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  • Writer's pictureAttorney Jason A Greller

What is the Difference in Wisconsin Between an Option to Purchase and an Offer to Purchase?

These are two distinct real estate concepts that are used in different situations:


Option to Purchase:

  1. Binding agreement: An Option to Purchase is a legally binding agreement between the property owner (the seller) and a potential buyer. The seller grants the buyer the exclusive right to purchase the property at a predetermined price within a specified period.

  2. Option fee: The buyer typically pays the seller a non-refundable option fee for the right to purchase the property. The option fee may be applied toward the purchase price if the buyer decides to exercise the option and buy the property.

  3. No obligation: The buyer is not obligated to purchase the property during the option period. If the buyer decides not to exercise the option, they forfeit the option fee, and the agreement expires.

  4. Protects the buyer's interest: An Option to Purchase is often used in situations where the buyer needs additional time to secure financing, evaluate the property, or complete due diligence before committing to the purchase.

Offer to Purchase:

  1. Proposal to buy: An Offer to Purchase is a formal, written proposal submitted by a potential buyer to the seller, indicating their interest in buying the property and specifying the terms and conditions of the proposed transaction.

  2. Earnest money deposit: The buyer usually provides an earnest money deposit with their Offer to Purchase, demonstrating their serious intent to complete the transaction. If the transaction proceeds, this deposit is typically applied toward the purchase price. If the buyer backs out without a valid reason, they may forfeit the earnest money.

  3. Negotiation and acceptance: The seller can either accept, reject, or counter the Offer to Purchase. If the seller accepts the offer, it becomes a legally binding contract, and both parties are obligated to proceed with the transaction according to the agreed-upon terms.

  4. Contingencies: Offers to Purchase often include contingencies, such as financing approval, satisfactory inspections, or the sale of the buyer's current home. If a contingency is not met, the buyer may have the right to withdraw from the transaction without penalty.

In summary, an Option to Purchase provides the buyer with the exclusive right to buy a property within a specific time frame without any obligation, while an Offer to Purchase is a formal proposal that, once accepted, creates a legally binding contract between the buyer and seller.


Please note that this information is for general informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice. Consult with a qualified attorney to discuss your specific situation and understand your legal options.

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