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What Is Escrow?

It is customary and prudent for a buyer and seller to have a third, disinterested party to assist them in carrying out the terms of their agreement. In California, this procedure is known as an escrow. When opening an escrow, the buyer and seller establish terms and conditions for the transfer of ownership of property. Your escrow is created shortly after you execute the contract to purchase your home. The escrow becomes the depository for all monies, instructions and documents. The Escrow Officer has the responsibility of seeing that all terms of the escrow are carried out.

NOTE: In some states, the process of completing the purchase of a home is known as the “Settlement” process. Often the seller and buyer will come together at the Settlement table where documents are signed and exchanged. There may be a settlement attorney who facilitates this process. In California, the term “Escrow” is used to describe the process of completing the sale of property.

How does the escrow process work?
The escrow holds all monies, instructions and documents for the purchase of your home, including your down payment funds and your lender´s funds and documents for the new loan. The escrow officer takes instructions based on the terms of your purchase agreement and your lender´s requirements. The escrow officer can hold inspection reports and bills for work performed as required by your purchase agreement. Other elements of the escrow include hazard insurance, title insurance and the grant deed from the seller to you. Escrow cannot be completed until the instructions (requirements) have been satisfied, and all parties have signed escrow documents.
The escrow holder´s duties include:
• Serve as the neutral agent and the liaison between all parties involved.
• Prepare the escrow instructions.
• Request a Preliminary Title Search to determine the status of title to the property.
• Comply with the lender´s requirements as specified on its instructions to escrow.
• Receive and handle purchase funds from the buyer.
• Prepare or secure the deed and documents related to the escrow.
• Prorate taxes, interest, insurance and rents.
• Secure releases of all contingencies or other conditions imposed on the escrow.
• Record the deed and any other documents.
• Request title insurance policy.
• Close the escrow pursuant to instructions supplied by the seller, buyer and lender, if any.
• Disburse funds as authorized by the instructions, including charges for title insurance, recording fees, real estate commissions and loan payoffs.
• Prepare final statements for all parties involved that account for the disposition of all funds held in the escrow account.

How do I open an escrow?
Your real estate agent will open the escrow for you. As soon as you execute your purchase agreement, your deposit is given to the title company for deposit into the escrow account. How will you know where your money has gone? Written evidence of your deposit generally is included in your copy of your purchase contract. Your funds will then be deposited in your separate escrow or trust account and processed through your local bank.

Escrow Instructions
Escrow instructions define all the conditions that must occur before the transaction can be finalized. Your escrow instructions specify, in a debit and credit format, the disposition of your purchase funds. They also provide for title protection for your home.

What information will I have to provide?
You may be asked to complete a statement of identity. Because many people have the same name, the statement of identity is used to identify the specific person in the transaction through such information as date of birth, social security number, etc. This information is kept confidential.

How long is the escrow?
The length of an escrow is determined by the terms of the purchase agreement and can range from a few days to several months. On average, it takes 30 to 45 days.

Homes for Sale in Cupertino Schools Inventory Increases

Homes for Sale in Cupertino Schools Inventory Increases

by Cupertino REALTOR Michelle Carr Crowe

Lynbrook High School one of Best US High Schools
Lynbrook High School one of Best US High Schools
If you or someone you know is looking to buy or rent a single family home, condo, townhome or duplex in the desirable Cupertino Schools area this summer, there’s good news on the horizon.

Michelle Carr Crowe and the Get Results Team report there are now 135 home choices within all of the Cupertino Schools neighborhoods, including Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Los Altos, Saratoga, San Jose and Cupertino.

The 135 homes available is 10 up from 125 just a few days ago, and up a whopping 30 homes higher since this time last week.

Thinking of selling a Cupertino Schools home? Find your or any home’s value for free at http://www.95014homes.com. To search all Cupertino Schools homes for sale, visit http://www.SiliconValleyDreamHomesForSale.com.

Thank you for reading “Homes for Sale in Cupertino Schools Inventory Increases”.

Michelle Carr Crowe: Carrying the Torch

CUPERTINO − For many people, following in the professional footsteps of a parent can be a daunting prospect that provokes fears of falling short of elevated expectations. Michelle Carr Crowe experienced similar feelings when she was first considering a career in real estate, but with a little encouragement and a lot of hard work, she found herself not merely standing in her mother’s shadow but carrying the torch. “After several years in real estate, my mom had made a name for herself as the local ‘super-agent,’” she recounts. “She wanted me to get my real estate license and join her firm, but I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to live up to her prominent reputation. When I expressed my concern to her, she told me, ‘Michelle, you care about doing things right and being honest, and that’s more important than any amount of skill or ability. It may take you some time to learn the ropes, but you already have what matters most: a caring heart.’”

