Selling Real Estate

Victoria Smith works with sellers who are represented by real estate agents, but want the reassurance of having an attorney review the documentation, as well as sellers who are self-represented.  The purchase contract needs to include several key components, including the time limitations for investigating the property and removing contingencies, whether there is to be a “liquidated damages” clause so as to limit the cost to the buyer if the contact is terminated, the price, and potentially the financing.

For the seller, making full disclosure regarding all relevant items known about the property is imperative, and Victoria can assist sellers to fully comply with the law.  Under California law, a seller must make disclosures regarding specific items and has a common law duty to disclose facts materially affecting the value or desirability of the property.  Undisclosed facts are material if they would have a significant and measurable effect on market value.  California Courts have held that sellers can be liable in damages to buyers, and may even require that the sales be reversed, in situations where sellers have not disclosed “difficult neighbors”, including those who create excessive noise by playing basketball late at night, or failed to disclose that improvements on the property were constructed in violation of building codes or zoning regulations.

It is also critical to the successful transfer of the property to do a proper review of the title issues in the transaction and provide appropriate instructions to the escrow officer.  With 26 years of experience in identifying and resolving title and escrow issues, Victoria will work with sellers and agents to make sure that the parties understand the impact of encumbrances upon title that are discovered during the title search, and will ensure that the escrow officer is provided with the necessary documents and information to close the transaction on time.

Given the abundance of current “short sales” that is, sales of property for less than the total amount owed to the lenders, it is important to note that the Governor has recently signed into law Senate Bill 458, effective July 15, 2011.  SB 458 expands the protection offered to sellers of short sale properties, by limiting the lender’s recovery to the short sale proceeds, whether the lender holds a first Deed of Trust or a junior Deed of Trust, and by prohibiting the lender from requiring the borrower to pay extra compensation additional to the “sale proceeds” in return for the lender agreeing to the short sale.  This bill was supported by the California Association of Realtors in the hope that it will make the short sale process easier for sellers,  increase the number of properties available to buyers, and lead to the re-growth of the California real estate market.