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Ask McEnearney: What’s a silly question when it comes to real estate?

This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Hope Peele of The Peele Group and McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact The Peele Group at 703-244-6115 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: What’s a silly question when it comes to real estate?

Answer: “I have a silly question” is something that I hear far too frequently and is usually followed by a question that I’ve been asked before and isn’t silly at all. Frankly, in my opinion, there are no silly questions.

Before I went full-time into real estate, I taught health to 6-12th graders. Like real estate, the stakes were pretty high if questions went unasked. Believe me when I reiterate my opinion that there are NO silly questions. If there is something that you want to know about one of the largest purchases you will likely make, don’t be afraid to ask!

In the meantime though, here are a few of the most commonly asked “silly” questions that I get ALL the time!

What is the difference between settlement and closing? A.K.A what does *this word* mean?

Actually, they are the same. When a buyer agrees upon a settlement or closing date in their offer, it’s important to understand that this is the date that you will purchase your new home and that funds will be due.

Let’s be honest, no one likes to stop a conversation to ask what a word means. But in any industry, there are terms that professionals can sometimes take for granted that those outside of the industry will know what they mean. If a buyer or seller and their agent are not on the same page in terms of language, then mistakes and miscommunications are bound to happen.

For example, many people hear the term “in escrow” on TV and in movies and are looking forward to this step so that they can finally tell the world that they are onto the next step in their lives!

However, in my experience, most agents in this area use the terminology “under contract” to describe when an offer is accepted and the buyer has put money down towards their new home. In reality, a person isn’t “in escrow” — their money is. We describe “in escrow” as the place where money is kept safe until the home closes or –in the case of buyer default — some of it may go to the seller. This is just a small differentiation, but if a buyer is expecting to go “in escrow,” and their agent says they are “under contract,” there may be some confusion. It is important to remember to always ask what terms mean. This is not a silly question!

How long will the sale process take?

Of course, this is different for everyone, but there are general timelines you can look to when buying or selling a home. The typical time from contract to settlement has usually been 30 days.

For a buyer, it’s important for your realtor to discuss the seller’s preferences with their realtor. They may want a quick settlement, or if they need to stay in the home for a while, a later settlement may make more sense.

Most sellers will want a quick settlement so that they receive their money earlier. However, every situation is different.

A buyer will need to give an Earnest Money Deposit within the timeframe they have committed to in the contract. This is usually 3 to 5 days after the contract is ratified. It will then go towards the total of the costs needed at settlement. The day before settlement, they should submit the rest of the money due, including any additional closing costs, less the deposit they’ve already paid. Many settlement companies now will allow for a mobile deposit-for all of the funds to be paid securely online before you even sit at the settlement table.

How long until I get my money?

This is a typical question from Sellers. Once settlement is complete, the settlement company has to record the deed with the county. This may happen the same day, but it’s more typical that the Seller gets paid the day after settlement. If settlement was on a Friday, it may be after the weekend. Of course, if there’s a legal holiday and the courthouse is closed, it may be delayed a day.

Will the seller fix “this” before I move in?

Often buyers want to know if a seller will be patching nail holes in walls, putting up a coat of fresh paint, or giving the place a deep clean. In fact, the seller doesn’t really have to do any of those things. Even if a listing doesn’t specify that the home is being sold “as-is,” most homes essentially are unless that is expressly stated in the listing or contract. The contract simply states that the home should be “broom swept” and free of debris. That’s it!

If there is a home inspection contingency, the buyer will have an opportunity to ask the seller to complete items on the inspection report. However, a seller is not under any obligation to do so. If an inspection is waived (a.k.a not asked for when making the offer), the condition of the home when you see it is how it will be when you are handed the keys. Great question!

All of these questions above are actual questions I’ve been asked by more than one person. They’ve also all been qualified by the descriptive “silly question”. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will repeat — there are no silly questions!

Even if you think you know but aren’t sure, ask! There should be a level of trust with you and your realtor that you don’t feel silly asking the “silly questions”. Frankly, I’d venture to say that any professional who makes you feel silly after asking a question isn’t a professional at all.

Got any more “silly questions”? Join us on May 24 for Real Talk from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. — a chance for Buyers and Sellers to ask questions of us, a lender, a settlement company, and a home inspector. RSVP to me at [email protected].

Hope Peele is a licensed real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc. in Alexandria, Virginia. She grew up in Old Town and currently lives in Del Ray. As a partner with The Peele Group, Hope is dedicated to guiding her clients successfully through the many faceted process of buying or selling a home. Contact Hope at 703-244-6115.

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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