Today, nearly 30 years after obtaining her real estate license, Michelle still takes pride in carrying on her mother’s professional legacy. “I’m continuing my family’s good work and helping local families make the right choices when it comes to buying and selling their homes,” she says. “I truly enjoy guiding my clients through the process toward positive, often life-changing outcomes.”

A lifetime resident of the Silicon Valley (where she lives with her husband, Steven), Michelle describes her locale as an ideal place to raise children. “I think life in the Silicon Valley prepares young people for what the world is really like,” she says. “In order to succeed in the world, children need to learn how to live alongside and collaborate with all kinds of people, which is why I think living in such a diverse area has been a valuable experience for both me and my kids.”

Outside of work, Michelle engages in a wide range of pastimes, from reading and going on nature walks to spending time with friends and family. “I’m an avid reader, and I take every chance I get to go to the library,” she says. “I also like to go on walks through the redwoods and hikes on local mountain trails.” In addition to personal hobbies, Michelle takes time to keep up with her two grown daughters, Marlene and Monique.

Michelle credits much of her professional success to her ability to keep the best interests of her clients at the forefront. “Sadly, there are a lot of people in this business who only care about getting deals through and not about what’s best for their clients,” she says. “This was actually one of my motivations for becoming an agent—I wanted to save people from the bad guys! After 29 years, I can say confidently that when you do everything with the client’s best interests in mind, everyone wins.”

When asked the first thing she’d do if she could retire tomorrow, Michelle says she would take the first flight to Hawaii. “Hawaii is my favorite place, and I like to think that I run my business in accordance with the ‘aloha spirit.’ Spending time there is a very healing experience for me, and it enables me to return to work refreshed and rejuvenated.”

See more at: http://experts.diamondcertified.org/michelle-carr-crowe-and-the-get-results-team

10 Steps to Prepare for Homeownership

Congratulations on deciding to explore and prepare for home ownership. Owning a home is the single greatest financial asset-building tool for most Americans. This report details 10 Steps to Prepare for Homeownership, from deciding on a budget to qualifying for a loan to eventually moving in to your own home. Imagine how it feels a few short weeks from now when you hold the keys in your hands, unlock the door, and walk into your own home for the first time. Imagine how it feels to invite your friends and co-workers over to your first barbeque in your own home. Imagine how it feels to say, “I own my own home.”

These first 10 Steps will start you on your journey. Along the way you’ll need experienced guides who can educate, navigate, and help you make the journey safely, smoothly and on time to your desired real estate destination. When you have questions and are ready for the next step, just call 408.252.8900.

  1. Decide how much home you can afford. While generally, you can afford a home equal in value to between two and three times your gross income, in Santa Clara County its more like 4-5 times.
  2. Develop a wish list of what you’d like in a home. Then prioritize the features on your list.
  3. Select three or four neighborhoods you’d like to live in. Consider items such as schools, recreational facilities, area expansion plans, commute and safety.
  4. Determine if you have enough saved to cover your downpayment and closing costs. Buyer closing costs, including taxes, a lender’s policy of title insurance and transfer fees average around .75 to 1 percent of the sales price in Santa Clara County. In states other than California, you may need to add attorney’s fees to the list, and the average Buyer closing cost can be 2 percent and 7 percent of the home price. Important: if you choose a loan with “points” (which are one percent of the loan amount) or decide to “buy down” your loan’s percentage rate, you will increase your closing costs.
  5. Get your credit in order. Obtain a FREE copy of your credit report. Be aware that many companies advertising “free credit report” automatically enroll you in their monthly/annual payment programs. To avoid this, be sure to only visit the official government FREE credit report site at * https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp.* Call toll-free: 1-877-322-8228* Mail your completed Annual Credit Report Request Form to:
    Annual Credit Report Request Service
    P.O. Box 105281
    Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
  6. Determine how large a mortgage you can qualify for. Also explore different loan options and decide whats best for you.
  7. Organize and prepare copies of all the documentation a lender will need to pre-approve you for a loan.
  8. Initiate research to determine if you qualify for any special mortgage or downpayment-assistance programs (e.g. veteran’s administration, teacher, first-time home buyer, etc.).
  9. Calculate the costs of homeownership, including property taxes, insurance, maintenance, and association fees, if applicable.
  10. Find an experienced REALTOR to help educate, navigate and coordinate you through the process.

All information in this report is deemed reliable, but not guaranteed; principals to verify.

