After hours of hitting open houses, and going back and forth with your Realtor, you’ve finally found a home and want it to be yours.

Next, it’s time to make an offer.

But have you found a real estate agent? Put your credit in order, chosen a mortgage lender, determined your down payment, and decided what type of loan you want?

Also, be sure you have fulfilled necessary contingencies, so when you get to the closing, you will get the keys to your new home.

If you’ve done all of these things, yes, it’s time to actually write the offer, or have the agent write what will hopefully be the winning one!

Follow these important steps to seal the deal and before signing on the dotted line:

Create a Compelling Offer

Inventory is low in many metropolitan areas; meaning you may be competing against other buyers. If you’re in a competitive market, you may have to go high — a low offer won’t get you far. In fact, it may knock you out of the competition.

Get Contingencies Ready

Once a seller has accepted your offer, it’s time to complete your contingencies, which are the conditions put in the contract that must be met for it to be binding.

Here are the most common:

Financing Contingency. This clause in the purchase agreement states your offer is contingent on being able to secure financing. Its main goal is to ensure that if you can’t obtain a loan, you’ll be able to get your earnest money deposit back. The clause specifies you have a certain number of days to get your mortgage approved by your lender. Many lenders recommend homebuyers allow for up to 14 days. During this time, your loan will go through underwriting and — assuming everything is approved — you’ll receive a firm written commitment from your lender, which is then delivered to the seller to lift the financing contingency.

Appraisal Contingency. This clause says in order to qualify for a loan, the property must be assessed by a third-party appraiser and be valued at, or above the agreed-on purchase price. Your lender will approve the loan only up to the appraised value. If the appraisal is lower than your offer, there are options. Sometimes, both sides have to compromise to get to the closing: The seller might have to lower the price; a buyer might pay more money in closing costs; or the real estate agents might need to lower commissions.

Home Inspection Contingency.  A home inspection contingency says you will get a licensed home inspector to check the property within a specified period after you sign the purchase agreement (usually, seven days). Once the inspection is done, you’re allowed to request the seller fix things; in many states, you’re must give the seller a copy of the report. It’s your decision as to what repairs you request. The seller has the option to make the repairs or counter. If an agreement can’t be reached, the buyer can back out of the deal with their earnest money deposit intact.

HOA Documents. This isn’t a contingency really, since you don’t include it in the purchase agreement, but it’s a legal right given to all homebuyers who purchase a home governed by a homeowners’ association. The seller must provide you with the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions, or CC&Rs: Legal language for the association’s rules and regulations.

Once the seller has accepted your offer, choose a title company to oversee certain parts of the transaction. The title company is responsible for verifying the title to the property is legitimate, which ensures you become the rightful owner. The title company acts as a liaison between both parties; it also typically oversees settlement.

Bring These to The Closing:

The day of your settlement, go with your Realtor for a final walk-through. Assuming the home looks good, meet with a rep from the title company, and your loan officer for settlement. By law, the title company must provide a copy of all closing documents three days in advance of settlement.

Day of Settlement, Bring These:

  • Photo ID
  • Homeowners insurance certificate
  • A cashier’s check or proof of wire transfer for the exact amount of money needed to close
  • Co-signer (if applicable)
  • Checkbook in case there are any last-minute changes.