Understanding Contingencies in Silicon Valley Real Estate: A Comprehensive Guide for Buyers and Sellers

Understanding Contingencies: A Guide For Buyers and Sellers

When searching for homes in the vibrant and fast-paced real estate market of Silicon Valley, buyers and sellers often come across properties with a “contingent” status. This indicates that an offer has been accepted, but the sale is still conditional, with both parties working to meet specific criteria. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the various contingencies that buyers and sellers encounter in Silicon Valley real estate transactions. Whether you are a buyer or a seller, understanding contingencies is essential for navigating the dynamic Silicon Valley market.

Mortgage Approval Contingency

One of the most common contingencies in Silicon Valley real estate transactions is the mortgage approval contingency. This contingency is designed to protect the buyer in case they are unable to secure financing within a specified period. It allows the buyer to reclaim their earnest money and legally walk away from the deal if they are unable to meet the financing terms and numbers stated in the contract.

Typically, the contingency clause specifies a specific number of days within which the buyer must secure a mortgage loan. During this time, the buyer has the freedom to terminate or proceed with the contract based on whether or not financing has been successfully obtained. It is important for buyers to ensure that any requests for an extension are agreed upon and documented in writing.

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House Sale Contingency

In the competitive Silicon Valley real estate market, timing and financing can be significant challenges for both buyers and sellers. The house sale contingency is a valuable tool that can benefit both parties in these situations. For buyers, this contingency allows them a specific amount of time to sell their current homes in order to finance the purchase of a new one. The contingency may also specify a minimum sale price for the buyer’s current home, allowing them to back out of the contract if an offer falls below this threshold.

In a seller’s market, where multiple bidders are vying for properties, house sale contingencies may not be advisable. Sellers often have the luxury of choosing the strongest offer, and a house sale contingency may require them to wait for the buyer’s house to sell, potentially missing out on better offers. However, in a slower market, sellers who are also in the process of buying a new home can make good use of this contingency. The seller can indicate a certain amount of time to find a new house and get it under contract before finalizing the sale of their current home.

Inspection Contingency

The inspection contingency is an important safeguard for buyers in Silicon Valley real estate transactions. It allows the buyer the right to conduct due diligence on a property before finalizing the sale. A comprehensive inspection is performed by a professional on behalf of the buyer within a specified time period.

Upon receiving the inspection reports, the buyer has several options. They can approve the reports and proceed with the purchase, refuse to buy the home if their standards are not met and have their earnest money returned, or request further inspections for specific areas of concern. Additionally, the buyer can ask the seller to perform necessary repairs before proceeding with the sale or request a price reduction equivalent to the estimated cost of repairs.

If the seller refuses to cover the repair costs, the buyer has the freedom to back out of the sale and receive a refund of their earnest money deposit. The inspection contingency provides buyers with peace of mind and the opportunity to ensure the property meets their expectations.

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Appraisal Contingency

The appraisal contingency plays a crucial role in Silicon Valley real estate transactions, ensuring that buyers pay a fair-market value for the property. If the property’s appraised value turns out to be lower than the asking price, the buyer has the right to back out of the contract and have their earnest money returned. However, the appraisal contingency can also include terms that allow the buyer to proceed with the sale even if the appraised value is below the listing price. In some cases, sellers may be willing to lower the price to secure the deal.

In hot markets like Silicon Valley, buyers often waive the appraisal contingency to strengthen their offers. By doing so, they must be prepared to cover the difference in cash if the lender only provides financing based on the appraised value. This strategy can be a gamble, as buyers may need to come up with additional funds to bridge the gap between the appraised value and the purchase price.

For example, let’s say you have a loan that covers 90% and you need to put 10% down for a home selling for $500,000. If the house is appraised at $475,000, the lender is only going to cover 90 percent of that appraised value, or $427,500. And instead of a $50,000 down payment, you would be expected to put down $72,500 to cover the difference. Waiving this contingency can be a gamble.Ā – realtor.com

Additional Contingencies in Silicon Valley

In addition to the four most common contingencies discussed above, there are other contingencies that buyers and sellers may encounter in Silicon Valley real estate transactions. These contingencies may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the deal and the preferences of the parties involved. Here are a few additional contingencies to be aware of:

Title Contingency

A title contingency ensures that the property’s title is clear and free of any liens or claims that could affect the buyer’s ownership rights. It allows the buyer to review the title report and address any issues before proceeding with the sale. If significant title defects are discovered, the buyer may have the right to cancel the contract and receive a refund of their earnest money.

Homeowner’s Association (HOA) Contingency

Many properties in Silicon Valley are part of homeowner’s associations (HOAs) that have set rules and regulations. The HOA contingency allows the buyer to review the HOA documents and financial statements to ensure they are comfortable with the association’s rules and financial stability. If the buyer finds any red flags or is not satisfied with the HOA’s terms, they can back out of the contract and receive a refund of their earnest money.

Environmental Contingency

An environmental contingency is particularly relevant in Silicon Valley, where there may be concerns about soil contamination, hazardous materials, or other environmental issues such as wildfire. This contingency allows the buyer to conduct environmental assessments and tests to ensure the property meets their environmental standards. If the buyer discovers any significant environmental issues, they can terminate the contract and receive a refund of their earnest money. Buyers will be advised about many of these issues in the California Natural Hazard Disclosure Report which is mandated for any residential real estate purchase in California.

Insurance Contingency

In Silicon Valley, where natural disasters like earthquakes are a concern, buyers may include an insurance contingency in their contracts. This contingency allows the buyer to secure suitable insurance coverage for the property within a specified period. If the buyer is unable to obtain insurance or the premiums are prohibitively high, they may have the right to terminate the contract and receive a refund of their earnest money.

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Negotiating Contingencies in Silicon Valley

At the beginning of a real estate transaction in Silicon Valley, both buyers and sellers have the opportunity to propose contingencies. However, not all contingencies will be accepted, and negotiations may be necessary to reach a compromise. It is crucial to have a professional real estate agent guiding you through the process to navigate the complexities of negotiating contingencies effectively.

Buyers should carefully consider which contingencies are essential to protect their interests while remaining competitive in a fast-paced market. Sellers should evaluate the risks and benefits of accepting certain contingencies, keeping in mind that some contingencies may deter potential buyers or lead to delays in closing the sale.


Navigating the Silicon Valley real estate market requires a solid understanding of contingencies. Whether you are a buyer or a seller, being aware of the different types of contingencies and their implications is essential for protecting your interests and ensuring a smooth transaction. From mortgage approval and house sale contingencies to inspection and appraisal contingencies, each plays a significant role in shaping the outcome of a real estate deal in Silicon Valley. By working with experienced professionals and carefully negotiating contingencies, buyers and sellers can navigate the dynamic Silicon Valley market with confidence.

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Seb Frey helps long-time Bay Area homeowners make their next move easily the next one yet. If you're looking for a minimum of hassle, maximum net cash on sale, and certain results, contact Seb today.