East Bay, Berkeley Real Estate I Make Your Move
Bobbie Giarratana | Direct: 510.981.3031 | Email: Bobbie@IMakeYourMove.com
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Each person comes to me with unique goals and needs. Some buyers are starting from scratch; first timers who need advice from the very first step to the last signature at the title company when they close the deal. There are others who are seasoned buyers familiar with the process but still need the professional consultation services and negotiation skills an experienced realtor provides. I have worked with all kinds of buyers looking in different price ranges and am most happy when there is a good working relationship based on mutual trust and dedication to the process of finding that property.

And what is that process?
To begin with, whenever possible I like to sit down with my clients and talk about what their goals and priorities are, in what areas they would like to focus, how much they are planning on spending and who else will be involved in the search (partners, family members?). I try to get as much detail as possible about the type of property they are looking for and what their time frame is for finding that home. I consider this meeting an interview where we all decide whether or not we'd like to work with each other and if so, how we will accomplish the buyers' goal together.

The buyers' availability is important. I work with plenty of out-of-town buyers and am happy to preview properties for them. I am Internet savvy and will e-mail photos and information on listings regularly for buyers who cannot see the properties first hand. My website will also help my buyers search independently and then contact me when they see something they'd like to pursue. For the local buyers I can't stress enough the importance of seeing as many properties as possible during Sunday open houses and when possible, weekday brokers' tours. This is the best way to compare prices with real-life properties instead of only reading about them.

It is also important that buyers are pre approved with a mortgage broker or lender before they even begin the search with me. The seller will want to know that the buyer is financially capable of buying their property and that there are no surprises once the offer has been accepted. For this reason, a pre approval letter is presented along with the offer to purchase any home. I can help my clients find the right mortgage broker who can offer affordable financing if they need it. For those who don't need financing (an all-cash offer) it is still necessary to obtain a letter from their financial institution stating that they currently have sufficient funds to purchase a property for "X" amount. Being pre approved will also save everyone time searching only for properties the buyer can afford. One further note: use a local broker, not an out-of-town "unknown" or Internet lender. The seller (and agents!) will feel reassured that the broker is known and reputable and will make sure the funding happens.

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What happens when we find the property?
First, we read any disclosures the seller may be providing in advance to educate the buyer about their property. Then we write. This can take up to three hours depending on how many questions the buyer has, but the time can be significantly reduced if they have read a sample contract before sitting down with me to write. I can provide this. Writing an offer can be done over the phone with faxed signatures if the buyer is out of town. Contracts and disclosures are lengthy and often confusing, so I take time to review this material with my clients to make sure they are educated and confident about what they are buying. Generally a buyer's agent will confirm with the seller's agent that they either have an offer written and that information is broadcast to all other interested parties. By the time we write I should have an idea from the listing agent if there will be competing offers which should affect the buyers' price and terms. There are different ways to approach competition if there is any, and I discuss this with my clients when the situation arises.

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The presentation
Depending on what has been established between the seller and the listing agent, the offer presentation can happen through fax or in person with the seller and listing agent present. The buyers do not attend the presentation and for this reason I prefer to present in person to make sure I convey to all parties present that my clients are motivated and financially capable of buying the property. The presentation itself is brief, allowing just enough time for me to introduce my buyers and cover the major terms because the seller's agent will go over the details with their client privately. There is nothing preventing the seller's agent from sharing the terms of the offers with other agents, however, it is common local practice among many agents not to disclose these terms. In other words, it is very rarely learned what the other buyers have offered. Because of this, it is important that the buyer make their very best offer because the details of the other offers will be unknown and there is little chance of being given the opportunity to improve the terms if another buyer's offer is more attractive to begin with.

The offer is accepted
Once the seller has signed the offer, it is considered "in contract/pending". I open escrow with the Title Company and alert the buyer's mortgage broker that it's time to begin the financing process. The house is appraised, the buyer may begin inspections and the paperwork gets processed. Depending on the details of the contract, certain events must happen before the transaction can proceed and close. If the buyer has included an inspection contingency, they must satisfy themselves as to the property's condition before they remove that contingency. If, through inspections, they discover previously unknown defects, they may negotiate with the seller or walk away from the transaction. If there is a successful resolution to the negotiation, that contingency is removed and they proceed. If there is a financing contingency and the buyer does not, through diligent efforts obtain the financing as stated in the contract; they may withdraw from the contract. If the financing is obtained, that contingency is removed and they proceed. Eventually, closing documents will be signed at the Title Company, the rest of the buyer's cash is brought to the Title Company, and the title to the property transfers from the seller to the buyer. Then the transaction is considered "closed" or SOLD!


