Once you have an offer accepted escrow will be opened. You will need to be aware of deadlines so that you can do the following in a timely manner:
Once escrow is opened you will need to wire or send your initial deposit check (the contract will specify the method) to escrow within 3 days from acceptance. The date after your contract is accepted is considered day 1. This money is refundable until you have removed your contingencies (unless the contract states otherwise).
Upon acceptance of the contract, the seller has 7 days to provide you with disclosures – these document important information related to the property of which the seller is aware, and will alert you to any problems, past repairs or claims. These documents are part of your inspection contingency period.
Inspections and Contingency Removal
The average inspection time – during which you have a home inspection and any other recommended inspections – is 17 days, unless stated otherwise in the contract. You should get the home inspection done right away in case you discover other items that need to be inspected further. Once you are satisfied with your inspections, or after repair requests have been settled, you will remove your inspection contingency in writing.
If you discover items that need to be repaired your agent can assist you in making repair requests – sellers in CA have no obligation to repair anything, but if you limit your requests to items that are dangerous or to systems that are not functioning or not doing so properly (e.g. the heating unit is leaking carbon monoxide, there is a leak or mold in a bathroom, or an appliance does not work), most sellers will agree to repair or credit you for such items. If you asked for a termite report on your contract and there is termite damage you can include that in your request as well (unless the contract specified that seller will take care of this).
Home Owners Associations
If you are purchasing property in an HOA community you will receive a packet of information from the HOA. This will include financial information, rules, and regulations (CC&Rs) and minutes from meetings. Make sure the HOA is in good shape financially, and also be aware of any pending rate increases or assessments.
You will need to obtain property insurance for the new house, and it will need to be submitted to the lender. Shop around for the best rates – oftentimes if you bundle car insurance with home insurance you can get lower rates.
The appraisal contingency is as standard 17 days unless otherwise specified in the contract. If your appraisal comes in at contract value you will be able to remove the appraisal contingency. If not, you will need to discuss with your agent how you will respond (there are several options).
Once the appraisal has come in and all underwriting conditions have been satisfied, the mortgage professional will direct you that it is ok to remove your loan contingency. The average time for loan contingency removal, unless otherwise specified in the contract, is 21 days.
Several days prior to closing you will conduct a final walkthrough of the property with your agent. The purpose of this walkthrough is to make sure the home is in the same condition as when you made your offer, and that any repairs have been addressed.
Downpayment and Loan Documents
Escrow will direct you where to wire your downpayment funds, usually a day or two prior to the close of escrow. You will sign all your loan, title and escrow documents with a notary public several days prior to the close of escrow.
How to Hold Title
You may wish to consult an attorney or tax advisor on the best way to hold the title. Different methods of holding title have different legal, estate and tax implications, especially when selling or upon the death of the title holder.