Thursday, April 12, 2007

Home Buying Process (6) Escrow and: Possession!

  1. Hey, it's been a month! I thought you said…

    I wrote a term paper once – Spring term – titled Spring Fever. In it I made the case that the phenomenon is real, that people really do slow down and procrastinate more as the weather turns from grey to not grey. Turned it in almost two weeks late. Got an A.

    That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it.

  2. Still looks pretty grey to me but, whatever. Shouldn't you follow the Imus example and apologize?


  3. Thank you. Now: We have an agreement! I've bought a house!

    Almost. The escrow period – when the transaction is put into the hands of a neutral third party, usually a title company – can be as short as a couple weeks in the case of a cash transaction, to as long as sixty days or more if one or the other party need the accommodation and both parties agree. The point is it's a crucial period, can be enormously stressful for both buyers and sellers, and you need to know what to expect so there are no surprises.

  4. Oh, dear. Should I be afraid?

    Good heavens, no! Just know what to expect, and lean on your agent: as noted, this is where they can earn their keep! [An aside: be very careful of outside suggestions. They can be well intentioned – or not – but can lead to confusion and more stress than necessary. Again: listen to your agent. He or she has the all the necessary information, and, if you hired well in the first place, has your best interest in mind.]

    Time is of the essence. Sounds perfunctory; it's not. It's a crucial part of the Sales Agreement. Each stage of escrow has a date attached, and both parties need to agree – in writing – if those dates are extended. Pay close attention to those dates!
    [Your agent will be there nagging you.] Otherwise you can find yourself in breach. Briefly:

    Loan application. If you're applying for a mortgage, you have three business days [Note: 'business days' excludes weekends and holidays] to make the actual application. This does not mean you can't change lenders later in the transaction, just that you're making a good faith effort to get the process rolling.

    Disclosures. Unless it's new construction or the seller is a bank or holding company, the sellers must fill out a four page disclosure form outlining any problems with the property that they're aware of. Because of past siding problems there's an additional Siding Disclosure, and if the home's older than 1978, a lead based paint disclosure. The listing agent will get them to your agent immediately. Go over them carefully: if there is anything you need explained, get the explanation! Unless you've waived it in the agreement, from the day you receive the disclosures you have a five business day revocation period in which to terminate the agreement if you see something that's unacceptable to you. You get your earnest money back, with no agreement necessary from the seller.

    Preliminary Title Report. Will be ordered as soon as escrow is opened. Gives information on any outstanding liens, any easements, whether the seller has clear title and is therefore able to sell. Look it over carefully with your agent!

    Inspection period. Can't say this too many times in too many ways: GET YOUR OWN INSPECTION. Even if it's new construction, even if a recent inspection done by someone else is available. It's the best $350-$500 you'll ever spend. Should it turn out everything's perfect, you've bought peace of mind! If you have friends with references for a good inspector, terrific; if not your agent will have a list of two or three.

    Unless it's modified in the agreement, the inspection period is ten business days from the date of the agreement. Note in those ten days it's necessary not only to get the inspection, but any follow up inspections (sewer scope, oil tank, pests, etc. ), any appraisals to quantify repairs of any problems that may exist, and a negotiated addendum for any remedial action necessary on the part of the seller. So it's best to schedule the inspection as early as possible.

    If, within the inspection period, you find the property unacceptable in its current condition, or can't reach an acceptable agreement to get repairs done, you may file an addendum stating your Unconditional Disapproval of the property, terminate the transaction and receive your earnest money back. Note: If by midnight of the tenth day of the inspection period no agreement has been reached, no notice of disapproval has been filed and no extension agreed to, the inspection period automatically sunsets and you've accepted the property as is. Watch those dates!

    And, do I need to say it? Listen to your agent!

    Appraisal. Most mortgage brokers will wait until the inspection period is over before ordering an appraisal; no sense spending the $500 or so unless you're sure the property is up to your expectations. Lenders, of course, need the appraisal to ensure the home they're lending on is worth what you're paying. Even if there are discrepancies – not often, but it happens – any differences can be negotiated with the seller.

    Financing. The final piece! This is where a good mortgage broker is invaluable: He or she will stay in contact with you and with your agent, keeping things moving so there's no delay in closing. You can still expect odd questions from the underwriter "Why, in 1906, did your great great grandmother not pay for that crab on the San Francisco waterfront? … Earthquake? What earthquake?" but good brokers (and agents) buffer that kind of thing.

    Signing. At least two or three days prior to the closing date, the lender should have packaged all the loan documents and sent them to the escrow officer. There the escrow officer will process them, ready them for signing and prepare you a preliminary closing cost estimate, the net amount you need to bring in to sign, in the form of a cashier's check. You'll also have the option of getting copies of the documents you'll be signing so you can read them in advance, and prepare any questions you may have. Then – and prepare the muscles in your hands and fingers in advance – signing! Have your agent make the appointment at least one day before closing. He or she will very likely be with you, possibly your mortgage broker, and a good escrow officer can explain in detail the three or four stacks of stuff you'll be signing. Clarify anything about which you're not sure! If all have done their homework, there should be no surprises, and it's actually a fun time; you're only hours away!

    Closing! Note closing is the day funds are released and the deed is recorded. The escrow officer will call your agent when each occurs; after recording, it's time to CELEBRATE!!!

    You own a home!

    Now: wasn't that fun?

  5. YES! But: Is this the last we'll talk?

    Not necessarily. Are you ready to sell?

1 comment:

Title Closing said...

Well these were all the process of buying a house. As an Escrow officer or neutral third-party, they are in charge to perform title searches, prepare final paperwork, be in document signings and make sure that all were in legals