Buyer Disclosures 101

During the escrow process, you will be informed of specialized conditions that affect the home you wish to purchase.They may include the following:

  • Lead Paint
  • Sellers of properties built prior to 1978 have the following obligations to you:
  • Give you a HUD pamphlet entitled “Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home”
  • Disclose all known lead-based paint and related hazards and provide you with any available reports
  • Include a standardized warning as an attachment to the contract Complete and sign statements verifying that requirements have been met
  • Retain the signed acknowledgement for 3 years

In addition, sellers must give you a 10-day opportunity to test for lead

  • Natural
  • Hazards

California law requires sellers to disclose to you, via a “Natural Hazard Disclosure Statement” or NHD, if properties are located in one of six predetermined “natural hazard” zones. (If the property is not within one of these zones, sellers, of course, have no such obligation.)

The six zones are:

  • A flood hazard zone as designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • An area of potential flooding after a dam failure (also known as an inundation area)
  • A very high fire hazard zone
  • A wildland fire area, also known as a state fire responsibility area
  • An earthquake fault zone
  • A seismic hazard zone

If an NHD is delivered to you after you signed the Purchase Agreement, you will have three days to rescind the agreement. However, if you receive the NHD before you signed the Purchase Agreement then you cannot use the NHD to rescind.

Mello-Roos Districts Especially (but not exclusively) if you are buying a home in a newer area, you may be locating into a Mello-Roos tax district, and the seller must provide to you a “Notice of Special Tax” to let you know. If this notice is delivered to you in person, you have three days to rescind your offer. If it ́s delivered via U.S. mail, you have five days to decide.

Basically, a “Mello-Roos Community Facilities District” is formed by a local government, district, or agency to finance public services and facilities including police and fire departments, ambulance and paramedic services, parks, schools, libraries, museums and cultural facilities.

Condominiums etc. If you ́re buying a condominium, townhouse or other planned development (for purposes of this discussion, we will call them all “condominiums”), there are things you need to know about common areas (such as greenbelts and recreational rooms) and the homeowner ́s association.

You will be required to make monthly payments, known as regular assessments, to maintain common areas, as well as special assessments to replace a roof or repair the plumbing, as determined by the homeowner ́s association (HOA.)

Condominiums also may have regulations regarding architectural requirements, limitations on pets, and age restrictions (i.e., senior housing). These must be formally disclosed to you during escrow.

You may receive this information via the following documents, to the extent that they exist and are available:

  • Declaration of Restrictions: Commonly known as “CC&Rs”, or Conditions, Covenants and Restrictions
  • Articles of Incorporation or Articles of Association Bylaws
  • All current financial information and related statements, including operating budget, estimated revenue and expenses, HOA reserves, estimated remaining life of major components (including roofs, plumbing etc.), and regular and special assessments
  • A statement describing the HOA ́s policies and practices in enforcing lien rights or other legal remedies for default in payment of its assessments
  • A summary of the HOA ́s property, general liability, and earthquake and flood insurance policies
  • On existing HOA ́s, a statement describing any restrictions on the basis of age, such as authorized senior citizen housing

Many smaller HOAs will not have all of these documents, but must provide what they do have. We recommend that you review these documents thoroughly, because they will affect you firsthand.

Megan ́s Law. If a registered sex offender lives in the neighborhood in which you want to locate, you have the right to investigate ? this is made possible due to a 1996 statute known as “Megan ́s Law.” (Note that the seller does not have an obligation to provide this information to you.)

To investigate, you may:

  • Log on to: http://caag.state.ca.us/megan/index.htm
  • Call (900) 448-3000 to access the California Sex Offender Information Database. (There may be a charge to check names by telephone.)
  • Call your local police department to locate a CD-ROM records viewing station.

Understanding Agency

It ́s important to understand what legal responsibilities your real estate sales person has to you and to other parties in the transactions. Ask your salesperson to explain what type of agency relationship you have with him or her and with the brokerage company.

1. Seller’s representative (also known as a listing agent or seller’s agent).

A seller’s agent is hired by and represents the seller. All fiduciary duties are owed to the seller. The agency relationship usually is created by a listing contract.

2. Subagent.

A subagent owes the same fiduciary duties to the agent’s principal as the agent does. Subagency usually arises when a cooperating sales associate from another brokerage, who is not representing the buyer as a buyer ́s representative or operating in a nonagency relationship, shows property to a buyer. In such a case, the subagent works with the buyer as a customer but owes fiduciary duties to the listing broker and the seller.

Although a subagent cannot assist the buyer in any way that would be detrimental to the seller, a buyer-customer can expect to be treated honestly by the subagent. It is important that subagents fully explain their duties to buyers.

