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Real Estate Option Contract

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A real estate option contract is an agreement between the buyer and the seller that gives the buyer exclusive rights to purchase the property when needed. The seller enters into a unilateral contract with the buyer, providing them with an “option to buy” the property within an agreed-upon timeframe. Once the option contract is in place, the seller can’t offer the property to other buyers until the agreed buyer time frame elapses. So, if the real estate option contract is set to last six months, the seller can’t offer the property to other potential buyers until the 6-month period is over.

Components of a Real Estate Option Contract

A real estate option contract works similarly to a stock options contract and has three components:

  • Real Estate Options Contract Premium: After entering into a real estate options contract, a seller may not sell the property to anyone else during the contract period. As such, a contract may place a seller at a handicap when selling a property. However, this exclusivity isn’t for free. A buyer will pay a premium or option fee to keep the opportunity open to buy anytime during the length of the contract. The premium is paid upfront by the buyer.
  • Real Estate Options Contract Duration: A property buyer may use option contracts when willing to pay a premium to retain the right to buy for a fixed period, also known as the expiration date or the option period. This may be as short as a few months or as long as many years. This agreed-upon time frame is settled before the option contract is signed.
  • Real Estate Options Contract Sale Price: Furthermore, options usually set an agreed-to sale price. If a buyer chooses to execute their option, they will pay the price already agreed to with the seller. This can save time and expense, as the price has already been agreed upon. It is possible for an option to have a changing price depending on local economic conditions or the state of the current market. Still, the requirements and criteria must be explicitly written out in the contract.

Here is the template of a Real Estate Options Contract:

Scenarios and Outcome of a Real Estate Option Contract

The buyer and seller sign a real estate options contract to buy a property in 12 months for $3 million with a $50,000 options premium. The four possible outcomes are:

  • The Buyer Buys the Property in a Year. The buyer secures the funding for a $3 million loan and has completed her due diligence on the feasibility of turning a profit on the property. She exercised her option to purchase the property at the agreed price of $3 million, and the seller will receive this amount in addition to the $50,000 option premium paid earlier.
  • The Buyer does Due Diligence and Doesn’t Want to Buy the Property. The buyer found environmental issues that could plague the development of her apartment building investment. Not wanting to deal with the Environmental Protection Agency, the builder doesn’t exercise the option and loses the premium of $50,000. Although it is a loss, the builder avoided the possible loss of $3 million if she had directly bought the property.
  • The Buyer doesn’t Want to Develop but Wants to Benefit from the Appreciation. The buyer is busy with other commercial real estate investments and no longer wants to invest the time and energy to develop this property. Since the property’s price has risen from $3 million to $3.5 million within six months, the builder can exercise the option, buy the property, and sell it for a profit of $500,000. The property owner will receive the $3 million selling price plus the $50,000 option premium.

Note: Here are the links available to learn more facts and data related to the contract

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Advantages of a Real Estate Option Contract


  • Offers Flexibility: An options contract gives the buyer the right but not the obligation to buy a property over time at a pre-agreed-upon price. As such, an options contract is ideal for certain buyers interested in finalizing a residential or commercial property purchase but has yet to do so.
  • Lowers Cost: Real estate options contracts are a great way to lower initial investment costs for buyers. Buyers can gain control of a property without having to purchase it immediately.


  • Provides Income: A seller can monetize their land without ever transferring ownership, having someone living on it, or developing it. While an options contract is enforced, the seller still maintains property ownership, and they can use their property to generate passive real estate income in the form of the contract premium during this period.
  • Avoids Non-Serious Buyers: In some cases, the property could remain vacant for years. Instead of waiting for a sale, a real estate option contract can offer reassurance that the buyer is committed to meeting the sale terms and buying the property.

Tips for Negotiating a Successful Real Estate Option Contract

When negotiating a real estate options contract, remember these essential tips.

  1. First, it’s essential to identify your goals and priorities before entering negotiations. Know what you want and what you’re willing to compromise on.
  2. It is also vital to do your research beforehand, including understanding market trends and the specifics of the property in question.
  3. During the negotiation process, maintain open and constructive communication with the other party, aiming for a collaborative rather than an aggressive approach.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek clarification on any points of contention.
  5. Please make sure to have signatures from all parties involved in the contract, and include identifying information about the property, such as the parcel number. Verifying that one of the signing parties is the legitimate title holder is crucial. Additionally, ensure that the option premium, term, and purchase price are clearly stated on the option contract.
  6. In addition to the option premium, duration of the contract, and expiration date, also include the choice of law clause. The clause will determine which rules apply based on the property’s location. Consider state statutes regarding real estate option contracts when creating your contract.
  7. Finally, once an agreement is reached, ensure it’s documented clearly and accurately in writing to avoid misunderstandings.

Key Terms for Real Estate Option Contracts

  • Option Fee: The upfront payment made by the parties for the right to purchase the property at a later date.
  • Exercise Price: The predetermined amount the option holder can buy or sell the property.
  • Exclusivity Period: The specified timeframe during which the option holder has the sole right to exercise the option.
  • Option Premium: The upfront payment made by the option holder to secure the option contract.
  • Option Period: The duration within which the option holder can choose to exercise the option.
  • Contingencies: Conditions that must be met for the option contract to be enforceable.

Final Thoughts on Real Estate Option Contracts

Real estate option contracts offer alternative ways to make money and help avoid large risks. Developers can benefit from holding multiple real estate option contracts while selecting only a few based on the evolution of the market during the holding period. These agreements allow potential buyers to secure a property for a set period while they conduct due diligence or arrange to finance, all for a nominal fee

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