Buying Process Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do you determine what a house is worth?
Buyers generally get a sense of the value of a home after having looked at lots of properties and noticing the pricing trends and how long properties stay on the market. We go over comparable sold properties with you to verify market value. We look at the same sales an appraiser would most likely use to determine value.
2. How do you know what to offer?
Deciding on the offering price depends on how long the property has been on the market, if there are other offers being made, where the property is located, the price range of the property, the condition of the property as well as your personal feelings about the home. We can help put all these factors in perspective for you so you can make an informed decision.
3. What are the usual closing costs and who pays for them?
The Seller generally pays for:
- Real Estate commission
- Document preparation fee for deed
- Documentary Transfer Tax ($110 per $1,000 of sales price)
- City Transfer Tax (usually split 50/50, if applicable)
- Payoff of all loans in Seller’s name
- Reconveyance fees and any prepayment penalties
- Any judgments or tax liens
- Tax proration for any unpaid taxes at time of transfer of title
- Any unpaid homeowners’ association dues
- Recording charges to clear all documents of records against seller
- Any bonds or assessments (or according to contract)
- Any and all delinquent taxes
- Notary fees
The Buyer generally pays for:
- Title Insurance
- Escrow fee
- Document preparation (if applicable)
- Notary fees
- Recording charges for all documents in Buyer’s name
- Tax proration (from date of acquisition)
- All new loan charges (points)
- Interest on new loan form date of funding to 30 days prior to first payment date
- Homeowners’ insurance premium for first year
4. How do I know what I can afford?
We can refer you to a mortgage broker who can go over your financial situation with you and start the pre-approval process so you know what your limits are before you start shopping for a home
5. How do I make an offer on a house?
Making an offer involves filling out a Purchase Contract which spells out the sales price, the closing date, the terms of the sale and the contingencies the buyer has for their inspection, appraisal and loan. We go over the contract in detail with you so that you are comfortable with your offer.
6. What is escrow?
Escrow is the period of time from the Buyers and Sellers agreement of the contract, to the moment of closing. During escrow, the buyer has inspections and applies for their loan, obtains insurance and has a title search and title insurance policy in place. The seller completes any repairs required and pays off any liens on the property. When all the terms of the contract have been satisfied, the title company notifies the county recorders office and title is transferred.
7. How long does it take from negotiating a contract to moving in?
The length of escrow is decided by the buyer and seller. The average escrow period in our area is between 30 and 45 days. Sometimes people need more time and the seller may temporarily rent back from the buyer. These time frames are negotiable.
8. How does the inspection process work?
Buyers are encouraged to have a comprehensive home inspection by a licensed inspector during their inspection contingency, usually the first 10 to 17 days of the contract. The buyer should also make any other investigations they deem necessary to satisfy themselves about the neighborhood, schools, and review all the seller’s disclosures. Sometimes the inspector recommends other professionals to do more detailed inspections if they notice an issue that would require a specialist, such as a roofer or engineer. The buyer has the option to ask the seller to make repairs or to credit money to go towards repairs. The seller has the right to refuse, negotiate or agree. If the parties come to an agreement, escrow continues. If not, the buyer has a right to cancel and have their deposit refunded.
9. What is title insurance?
- A basic owners’ policy normally includes insurance for:
- Clear title to the property
- Incorrect signatures on documents
- Forgery, fraud
- Defective recordation
- Restrictive covenants
- Encumbrances or judgments
- A Basic Lender’s Title Policy Coverage covers:
- Mechanic’s liens and unrecorded liens
- Unrecorded easements and access rights
- Defects and other unrecorded documents
- Extended Owner’s Coverage
- Building permit violations from previous owners
- Subdivision maps
- Covenant violations from previous owners
- Living trusts
- Structure damage from mineral extractions
- Variety of encroachments and forgeries after title insurance is issued
10. What is the best time to buy?
This sounds like a simple question but is really very hard to answer because we cannot predict the future. The answer depends on your motives for buying and how long you are planning to stay in the property. Generally, we feel any time can be the right time to buy if you act prudently, do your homework, and have a good agent advising you on your decision.
11. What does the real estate agent really do?
Realtors are experts in home and property values, know how to prepare a home to go on the market, know who is the most likely buyer for most properties and how to market to them. REALTORS® market to, and network with other REALTORS® who are the most likely source of buyers for our listings. REALTORS® understand the purchase contract and other forms that must be used in a real estate transaction. We know what must be disclosed and why, and we are required to perform our own visual inspections of properties we sell, so we are very familiar with red flags and defects that need to be mentioned.
We have contacts with other professionals such as mortgage brokers, structural pest control inspectors, home inspectors, trades people, and escrow officers and have developed a team of people we can go to for help and advice to assist our clients. We have a working knowledge of the legal aspects of real estate, the appraisal and lending industry, the construction trade, and the latest home decorating and staging trends. We are familiar with geological areas of interest, faults, and other physical aspects of our market area that effect value and livability. We are also knowledgeable about state and local ordinances, including point of sale ordinances, transfer taxes, tree, view and creek ordinances and other local issues that effect homeowners.
Of course, we are also experts at managing the relationship between the buyer and seller of a property, communicating and staying up with the requests and needs of both parties, coordinating the contractors, lender, appraisal, and title companies and other brokerages during the escrow. We have experience in negotiation and general problem solving as well as marketing and human relations at open houses, and handling e-mail and phone inquiries about our listings. We need to be technologically adept to facilitate the communication with people who are at work or out of the country, we deal with trusts and the administrators of estates, attorneys and courts and probate details. We are also responsible for getting everyone to sign all the myriad documents involved in the transaction. We help the buyer and seller track the details of the contract to make sure all issues have been resolved prior to close of escrow, if possible, and coordinate delivery of the keys to the property, repairs, meeting various people at the property such as the inspectors, appraisers, movers, other agents, or whoever is scheduled.
12. Does the REALTOR® work for the Buyer or the Seller?
In most transactions, there are two Brokers, one for the buyer and one for the seller. Even though the buyer’s broker is paid commission by the seller, the buyer’s broker represents the buyer exclusively and has a fiduciary duty to the buyer. Occasionally, one agent can represent both the buyer and seller, but it is relatively rare in an urban marketplace.