Marin County California
Home Seller Questions & Answers

Selling real estate in Marin and the surrounding Marin County California area can be a complicated experience. As a leading Realtor in the Marin County area I encourage you to put my real estate broker experience to work for you. I use precise methods and an extensive network to located qualified buyers for my clients' properties. I am pleased to provide the following list of common questions to selling home in the Marin and surrounding Marin County area.

How Do Real Estate Agents Work in California?

In California anyone who offers to buy, sell, or lease real property for compensation must be licensed. Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons are licensed by the State of California. Individuals who wish to become a real estate agent must first take certain specified courses, and pass an examination. Those licensed as Real Estate Salespersons may then sell real estate under the supervision of a Broker. To become a Real Estate Broker, an individual must take additional courses and pass a more rigorous examination. A Broker can either work independently, or can work for a firm managed by another Broker. Salespersons and Brokers are collectively referred to as real estate agents.

What is A Comparative Market Analysis?

Before listing his property, a seller must decide on an asking price for his property. His or her agent will usually offer to make a free, no-obligation, Comparative Market Analysis. This analysis will list the location and selling prices of other properties in the area which have been recently sold. The best measure of the market value of a home is the price at which similar properties in the neighborhood have been sold. It is in the best interest of the seller to price his house correctly; if the price is too high, it will not sell; if priced too low, the seller will not realize the full value from his property.

How Does a Listing Agreement Work?

A homeowner who wishes to sell his home will enter into a listing agreement with his real estate agent. The agreement is a contract to employ the agent to find a buyer for the property at a specified price, within a specified time period. The agent promises to work diligently to find a willing buyer. Upon listing, the property description is entered in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data base. This gives the property maximum exposure with all the other agents in the system. This data base is searchable by location, number of bedrooms and baths, and other attributes of the property. Usually a summary of this listing information will be available on the internet.

What is a Disclosure Statement?

Part of the process of listing a property includes the seller completing a full disclosure of any defects in the house of which he is aware. The seller is required by law to truthfully disclose any significant fact pertaining to his property.

How Do I Go About Selecting an Agent?

Selecting your agent for either buying or selling is an important first step, and should not be taken lightly. You are the client, and you must be satisfied. The ideal agent is experienced, is knowledgeable about the locality in which you are interested, is ethical, and is a good negotiator. If you do not know any agents, ask a friend or associate who has recently purchased a home what they think about their agent. (Experienced agents meet many of their clients through "word-of-mouth" referrals.) Another way to meet agents on an informal basis is to visit open houses, or to answer ads, and have an agent show you one property. It is very important that you "feel comfortable" with your agent; if you have any reservations, look for a new agent. Remember, as the client, you get to choose your agent.

What is a Counter Offer?

The buyer may offer less than the asking price. In addition, there may be other terms of the offer which are not acceptable to the seller. The seller will usually make a written "counter-offer," which says in effect, "I agree with your offer except as follows: ...(enumerate the changes the seller requests)." The buyer can respond with a written "counter-counter-offer," and the offers can go back and forth (like a ping-pong game) until finally there is agreement, or until one of the parties will no longer respond.

What Is Escrow?

The purpose of an escrow is to enable a buyer and seller to deal with each other without risk. Before title to the property can be transferred to the new buyer, the seller must be paid, the seller's old mortgage paid off, a new loan must be obtained by the buyer, and any other liens on the property must be paid off. All responsibility for handling funds and documents is delegated to the escrow holder, a neutral third party, which is usually a title insurance company or escrow company. Your title insurance officer can answer many of the frequently asked questions about title insurance and preliminary reports. In a simple transaction, the buyer delivers the agreed upon funds to the escrow holder. The buyer also instructs the escrow holder to deliver to the seller the stated sum only after all conditions have been met, and title is vested in the buyer. Concurrently, the seller deposits his deed and other documents with the escrow holder, authorizing their delivery when the buyer has deposited the agreed purchase price. The contracting parties deposit funds or documents with the escrow holder, for delivery to the respective parties upon performance of all conditions of the agreement.

What About Inspections?

Most contracts provide that the buyer may, at his own expense, have the house inspected by professionals of his choice. Typical inspections include pest (termite) inspection, contractor inspection (includes electrical, plumbing, heating systems), roof inspection, swimming pool inspection, and soil inspection. These inspections may reveal defects which were not evident to the buyer, and which were not disclosed in the seller's disclosure statement. Depending upon the terms of the Deposit Receipt, the buyer may request the seller to either fix the defect, or provide funds so that the buyer can correct the defect after close of escrow.

Who Is Responsible to Search the Title of the Property?

In California the title of the property is searched by a title company and a preliminary report is issued on the condition of the title, for the buyer's approval. The report would include such information as present ownership, legal description of the property, any existing liens or unpaid taxes, any easements, and other covenants, conditions, or restrictions. A policy of title insurance will usually be issued at close of escrow. A title insurance policy insures the buyer's interest in his purchase, and the priority and validity of any loan. It is a contract to indemnify against loss through defects in the title.

