FAQ

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The real estate experts at Southern Heritage Realty, Inc. want to help you be sure of your real estate buying and selling decisions. We are here to make the home buying and home selling process that much easier for you. We welcome you to read through some Frequently Asked Questions. If you have a question that is not listed here, don't hesitate to call Southern Heritage Realty at (910) 592-6300.

I have found a home I am interested in buying. How do I make an offer to purchase it?

Typically, you will complete a standardized offer to purchase form with the help of a real estate agent, probably a buyer agent.  This form will express the terms of the purchase (purchase price, closing date, etc.)  that you are proposing to the seller. The most common residential offer form in North Carolina is the “Offer to Purchase and Contract” (Form No. 2-T), jointly approved by the N.C. Bar Association and  N.C. Association of REALTORS®. Many standard “addenda” forms also are available to add provisions of special importance to the parties. Your real estate agent may have a variety of these forms, but if a standard, preprinted form is not available covering the specific terms of your offer, you should consult a private attorney to draft an appropriate document for your use.  Real estate agents are not permitted to draft contracts or even special provisions such as contingencies. 

What Should Be In My Purchasing Offer? Does my offer to purchase have to be in writing?

At a minimum, your offer must clearly identify you and the seller, and state the sales price, and closing date and all of the terms agreed upon by you and the seller. It must also contain an adequate legal description of the property (for example, a reference to a recorded plat map or deed), a street address alone is not sufficient. There are many other important provisions you should consider.  For example, to assure that items or features of the property you have seen in advertisements or MLS  information are included in the sale, you or your agent should list them in your offer. Any form contract supplied to you by a real estate agent must include at least eighteen separate required provisions. The standard form “Offer to Purchase and Contract” includes all these and many more.

To be enforceable, real estate sales contracts in North Carolina must be in writing. Since only written offers may become binding contracts, your offer should be in writing and signed.

Once I have entered into a contract with the seller, is there any way I can cancel it?

Not without the consent of the seller unless a particular law or special (non-standard) provision in your contract grants you a right of rescission. For example, the law grants a rescission right in the following limited circumstances:

Residential Property Disclosure Act: At or before the time you make your offer in a residential transaction, the seller (whether or not a real estate agent is involved) must provide you a written disclosing certain conditions and characteristics of the property. If the seller does not, any resulting contract is subject to a limited right of rescission, usually up to three calendar days from the time the contract is formed. You should be aware, however, that there are a number of exceptions to this requirement. Consequently, for application of this law to a particular situation, you should consult your attorney.
Lead Paint Disclosure: If you are purchasing a residential building constructed before 1978, federal law requires sellers and their agents to provide you written information about the possible presence of lead paint and the associated hazards. If you are not given this information (and an inspection period) before entering into the purchase contract and have not signed a written waiver of your rights, you have a ten day inspection period during which you may be able to cancel the contract.
Condominiums: If you are purchasing a new condominium from a person classified by law as a developer, you have seven days to rescind your purchase contract. When the seven day period begins or ends can vary from one transaction to another, but it usually begins when you are given the required public offering statement. During this period, all monies paid by you must be held in escrow by the developer. Immediately contact an attorney for advice if you have questions about your rescission rights. (For more information on condominiums, see the Commission’s brochure, “Questions and Answers on: Condominiums and Townhouses.”)
Timeshares: If you are purchasing a new timeshare in North Carolina from a seller classified by law as a developer of a timeshare project, you have five days to cancel your purchase contract which you  can do by mail. If you are a resident of another state, you may also have additional rescission rights  under the laws of your home state. The developer must hold all funds received from you in an escrow account for at least ten days. However, if you are purchasing the timeshare from another consumer or through a foreclosure sale, there is no rescission period or mandatory escrow of payments.

How Will My Offer be communicated to the seller? How does acceptance occur?

The real estate broker with whom you are working must deliver it to the seller’s agent or directly to the seller if the seller has no agent. The seller’s agent must present it to the seller.

To accept your offer, the seller must sign it without making any changes. Until you or your agent have been notified that the seller has signed your offer, you can withdraw it at any time even if you have given the seller a deadline by which he or she must respond.

Are there ways to purchase real estate other than using the standard offer to purchase and contract?

Yes. Here are a few options:

Option to Purchase: With an option to purchase, you have the right during the option period to buy property at an agreed upon price. For this right, you will pay option money to compensate the seller for taking the property off the market during the option period. Although subject to negotiation, option money is non-refundable and paid directly to the seller at the signing of the option. Depending upon the terms of the option agreement, you may or may not receive credit for some or all of your option money against the purchase price if you “exercise” your option. The standard “Offer to Purchase and Contract” form allows the buyer to pay an “Option Fee” in exchange for the right to terminate the contract for “any reason or no reason.” You should read any option contract carefully and consult your attorney if you have any questions.
Lease with Option: When a lease is coupled with an option to purchase, you have the right to buy property at a set price while leasing it. There are no standard forms available for this purpose. Attempting to modify other standard forms for such use may result in a muddled or even unenforceable contract, and constitutes the unauthorized practice of law when performed by real estate agents. Since these transactions may be riskier than a conventional purchase, you should consult your attorney before into entering such agreements.
Lease-Purchase: In lease-purchase transactions, you occupy property as a tenant but agree to purchase it at a future date. There is no standard lease-purchase form available, so you are again advised to consult your attorney.
Installment Land Sale: In an installment land sale (also known as a contract for deed), title remains with the seller while you make payments to the seller. Usually, the contract allows you to possess and use the property while making payments but such terms are not legally required. If you are in possession of the property and default on your payments, the seller can sue you to regain possession of it and is generally entitled to retain all the money you paid under the contract.