Frequently Asked Questions

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Below are important frequently asked questions. The answers are based on both local custom and standard protocol. Curious about something you don't see addressed here? Need more explanation? Contact Me for a free buyer's packet mailed to you.

Q: Why use an agent? Why shouldn't I represent myself?
A: Most importantly, your agent should know local tradition and protocol for real estate transactions in the areas you are focusing on. It's crucial that your offer to purchase is clearly and carefully written to appeal to a seller and protect your interests legally or otherwise. Finding the perfect property on your own can be a time consuming and mysterious process. Using a good agent who listens to your goals and knows what you need, can drastically reduce the time you spend searching. Your agent will be your ally when it comes time to make an offer and get through the escrow process. A full-time realtor knows what's on the market and what is no longer available, and you will be provided with virtual statistics concerning property values in different neighborhoods. I do more than this. Contact Me for a free buyer's packet mailed to you.

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Q: Who pays what in the transaction?
A: Costs can vary depending on what is decided in the contract however there are general costs you can count on as a buyer..
The buyers do not pay for their own agent! (The sellers pay a commission to their listing agent who then splits that fee with the buyer's agent). Customarily, the sellers will pay for and provide a pest report, and sometimes even a general inspection. More often, the buyers pay for their own general inspection if they choose to do them (more on inspections to follow). The buyers pay the escrow and related fees, title insurance (required by lender), their lender's fees and fire insurance premium. The City Transfer Tax is generally split between the buyers and sellers. The buyers' "closing costs" will be somewhere around 3-4% of the purchase price and a more accurate estimate will be provided after a loan application has been submitted.

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Q: What is the buyer's obligation regarding disclosures?
A: Buyers should not just rely on what the sellers or Real Estate agents tell them about the property. Required written disclosures do not take the place of hiring qualified inspectors to evaluate the property. Buyers have an obligation to exercise reasonable care to protect themselves. The buyers' agent will advise on how to proceed with investigations and how to decipher the findings, but they are not responsible for and cannot verify the information sellers or other professionals have provided.

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Q: Why hold inspections?
A: The optimum buyers are informed and confident about what they are buying. It's customary in the East Bay for the sellers to provide at the very least a pest report (and sometimes even a general inspection report) for buyers to read before making an offer. By providing these reports the sellers are not committing to have any corrective work done. A professional home inspector's report will tell about the overall condition of the property. It should cover basic mechanical systems such as plumbing and electrical, and also structural systems such as roof and foundation. In the absence of a general inspection report, buyers may choose to pay for their own. Inspection prices will vary depending on who performs them and the size/type of the property, but you can expect to pay somewhere between $350-$550 for this service. Keep in mind that a general inspection will not provide bids for corrective work. The reports are informational only. If an inspector identifies a serious problem and a dollar figure would be helpful, a contractor can be brought in at your request; some charge for that service, some do not. A pest report will address issues related specifically to wood-destroying organisms (termites, dry rot, fungus, etc) and is generated by a pest control company who will actually perform the corrective work with permission from the property owners. For this reason, a pest report will provide dollar figures for reference. Again, providing any report for informational purposes is not a commitment by the sellers to have the corrective work done.

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Q: What is the function of escrow?
A: Both parties to a real estate transaction, the buyers and sellers, entrust legal documents and various funds to the escrow holder (a title company), which transfers the papers and funds upon the closing of escrow. As a neutral third party, both buyers and sellers are assured that parties mutually agreed to the terms and that these terms will be met prior to the completion of the transaction. Escrow fees are based on the sales price of the property, the loan amount, and services required.
Visit Placer Title Company's website.

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Q: What are the tax implications of owning property?
A: Only a qualified tax consultant should answer tax questions! There are important tax issues to consider when buying or selling real estate. However, tax laws are complex, can change significantly every year and every person's situation is unique. Consult your tax pro, or if you need a referral to one, contact me.

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Bobbie Giarratana Coldwell Banker: 1495 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94709
Direct: 510.981.3031 | Fax: 510.549.3720 | Email: Bobbie@IMakeYourMove.com
License #R01259754
Coldwell Banker Realtor