Contingencies can take many shapes and forms that can either protect or harm either party. Contingencies always have some form of a consequence to one of the parties b/c contingencies place a higher risk in regards to the deal closing. Typically, there are no 'free' contingencies. Sales price, terms and contingencies are negotiated at the same time you negotiate the contract to purchase this home. There is no such thing as a 'contingent contract' however there are contracts with contingencies. Without knowing specifically what the contingencies are I can't offer any insight.
It sounds like you might be signing a lease? If you just sign a lease there is no price to negotiate other than rent. You are a tenant they are a landlord. What if you want to purchase later? Now you are talking lease purchase options. Are you paying for the option? Is the sales price locked? Do you want to assume responsibility for remodeling and repairs without knowing the marketability of title? Knowing what documents to file public records will also protect your 'interest' in the property.
Lastly, if for some reason you 'loose' this home please have faith it wasn't meant to be. It always feels this way to buyers (including myself) but the feelings aren't facts. Don't get yourself into a situation in which you are legally liable and or loose money because you were worried about loosing the perfect house and didn't counsel with an expert on your behalf first. You are risking loosing the home by not consulting with a local licensed real estate and/or legal expert. There is ALWAYS another perfect house even if at the moment it doesn't feel like it.
My concern with your situation is that the seller is an agent and you have no representation. I wouldn't want anyone to go into one of the largest purchases of their lives without representation. If you need help please don't hesitate to call or email and I'll be glad to point you in the right direction.
Maybe we can all get together and discuss the issues and come up with a workable resolution for all parties involved and get you into the house you "really love." I look forward to hearing from you.
You can also go to http://www.ERA.com to view more about my company and our mission and values.
I'm assuming you are a FSBO too since you need to help finding an agent. If you do have a listing agent see if they will work on your behalf. Otherwise, ask for a referral from friends for a good agent. The seller doesn't have to pay the agent. You can. You can look for a real estate attorney either in the phone book, referral of a friend or call the closest Law School (University) and ask for a referral.
I always tell clients to protect your investment before you invest. I'd rather spend $500 in legal fees than loose $100,000 in a real estate transaction because I didn't understand the implications of what I was signing.
Where would I find an attorney or a buyer broker?
I do live by your motto "if it fails it wasnt meant to be". Funny I got a responce from my favorite State (& birth place) that I have been trying to talk my husband into moving too.