Step 1: Making the Initial Appointment
After the buyer and seller have agreed on the basic outline of a deal (see “Transaction Outline”) one of them contacts us for an appointment. Regular business hours are preferred but weekends and evenings can often be arranged. Ideally, everyone comes to our office in the Rockridge area of Oakland, but if that is not practical or convenient, we can set up a “virtual” meeting via conference call.
Step 2: The Purchase Contract
With all parties present, we walk you through all the components of a purchase offer and translate your outline into the proper legal format (we use the latest forms from the California Association of Realtors, C.A.R.). The formal written offer is then reviewed and typically signed right then, or in the event that one of the parties is not physically present, we can email that party everything for their electronic signature. We use the very convenient “Docusign” process, which eliminates the need for the receiver to print out, fax or scan anything.
Step 3: Disclosures
Once the purchase contract is ratified, we move on to disclosures. California is one of the most demanding states as regards seller’s disclosure obligations. We make sure that the Seller is provided the most up-to-date State forms to complete, meeting all statutory obligations. We also provide locally generated forms where available to cover City and County issues.
Note: Remember, we are not anyone’s “agent” in the transaction and we do not visit the property. We only provide the forms and make sure they are completed and acknowledged. We make no commentary about the information provided nor do we personally verify it.
Step 4: Escrow
Another player in California real estate transactions is the title or escrow company (terms are used interchangeably). The title company is itself a neutral party, accepting and holding the buyer’s earnest money and other deposits as well as funds from the buyer’s lender. It also distributes money at the closing, paying off any outstanding balance to the Seller’s mortgage holder and/or other lien holders. It also researches the historical “title” of the property and issues “title insurance.” We take responsibility for opening the escrow and coordinating between the numerous peripheral players such as the buyer’s lender, insurance company, inspectors, seller’s existing lender and other possible lienholders or stakeholders. We will recommend a local title company or work with one that the parties have already agreed to. The title company charges its own fees for these services (known as “closing costs”) and the responsibility for who pays them is usually a matter of local custom rather than law. We will inform everyone what is “usual and customary” for their particular transaction but will follow whatever instructions the parties have agreed.
Step 5: Signing Closing Documents
Once the buyer’s loan is approved, loan documents (or “docs”) are sent to the title company and an appointment is made for the Buyers to sign. Sellers also will have closing docs to sign and they will make a separate appointment. These papers cannot be signed electronically, so they are signed in person at the title company during normal business hours or we will make arrangements for after-hour or home appointments. Out of area parties can have their docs sent to them for signature in front of a Notary in their area.
Closing typically occurs within two or three business days after the buyer delivers the balance of their down payment and closing costs in the form of a cashier’s check or wire transfer to the title company. You will receive a call and/or email from us delivering the good news: the deal is done. Congratulations! Sellers can check their bank accounts later in the day to verify that their net sales proceeds have been delivered as instructed. Buyers can collect the house keys if they haven’t already.