website LearningToBuyAHome.com for more information on that)

But what deadlines do YOU have?????

* – Earnest money becomes due within 3 business days of the mutual acceptance – *

EM is a ‘good faith’ deposit.  If a buyer were to back out, WITH a legal reason, this deposit would be refundable to the buyer.  If the buyer backs out of the contract WITHOUT a legal reason, this deposit goes to the seller.  At closing, this deposit can go toward the buyer’s closing costs or down payment…or (depending on the buyer’s loan type), this deposit can be returned to the buyer.  An earnest money deposit can be either a check (no cash!), & dropped off to the title company in person, or wired to the title company.  Many buyers choose to wire the EM deposit to the title company.  Your Realtor will assist you with an email from the title company with instructions.  Before you wire any funds to anyone during the Home buying (or home selling) process, do your due diligence.  It is unfortunate that Cyber Fraud is a real thing.  (More information on earnest money and the legal reasons for backing out of a contract are gone over in the classes, or you can look through the blog history on the LearningToBuyAHome.com website for more information.)

* – Inspection – *
Most deadlines are done by ‘business days’, but the inspection contingency timeline is different.  You have 10 calendar days to perform a home inspection, AND any other inspections a buyer might want (such as sewer scope or radon inspections) with a licensed home inspector (or others such as a plumbing company for sewer scope), and to provide the seller with a list of any requested home repairs.  The 10 days is a boilerplate time frame, but can be shortened/lengthened as per the signed around contract.  As a buyer, you have options…  a) You can accept the home in its current condition with no repairs, b) Decline the inspection (for any, or no, reason) and terminate the contract, c) You can request repairs, or d) You can request 5 additional days for the inspection period if needed upon inspectors suggestion.  Again, your response must be provided to the sellers’ agent by that 10-day deadline.  This deadline starts from mutual acceptance.  The sellers have 3 business days to respond from receipt of the inspection repairs request.  The sellers’ response can be a) agree to all repairs, move forward to closing, b) seller rejects all proposals c) seller to do only selected repairs, or d) seller rejects all, but proposes a different option(s).  This option could include additional closing costs or price reductions. This is a negotiation period.
These are two pretty big deadlines…  After the home inspection has been done, and mutually agreed upon, the lender begins their deadlines.  The appraisal needs to be ordered and done.  Underwriters need to do their job and review your file.  Then the title company needs to do their title insurance, docs, and get you in for signing.  From home inspection to signing is usually between 2-3 weeks for the average FHA, VA, or Conventional loan.  Some of the government loans like, USDA, and the State Bond down payment assistance loan can add more time to this depending on how busy their workload/files are.
* – Closing – *
This is the last BIG hard deadline.  When your Realtor writes your offer, you should be discussing what day you would like to get the keys… this is possession of the home.  Signing is not closing.  Closing is the day that the home records at the courthouse in your name, and you become the official homeowner.  When this happens your agent can give you keys (unless the seller has requested some post-closing possession.  Again, something to discuss with your Realtor when you are making the offer).  Again…in Washington State, signing is not closing.  You will NOT receive keys the day you sign…sorry guys…this isn’t HGTV.    Closing/recording happens at the courthouse between 10 am-12 pm & between 3 pm-5 pm…business days only, so nothing happens on the weekend.   If you sign in the morning, there is a good chance you will close that afternoon.  If you sign in the afternoon though….it will most likely be the next business day to close. Why is this important?  Well, you need to know when to schedule the movers, the POD, the UHaul, and all those other things that have to do with moving.  Moving is exhausting….even when things go smoothly… and we know how often that happens, right???
   The sellers are expecting you to close ‘on or before’ the closing date.  If you do not close on that particular date, a closing extension will need to be requested.  Usually, it isn’t a problem, and the closing extension gets signed, but the seller does not have to grant that extension.  If you do not close on time, and the seller chooses not to sign the extension, you could lose your home, and the money you have already spent for earnest money, inspection fees, and appraisal fees. Another thing a seller could do is grant the extension but with a daily fee for the time needed to close or to request that all, or a portion, of the earnest money, be released and made non-refundable to cover their risk.  One thing your Realtor should do is make sure they give enough time for the lender to close your home loan.  It is always better to close on time, or early…rather than asking for more time.  You don’t want to make your lender rush something as important as your home loan.  Lenders need time to get all their stuff done for you, and a big part of that is YOU getting all the items your lender needs over to them.  Buying (& even selling) a home means that all the parts have got to do their part….even you….

Tracie DeMars / Realtor

ReMax Equity Group
License# 81289
Vancouver, WA

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