Buying or selling a home can be scary. I am happy to answer commonly asked questions on this page but, of course, never hesitate to contact me directly by phone at (707) 287-4444 or email at kerrin@therealestatedetective.com.

How do you start the process of buying a home?

First is to find a Realtor that is a great fit for you and your situation. We are many in number and come from all walks of life. Get yourself pre-approved by a reputable lender and now you are ready to go. Looking at listings online and going to open houses is fun but be sure to have saved for the down payment. While it is difficult and less than exciting it is essential in importance.

Can we go out home shopping without a pre-approval letter?

Certainly but you will be totally wasting your time and gasoline. There is no listing agent or seller living in our area that would even consider an offer from a buyer who was not pre-approved. As a buyer you need to be confident that you can afford the price of the houses in which you are looking. Looking at a higher price point than one can afford is the quickest route to a miserable house hunt. Everything always looks better when it costs more. Do yourself a favor and stay within your budget.

What is escrow?

Escrow is the period of time stated in the contract from acceptance to close where the buyer and the seller agree to work together. In Northern California, the escrow company is also the title company. Both entities are "neutral" to the process and their role is to oversee that all parties act according to the terms stated in the contract. Buyer's deposit monies are placed in non-interest bearing accounts with the title company as the escrow moves through the various stages of the process.

What are contingencies?

Contingencies are periods of time stated in the purchase contract that provide the buyer with an avenue to exit/cancel the escrow without penalty if they occur within the timeframe specified in the contract.

How long can I make my contingency period?

As long as you care to BUT be mindful that in the North Bay there are far more buyers competing for property than we have listings. The seller looks at the price offered AND the number of days for contingencies in determining whose offer they feel is the strongest. The shorter your timeframes for objection to the property the faster the seller will know that their deal will close. Only when all contingencies have been removed, does the seller know they have sold their house.

What if the property does not appraise for the purchase price?

This is always a delicate situation. The seller and buyer feel the price is warranted but the lender's appraiser does not meet the agreed upon price. The buyer can request a price reduction from the seller, bring in the difference on their own, a combination of those two or cancel the transaction.

Can I get my deposit back if I cancel during my inspections?

As long as you cancel during the "physical inspection contingency" timeframe written in your contract absolutely all monies are fully refunded. The 2 main contingencies used during the escrow period are physical inspections (everything under the sun that would have to do with the physical aspects of the residence and surrounding area) and the loan contingency. The buyer has no idea of the true condition of the home when they make their offer so they use the "due diligence" period to fully investigate if the house and the price they offered are acceptable to them.

Can you ever negotiate with the seller once you have an accepted offer?

Yes. The most common time when a buyer decides they want to "re negotiate" is during the physical inspection period. The buyer has every right to request something, usually a credit or price reduction, of the seller but the seller is not obligated whatsoever to comply with the buyers requests. Once the contract has been ratified (signed by all parties) ANY changes or alterations to the purchase contract must be agreed upon by both the buyer and the seller.

What if I want to find my new house before I list my current house?

Not the best of ideas as almost all sellers are not interested in accepting offers from buyers with a house to sell. With the vast number of qualified ready to go buyers on each and every property, there is little incentive for a seller to choose you. List your house and have your agent state that seller is accepting offers subject to them finding a replacement property. This is a seller's market so make use of your leverage. List, sell, buy!

I have thought about buying land. Is that difficult?

Excellent question. As the great environmentalist John Muir so eloquently spoke, "Land they don't make any more." Well actually volcanoes create new land but there are none here in Sonoma County. Land is exciting, inspirational and expensive. I say expensive because raw land alone is hard to find under $150-$200K. Drilling for water can run well upwards of $30K depending on the area in which you are looking. Septic systems pre-perc investigations $2,500 -$4,000. Septic design and installation start at $50K. Then there are soils investigations critical for understanding the requirements for your foundation, extent of grading needed for the residence and the driveway which could easily run $12K. Will you need retaining walls? How's the site situated with respect to sun? Small parcels on the valley floor often have no problem drilling for water but can be problematic for septic systems (a high water table is good for wells, but does not bode well for septic systems). In short, a buyer needs to have the mind set they are going to be spending well above $500K to bring raw land to fruition.