What Does “Under Contract” Mean? What Comes Next?
Recently, I was driving through our neighborhood with a buyer. He was very interested in a property a few months ago, and had been considering making an offer. When I called the listing agent to let her know of our intent, she told me it had just gone “under contract” and was no longer available. When we drove past this property last week, the sign was still in the front yard. “I thought you said that home wasn’t available?” he asked. And it’s not. It is still “under contract”.
How properties go Under Contract, and what happens next.
When a buyer finds the right home, he or she makes an offer. This is presented on the Colorado Contract to Buy and Sell. It is a detailed contract with a schedule of dates, room for contingencies, attachments, concessions, offer price, financing arrangements and appraisal requirements, among other things. It is 12 pages long, and is designed to protect both buyer and seller during what is often the largest sales transaction private parties ever make.
When buyers purchase a home, they want the assurance that they have thoroughly researched their purchase before the sale is final, and that no other buyer can purchase the property out from under them during this time. If the buyer and seller can agree on the initial terms, both parties will sign a binding contract that allows the buyer to do this research. The property is then “under contract”. This period usually lasts from 30-60 days. A short sale listing can take longer- sometimes several months.
The buyer is then responsible for doing this research, and there is a time limit and an Earnest Money deposit submitted so that the seller is protected.
These steps include applying for a loan, having a certified inspection of the property, obtaining title and title insurance, obtaining property insurance, reviewing any HOA documents, reviewing Improvement Location Certificates or surveys of property boundaries and making sure the property appraises.
The For Sale sign remains in place during this process because the sale is not yet completed. Often times, the Realtor will place an “under contract” banner on the sign. The idea is that it “ain’t over ‘til it’s over,” so the sign remains in place until funds have been transferred and keys are passed to the buyers.