I don't know about you, but the older I get, the harder it becomes to adjust to Daylight Savings Time, which means that here I am, writing this blog at 4:00 am in the morning. I'm an early bird by nature, but even I have to admit this isn't good. (I'm efficient at 6:00; at 4:00 in the morning, I'm of little use.) I'd like to get back sleep so that I can be at my best when morning dawns, but as the saying goes, "time waits for no man" (or woman).
When it comes to the contracts Buyers and Sellers enter into, time is a recurring theme AND one worth paying close attention to. Between an accepted offer and the delivery of the house keys, there are MANY actions that must take place in a fairly short amount of time, beginning with the earnest-money deposit which needs to be deposited into escrow within three days of the contract's ratification.
Additionally, there is a set time for conducting and releasing inspections, a set time for the appraisal and loan conditions (Even if you've waived the appraisal and loan conditions, the lender will require an appraisal to protect their investment), a set time for releasing your contingencies, a set time for insuring the house, time needed for the lender to create the loan documents, time to sign these documents (loan docs must be signed and notarized in person), time to fund (the lender won't fund until the Buyer funds first) and finally, time to record! That's when you FINALLY become the Homeowner. (Congratulations; do you have time to pick up your keys?)
Moreover, during the escrow process, you'll probably want some time in the house to measure and begin mentally moving in your furniture. You may want some time to meet with painters, designers, architects, movers, and the like. You may need time to show the house to the kids or other family members, and finally, the Broker is going to require a "final verification of condition," so leave some time to walk though the property for one last inspection. In other words, you and I are going to be spending a fair amount of time together before, during, and after you get into contract.
In fact, my time with a Buyer often starts months or even years before the right property is identified and successfully purchased, and as I like to remind my Buyers, "my time is going to mirror yours." The more time you give to the search of a new home, the more time I'll be giving to you in return. (I won't drag you into the home-buying process, but I will meet you wholeheartedly.)
It's important to note that if you fail to meet the time frames as set forth in the contract, you may find yourself in "breach" and more importantly, there may be consequences to any such failures, beginning with a "Notice to Perform," which essentially requires the Buyer to meet their scripted dates or exit the contract altogether. Failure to close on time may result in the Seller's Demand for the Buyer to assume their carrying costs for each day missed, and in a worst-case scenario, missed timelines can result in a Buyer's loss of both the house and their good-faith deposit! In other words, time frames exist for a reason and they're not exactly fluid.
That being said, I encourage both Buyers and Sellers to have some flexibility around the time lines as the time frames are often dependent upon other people's ability to get their jobs done on time as well. Thus, a Buyer cannot sign their loan documents until the lender has the "all clear" from underwriting and sends them onto the assigned Escrow Officer. The Underwriter cannot approve the loan until the Appraiser sends in their results, and other identified conditions have been met. The appraisal cannot be ordered until the Buyers sign a notice from the Lender, and on the other end, the final loan docs require a 3-day waiting period after the CD (closing documents) has been issued and signed by the Buyer . . . .
In short, there are a series of events that must take place in a timely manner and each is dependent on the one before. The mistiming of one event can create a snowball effect on all of the other time frames within the body of the contract. Therefore, patience is often required but so is diligence and INSISTENCE! (Don't ignore the Docusign emails we're sending your way. They're important!)
If it feels like your Lender, your Escrow Officer, the Transaction Coordinator, and your Realtor are all pushing you to sign documents, to release contingencies, and to get your money wired in on time, it's because we are. (Contractually-obligated Buyers must move quickly into action.) Given that it may have taken you months to find and successfully get into contract, now's not the time to become cavalier just as you are approaching the finish line. This is the most critical part of the process and why the real work begins once you enter into contract and escrow. (A monkey can find a house online; a skilled Agent gets your offer accepted and gets you through the escrow period in good standing.)
So hang in there, and let's pay careful attention to those all-important time lines as laid out in the contract and reiterated in the congratulations letter I sent your way immediately after you successfully ratified. (Uhhh, the one you didn't read. Remember that one?)
Speaking of time . . . I'm going to take some time for myself and am headed to meet a close friend in Baja, Mexico for some hiking, swimming and meditation (probably not the last one) while Jill steers the ship in my absence. As there is no Wi-Fi in the rooms, I'm going to truly disconnect. Instead of working 24/7, I've signed up for cooking classes, a few spa treatments, and will hopefully catch up on some sleep. The goal is to come back a kinder, more patient, more pleasant, and more energized person. (Maybe, I will have to meditate after all.)
Adios, see you in uno semanos!
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.