What Type of Legal Contracts Are Used when Buying a Home in California?

Buying a home in California? Congratulations! But before you get the keys, you're going to have to get through a few piles of paperwork. Home buying is one of the most paperwork-intensive transactions that people complete in their lives. But what legal contracts are required in the Golden State and why do they exist? Below you'll find the most common legal contracts you will likely see when buying a house in California. 

What Contracts are Used When Buying a Home in California?

Offer Letter and RPA

The first step to buying a home is finding the perfect one and making an offer. Your offer will include what you are willing to pay for the property and should be based on what comparable homes are selling for in the area. Additionally, the offer should include any special conditions that apply to your offer such as home inspections, pest control inspections, etc. 

If your offer is accepted, it will become a binding contract. You don't want to miss details and then lose your deposit by failing to complete the purchase. It's smart to review your offer with your real estate agent or an attorney to ensure you understand the document in full. 

In some states, the offer comes first and then the purchase and sale agreement. However, in California, they are one and the same.  Once accepted, the offer becomes the purchase agreement known as the RPA.

Offer Acceptance Letter

If a seller accepts your offer, they will need to provide you with a written acceptance letter for it to be legally binding.


In California, you as a home buyer are entitled to two important disclosures. They include:

The Real Property Disclosure Statements

The seller must complete this form to detail:

  • The physical condition of the home and property

  • Any special taxes that apply to it

  • Potential defects or hazards

  • Other factors that may make it less desirable

Further, the seller's agent is responsible for performing a visual inspection and reporting and defects they find. It's important to read through this carefully to ensure there is nothing that will negatively impact the value of the home. 

The Agency Relationship Disclosure

Your real estate agent must provide you with a disclosure that explains who they represent in the transaction. In some cases, an agent represents one party, while in others, they represent both. This could impact their interests in the transaction so it's important to read this carefully. 

Public Report

A public report from the California Department of Real Estate may be required if your home is part of common interest facilities or a standard subdivision outside of the city. In this, you'll find important information about:

  • Roads

  • Utilities

  • Water

  • Soil

  • Title

  • Zoning

  • Use restrictions

  • Geologic conditions

  • Other hazards 

If the subdivision isn't finished, it may also include details about the financial arrangements involved with the project. This is important so you clearly understand the rules of your property, accessibility, and what to expect in the future. 

Financing disclosures

If you are financing the home with a loan, you will also receive important disclosures including the Loan Estimate and the Closing paperwork. The Loan Estimate details the terms and conditions of your loan like your loan amount, interest rate, repayment term, and closing costs. The Closing paperwork includes the details about the costs and repayment schedule of your loan.

Buying a home is an exciting move, but it also requires you to jump through quite a few legal hoops. These are the most common legal real estate contracts you will encounter in California. However, it's best to consult a real estate agent and attorney for details on the exact forms that will apply to you. If you're interested in learning more about becoming a California real estate agent, check out our easy online real estate course.

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