Whether it consists of several pages of big type or a few pages of fine print, a real estate purchase agreement is a serious, legally binding document. In most areas, there are "boiler plate" forms that spell out what each party agrees to do by certain dates and what happens if either side breaks the contract.
The best time to familiarize yourself with these forms is when you are beginning your search. Ask the real estate agent for a copy of the purchase agreement and then review it, keeping in mind that it has the force of law. If you don't understand the document, consult an attorney. If there is a dispute between buyer and seller, a court will hold you to what the purchase agreement specifies, not what you thought it meant or what you thought the real estate agent said it meant.
There are several key points you should be clear about. What are the deadlines for loan application and obtaining financing? If you decide to back out because of the structural inspection report, can you do that? Do appliances convey? When will the closing take place? If you understand these clauses before you find the perfect house, you will avoid a lot of stress and minimize the likelihood of misunderstandings.