After a buyer's offer has been accepted, the deal goes through an escrow process for about a month.  During this period, an escrow company or title insurance company transfers ownership of the property from the seller to the buyer, after making sure that all of the terms of the contract have been met.  These companies normally charge about 1-2% of the purchase price of the house.  Part of this is paid by the seller and part by the buyer, usually according to local custom.

In my experience, the escrow process is the easiest part of selling a house.  The escrow officer usually calls to introduce himself or herself and to offer to answer any questions.  During the escrow period, you'll get preliminary reports and documents, some of which you'll need to sign.  After escrow closes, you (and your lender) will each get a final report and a check.

After you've accepted an offer, your neighbors will be dying to find out the sales price.  Don't tell them.  If the deal falls through, you won't want outsiders to know what price you were willing to accept.


It's very important that you fill out all required disclosure forms honestly and completely.  If you fail to disclose a problem with the house, the buyer could sue you for damages and even get the sale rescinded.  Here are some tips:

  • If you're not represented by a broker or lawyer, ask your escrow officer what disclosures are required in your local area.  Get copies and fill them all out.
  • Disclose everything you can think of that's wrong with the house. 
  • State facts and avoid interpretation.  If there's a stain on the living room wall, don't say that "There's a big stain" or "There's a small stain" or "There's a water stain."  Just say, "There's a stain."


Some tips

  • The contract will usually require that, at minimum, these people inspect your house:  a pest inspector, a home inspector, and an appraiser.  As a FSBO seller, it's fine for you to be in the house during the pest inspection and appraisal, but don't tag along or challenge any findings.  It's best that you not be around for the home inspection.
  • If a pest or home inspector finds problems with the house, the buyer may have the option of walking away from the deal unless the problem is fixed.  Contracts often specify who will be responsible for repairs.  For example, the seller might be required to spend up to a certain percentage (e.g., 3%) of the sales price to correct problems.  If the contract isn't clear, you may need to negotiate with the buyer over who should pay.  If you've gotten a good price for the property, the buyer may insist that you pay for all repairs.  If the offer was low, you might require the buyer to pay for all repairs. 
  • If you need to make repairs, get them done as soon as possible.  Your home will usually need to be re-inspected before escrow can close.
  • The buyers might not get their loan approved if the house "doesn't appraise"-- that is, if the appraisal is so far below the sales price that the lender won't approve a loan large enough to close the deal.  If you feel the appraisal is wrong, review it to make sure the appraiser's assumptions are accurate.  If they aren't, gather evidence of this and present it to the loan officer.  If that fails, one remedy is for the buyers to make a larger down payment.  Another is for you to reduce the sales price. 
  • When you know when escrow is going to close, notify all the utility service providers (gas, electricity, trash, water, cable, etc.) to let them know the cut-off date.




ŠLori Alden, 2008.  All rights reserved.