Decisions The Harris Group

The Process, Step-by-Step

The Initial Agreement and Deposit.

An effective purchase agreement is a legal arrangement between a potential buyer and the property’s seller. The purchase agreement holds the information for the sale of the home. The terms, sale price, disclosures to give to the buyer, are the rules to abide by. Escrow takes the purchase agreement and turns it into the Escrow Instructions. When escrow opens, the agreed Ernest Money Deposit has to be placed into escrow. The Ernest Money Deposit from the buyer is the buyers “skin in the game”. When escrow opens, the seller has 7 days to give the buyer ALL the information asked for in the purchase contract. The buyer has 17 days to conduct inspections, get answers to any questions, and make the ultimate decision to go or not to go forward with the purchase. 

Some important tips to keep in mind to streamline the process.

Keep written records of everything. We provide all the required documents for your purchase and make sure that you have copies of everything. 

Stick to the schedule.

Now that you have open escrow, you and the seller will be given a time line to abide by.  This is important to mark every stage in the process of closing the real estate contract. Meeting the requirements on time ensures a smoother flow of negotiations. This keeps each party involved to not be in breach of their agreements. During the process we will keep you constantly updated, so you will always be prepared for the next step.

The Closing Agent.

The closing agent here in California is the Escrow Company. The Escrow will hold the deposit in escrow and will adhere to the purchase contract. Escrow is a neutral 3 party employed to make sure the transactions move as directed by the Seller and Buyer. From start to finish, Escrow is like the project manager. They strive to keep the sale going forward.

Title Company

The Title Company researches the complete recorded history of the property. This is to ensure that the title is free and clear of encumbrances by the date of closing. Title will sure that all new encumbrances are properly added to the title. Some properties are subject to restrictions which limit various activities such as building or parking restrictions. There may be recorded easements and encroachments, which limit the rights to use your property.

How to Hold Title.

You may wish to consult an attorney or tax advisor on the best way to hold title. Different methods of holding title have different legal, estate and tax implications, especially when selling or upon death of the title holder.


Once your offer is accepted by the seller, you will need to have a licensed property inspector inspect the property within the time frame that was agreed upon in the effective contract to purchase. You may elect to have different inspectors inspect the property. You may wish to obtain professional opinions from inspectors who specialize in a specific area (eg. roof, HVAC, structure). If you are purchasing a commercial property, then you will need to have an environmental audit done on the site for the lending institution. We can recommend several different inspectors.

Depending on the outcome of these inspections, one of two things may happen:

1. Either each milestone is successfully closed and the contingencies will be removed, bringing you one step closer to the close, or
2. The buyer, after reviewing the property and the papers, requests a renegotiation of the terms of contract (usually the price).

Appraisal and Lending.

It is imperative that you keep in close communication with your lender. You need to know when additional documents are needed to approve your loan application and fund your loan. If the agreement is conditional upon financing, then the property will be appraised by a licensed appraiser to determine the value for the lending institution, via a third party. This is done so that the lending institution can confirm their investment in your property is accurate. Appraisers are specialists in determining the value of properties, based on a combination of square footage measurements, building costs, recent sales of comparable properties, operating income, etc. When you are within two weeks of closing, double check with your lender to be sure the loan will go through smoothly and on time.

Association Approval.

If the property that you are purchasing is conditional upon an association approval, Escrow will request the rules, regulations, and other important documents from the seller as soon as you have an effective agreement to purchase. If you are required to meet with the association for your approval, make an appointment as soon as possible for the interview. Most associations require a certificate of approval before move-in. Escrow will request that the original copy of this approval letter be brought to the closing, so that it can be recorded with the deed in the county public records.

Property Insurance.

If you are obtaining a loan, you will be required by your lender to purchase a certain amount of insurance on the property. The value will depend on the lending institution and the purchase price of the property. You may be able to save hundreds of dollars a year on homeowners insurance by shopping around for insurance. You can also save money with these tips.

Consider a higher deductible. Increasing your deductible by just a few hundred dollars can make a big difference in your premium.

Ask your insurance agent about discounts. You may be able get a lower premium if your home has safety features such as dead-bolt locks, smoke detectors, an alarm system, storm shutters or fire-retardant roofing materials. Persons over 55 years of age or long-term customers may also be offered discounts.

Insure your house NOT the land under it. After a disaster, the land is still there. If you do not subtract the value of the land when deciding how much homeowner’s insurance to buy, you will pay more than you should.

Complex Decisions needs Experience advise