What Happens After the Loan Is Approved?

The buyer is responsible for applying for his loan. When the buyer's loan is approved and documents are ready for signature, the lender delivers the documents to the escrow holder, usually a week or more before the closing date. The buyer signs all loan documents ahead of the closing date, and the seller signs the deed a few days before closing. One or two days before closing the buyer delivers the remainder of the down payment to the escrow holder. To avoid delaying the closing, the buyer should transfer his down payment funds to a local bank well ahead of close of escrow.

When Is The Escrow Considered Closed?

After both the buyer and seller have complied with all agreed-upon terms, the escrow is "closed," and the deed is recorded with the County Recorder. The escrow company notifies the real estate agents that the title is recorded and on that day the property belongs to the buyer. There is no need for a final meeting of the parties and their attorneys, since all documents had been signed prior to the close of escrow, and had been delivered to the escrow holder. Sometimes the seller needs to remain in the property after the close of escrow; this holding over is handled by a separate agreement between buyer and seller. After the close of escrow the parties will be given a final settlement statement, showing the charges and credits for each party.

Do Lawyers Usually Participate in the Sales Process?

The above description covers the customary steps in buying and selling a home in California. Most California residential transactions are completed without the assistance of an attorney. The information in this web site is provided for educational purposes. Buyers and sellers who have legal or tax questions are urged to obtain advice from their attorney or tax professional. While the above material is summarized from sources deemed reliable, it is not guaranteed to apply to all transactions, since other conditions may apply, and each real estate transaction has its own unique characteristics.

8 Ways to Make a Home Sell Faster:

1) Eliminate countertop clutter as much as possible. A countertop covered with small appliances, utensils or other items looks crowded. Clear those items off and it will give a more spacious look and appeal. 2) Pack up the your 'too personal' items. For example, don't leave toiletries on the bathroom counter, Stash family photos, and take down your 'To-Do' bulletin board... 3) Be prepared for some snooping. Some prospective buyers will pull open drawers, look in your closets and peek around the shower curtain. 4) Make sure things work properly. Faucets dripping, burned-out lights, and squeaky hinges take away from the home's appeal. 5) The house should be "white-glove clean". Mop, dust, vacuum, clean the baseboards, wash the windows, and touch up the walls... Make sure the house looks clean and fresh with no un-natural smells. Get rid of pet odor. Even are your favorite air freshener should not be used. (A loaf of bread in the oven is another thing). 6) Make sure the front door is clean and presentable with polished hardware. Power-wash the entry and walkways. 7) Remove any furniture that makes rooms feel crowded. Having a room that is sparsely furnished is better then having one that is overly crowded. A buyer should be able to imagine their own furniture in the room. 8) Stage every room for the kind of room that it is. If you've turned your formal dining room into a home office, put it back. Bring back the formal dining table and chairs and remove the desk and computer.

Need some advice for selling an empty house?

1) Clean top to bottom. Purify the whole house. A fresh coat of paint will really do wonders. Clean or replace the carpeting, maybe re-finish the wood floors. Clean the windows, appliances and bathrooms. Make the place sparkle as best you can to make it look as close to brand-new as possible. 2) Spruce up the landscaping and exterior of the home. Trim the shrubs, throw down new bark & mulch, paint the front door (the rest of the house to if necessary). Hire a landscaping service to keep the grass mowed regularly. 3) Turn on the lights, power-up. The tendency is to turn off the utilities when you leave. But keep things turned on. The rooms should be made light and inviting. The air conditioning should be on to keep the place cool and inviting -- or the furnace running to keep the house warm and inviting, depending on the season. 4) Window treatments should be left in place. Don't take them with you. And clean them. If you have to keep some 'special' window treatments for any reason, replace them with something that matches, is tasteful and conservative. 5) Leave some items behind. If any room in the house has no ceiling fixture, leave a lamp plugged into the wall (preferably sitting on a nightstand instead of on the floor) so it can be seen at night. Also, you should leave a few key pieces of furniture. For example, a decorative alcove item or a small table and chairs set in a view sitting area can help in partially staging the home and to plant seeds for a buyer to imagine their own things going there. 6) Leave all the appliance manuals on the kitchen counter. If you don't have them, order them from the manufacturer or print them off the internet. Also, leave a summary of your last 12 months' utility bills for visitors to view. You can get that off the internet as well. Another good idea is to leave some photos of how the place looked when it was furnished in a picture book on the counter. Add your sunset, spring flowers or snow pictures if you have them. 7) Don't forget about keeping the house secure. Vandals love empty houses. And, insurance companies do not. So, consider installing some type of alarm system, which is good selling point anyway and helps with the cost of homeowners insurance. Also, it's not a bad idea to notify your insurer that the house will be empty and ask what steps need to be taken to keep your coverage in force.