3. Buyer’s representative (also known as a buyer ́s agent).

A real estate licensee who is hired by prospective buyers to represent them in a real estate transaction. The buyer’s rep works in the buyer’s best interest throughout the transaction and owes fiduciary duties to the buyer. The buyer can pay the licensee directly through a negotiated fee, or the buyer’s rep may be paid by the seller or by a commission split with the listing broker.

4. Disclosed dual agent.

Dual agency is a relationship in which the brokerage firm represents both the buyer and the seller in the same real estate transaction. Disclosed dual agency, in which both the buyer and the seller are told that the agent is representing both of them, is legal in most states. In many states, consent for dual agency must be in writing. Dual agency relationships do not carry with them all of the traditional fiduciary duties to the clients. Instead, dual agents owe limited fiduciary duties. Because of the potential for conflicts of interest in a dual-agency relationship, it’s vital that all parties give their informed consent.

5. Designated agent (also called, among other things, appointed agency).

This is a brokerage practice that allows the managing broker to designate which licensees in the brokerage will act as an agent of the seller and which will act as an agent of the buyer. Designated agency avoids the problem of creating a dual-agency relationship for licensees at the brokerage. The designated agents give their clients full representation, with all of the attendant fiduciary duties. The broker still has the responsibility of supervising both groups of licensees.

6. Nonagency relationship (called, among other things, a transaction broker or facilitator).

Some states permit a real estate licensee to have a type of nonagency relationship with a consumer. These relationships vary considerably from state to state, both as to the duties owed to the consumer and the name used to describe them. Very generally, the duties owed to the consumer in a nonagency relationship are less than the complete, traditional fiduciary duties of an agency relationship.

Aloha & God Bless You,
Michelle
Michelle C. Carr-Crowe and the Get RE$ult$ Team, ABR, ALHS, CDPE, RECS, SRES
Top 5% Silicon Valley Residential Real Estate Agent

San Jose Saratoga Lynbrook Homes & Cupertino Schools Experienced Experts

Just Call … (408) 252-8900

 

5 Secrets to Buying the Best House for Your Money

buying a house1. Get “Pre-Approved” – Not “Pre-Qualified!”

Do you want to get the best property you can for the least amount of  money? Then make sure you are in the strongest negotiating position possible. Price is only one element in the negotiations, and not  necessarily the most important one. Often other terms, such as the  strength of the buyer or the length of escrow, are critical to a  seller.

In years past, I always recommended that buyers get “pre-qualified” by a lender. This means that you spend a few minutes on the phone with a lender who asks you a few questions. Based on the answers, the lender pronounces you “pre-qualified” and issues a certificate that you can show to a seller. Sellers are aware that such certificates are WORTHLESS, and here’s why! None of the information has been verified!

Many times unknown problems can come to the surface! Some of the problems I’ve seen include recorded judgments, alimony payments due, glitches on the credit report due to any number of reasons both accurately and inaccurately, down payments that have not been in the  clients’ bank account long enough, etc.

So the way to make the strongest offer today is to get “pre-approved”. This happens AFTER all information has been checked and verified.

You are actually APPROVED for the loan and the only loose end is the appraisal on the property. This process takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on your situation. It’s VERY POWERFUL and a weapon I recommend all my clients have in their negotiating arsenal.

2. Sell Your Property First, Then Buy the House

If you have a house to sell, sell it before selecting a house to buy! Contingency sales aren’t nearly as strong as one that comes in with a ready, willing and able buyer. Consider this scenario: You’ve found the perfect house – now you have to go make an offer to the seller.

You want the seller to reduce the price and wait until you sell your  house. The seller figures that this is a risky deal, since he might pass up a buyer who DOESN’T have to sell a house while he’s waiting for you. So he says OK, he’ll do the contingency but it has to be a full price offer! You have now paid more for the house than you could have because of the contingency, and you have to sell your existing house in a hurry!

5 Factors That Decide Your Credit Score

Credit scores range between 200 and 800. Scores above 620 are considered desirable for obtaining a mortgage. These factors will affect your score.

  1. Your payment history. Whether you paid credit card obligations on time.
  2. How much you owe. Owing a great deal of money on numerous accounts can indicate that you are overextended.
  3. The length of your credit history. In general, the longer the better.
  4. How much new credit you have. New credit, either installment payments or new credit cards, are considered more risky, even if you pay promptly.
  5. The types of credit you use. Generally, it ́s desirable to have more than one type of credit-installment loans, credit cards, and a mortgage, for example.

For more on evaluating and understanding your credit score, go to http://www.myfico.com.

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