In the real estate contracting process a buyer purchasing a home through an agent makes a written offer to the seller. The seller later considers that offer and possibly others. Self-sellers should use the same contracting pattern; that is, get a written offer in hand with a deposit and then consider whether to accept or not.

While the nature of the deal and read or perceived alternatives must be considered, a crucial acceptance factor is the financial status of the buyer. No matter how good an offer looks, it is worthless if the buyer cannot obtain proper financing.

Seller who have been following the financial market by contacting mortgage loan officers on a regular basis will have a general idea of the qualifications sought by lenders. Using this information seller should give potential buyers a prepared sheet which asks specific financial questions such as:

Does the buyer now own or rent?

What is his her or their monthly rent or mortgage payment?

Where do they work? Who are the supervisors? What are the job titles? How long has each been employed at the current work? What is the base salary of each? What about overtime payments on a regular basis?

What are their outside sources of income?

How many dependents do they have?

Do they have monthly installment debt payments? Are there monthly car payments? If so, what is the balance of the loan? Have the buyers ever declared bankruptcy? If so, when? What assets do they have in terms of savings accounts, stock, checking accounts and other resources*

Sound financial information is an integral part of the acceptance process. An accurate knowledge of the buyers' financial position can help you decide whether to accept an offer and possibly remove your home from the market, reject the buyers' proposal or accept an offer from another buyer.

If the information is substantially incorrect or misleading, it then becomes worthwhile to discuss with an attorney whether or not the deposit should be retained as compensation.

Peter G. Miller teachers the course, "How to Sell Your House - With or Without a Broker" through the Consumer Information Institute in Washington.