In the Market? Here’s What You Should Know About Contingencies

Home contingencies are aspects of home purchase contracts that protect buyers or sellers by establishing conditions that must be met before the purchase can be completed. There are a variety of contingencies that can be included in a contract; some required by third parties, and others potentially created by the buyer. While sellers in the current market prefer to have little to no contingencies, the vast majority of purchase contracts do include them, so here’s a primer to help you navigate any that come your way!

Financing Contingency

The most common type of contingency in a real estate contract is the financing contingency. While the number of homes that sold for cash more than doubled over the last 10 years, the majority of home purchases — 87% of them, in fact— are still financed through mortgage loans.

Why is this important? Because most real estate contracts provide a contingency clause that states the contract is binding only if the buyer is approved for the loan. If a contract is written as cash, in most cases, the financing contingency is removed.

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Why Does The Financing Contingency Exist?

This contingency exists to protect the buyer. If a buyer submits a winning offer, but can’t get approved for a loan to follow through with the purchase, this clause can protect the buyer from potential legal or financial ramifications.

Tip: Homeowners can, and should, request to see a buyer’s prequalification letter before accepting their offer.

Home Sale Contingency

For many repeat homebuyers, they must sell a property in order to afford a new home. Whether they’re relocating for work, moving to a larger home, or moving to a more rural area, 38% of home buyers in a recent survey reported using funds from a previous home to purchase a new one. This is where a home sale contingency comes into play; this clause states that the buyer must first sell their current home before they can proceed with purchasing a new one.

Why Does This Contingency Exist?

This is another contingency that exists to protect the buyer. If their current home sale doesn’t close, this clause can protect the buyer from being forced to purchase the new home. In other words, they can back out of the new home contract without consequence. Keep in mind that in a seller’s market, this type of contingency offer is less desirable to sellers; in fact,  they may rule out your offer completely if this is included.

TIP: In many situations, homeowners can negotiate escape clauses for the home sale which would allow them to solicit other offers and potentially bump the current buyer out of the picture.

Home Inspection Contingency

Not only is it common, it’s also wise to include a home inspection contingency in any offer. Whether it’s a new home or an existing home, there is no such thing as a flawless house. Home inspections can uncover hidden problems, detect deferred maintenance issues that may be costly down the road, or make the home less desirable to purchase completely. A home inspection contingency essentially states that the purchase of a home is dependent on the results from the home inspection.

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Why Does This Contingency Exist?

Whether it’s a roof in need of replacement or an unsafe fireplace, homebuyers need to know the maintenance and safety issues of the properties they’re interested in purchasing. If a home inspection report reveals significant (or scary!) findings, this protects the buyer from the financial burden that repairs would require. This is why agents will tell you it’s never a good idea for a home to be purchased without a home inspection contingency.

TIP: The findings from the report can usually be used to negotiate repairs or financial concessions from the seller.

Sight-Unseen Contingency

Especially during sellers markets, it’s not uncommon for a home to have dozens of showings within the first couple of days of listing. This breakneck pace can create a scenario in which homebuyers may not be able to coordinate their schedules to get a timely showing appointment. To help prevent missing out on the chance to buy a home, buyers in this situation will sometimes make offers on the home, sight unseen.

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There’s no sugarcoating it…this is a high-risk strategy with ample opportunity for negative consequences. However, if this strategy is used, many real estate agents will add a sight- unseen contingency to their offer. This contingency states that the offer for purchase is dependent on the buyer’s viewing of, and satisfaction with, the property.

Why Does This Contingency Exist?

In a market with shrinking inventory, desperate buyers want a fighting chance at a hot property; in some cases, that can only exist by submitting an offer before they can see it in person.

TIP: Sight unseen offers are also high risk to the seller. If you include this contingency in your offer, try to keep other seller requests to a minimum. 

Why Contingencies Can Be Positive

In a seller’s market, buyers may feel the pressure to remove as many contingencies as possible in order to compete. But, it’s important to remember that contingencies are actually safeguards in place to prevent buyer remorse, expensive future repairs, or financial calamity. It’s always crucial for buyers to hire a seasoned real estate agent who can advocate for their best interests, negotiate and strategize in safe and competitive ways, and advises them of the risks of each decision.

Looking to Buy? Don’t Go it Alone!

The homebuying process is a complex one, but that doesn’t mean you’re left with all the heavy lifting. Find your dream home and a local agent on Homes.com, then visit our “How to Buy” section for all the step-by-step insights for a smooth process.


Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com