With the market in our area continuing to perform well and prices starting to rise above the pre-recession peak, many home owners are beginning to consider cashing out their equity in their current property in order to trade up to a larger home. If you are a homeowner who bought in 2011 or 2012 near the bottom of the market crash, you could be in a particularly good position to move up. However, if you need to sell your current home first in order to purchase a new home, it’s important that you understand how contingent offers work and how to best protect your deposit money throughout the process.

If you’d like to move forward with making an offer on a home before the sale of your current property, but you need the funds from your sale in order to buy, you are writing what is called a “contingent offer”. Along with your offer paperwork, you will submit a form called a COP, which stands for “contingency for sale of buyer’s property.   The COP is hugely important to the process because it sets clear timelines for moving forward and it protects you against getting into a situation where you are contractually required to move forward with a purchase, but are unable to do so because you haven’t sold your current home.

There are three main points of negotiation included in the COP. The first is the length of your contingency. Ideally, you want the contingency for the sale of your home to remain in place until you close both properties (which is often done concurrently on the same day). However, some sellers will try and negotiate that you reduce that contingency to a shorter term – they may ask that you remove your COP after two or three weeks regardless of the status of the sale of your current home. Be sure to carefully consider whether or not you are comfortable removing the COP based on your situation. If you end up removing the COP and then run into a problem that cancels or delays the escrow on your current home, you could be at risk of losing any deposit you submitted on your replacement home purchase.

The second item specified in the COP is the length of time you have available to get your current home into escrow.   If your home is already in escrow at the time you make your offer, this item hold less importance. However, if you are making an offer before putting your current home on the market, this stipulates how long you have to get your home under contract. It is common for sellers to give buyers 14 – 21 days to get their home under contract. If you are unable to get your home into escrow within that time period, the sellers are allowed to cancel your contract. It’s important to note that if the sellers decide to cancel based on you failing to meet the timeline set for your own home sale, they are not able to keep your deposit as long as you have not removed the overall contingency for your home sale.

The final item noted on the COP deals with the sellers’ ability to market the home and accept backup offers while you are in escrow. The COP has an option that allows the sellers to accept your offer, but continue to market the house. If they get a better offer that is not contingent, they could then cancel your escrow. It’s important that you modify this term on the COP to prevent the sellers from having the right to basically kick you out of your sale if a better option comes in. There is a section in the COP that allows you to prevent the sellers from canceling your sale to accept a backup offer for a set amount of days. Ideally this amount of time would be the entire term of your escrow, but it’s more common for it to match the amount of time the sellers have given you to get your current home into escrow.

Buying and selling at the same time can be complicated and stressful process. However, if you understand the rights afforded to you by your COP, you can make sure that you have covered yourself against any unexpected issues that may arise!

When I sit down to talk with homeowners to discuss listing their house for sale, I often hear them express feelings of anxiety about entering the selling process. There are many common concerns that initially come up for sellers. How can we get the most money for our house? How can we navigate this process with the least amount of stress on us? This anxiety can be compounded when sellers need to get their home sold quickly. There is often a perception by buyers that sellers will be willing to accept a lower offer in order to sell their home right away. However, in today’s market, there is no reason why a home can’t sell extremely quickly at a high price. Understanding the main three factors that affect a home’s length on the market can help sellers complete the sale process with a quick and positive outcome.

One of the most overlooked factors contributing to a home’s length on the market is accessibility. How easy is it for buyers to see the house? It can be inconvenient for sellers to accommodate showings if they are still living in the house, but making the house available for buyers to view is a vital part of the process and is especially important if you need a quick sale. The best way to allow for increased showings is to have your Realtor install a lockbox at the house. This allows licensed agents to access the house without relying on your listing agent to be present at every showing (which isn’t always possible or practical). Typically if you are still living in the home, your agent will direct other Realtors to contact her to set up appointment times that she will then confirm with you. Ideally, you would leave the house during that viewing window and allow the buyers to walk through with their agent alone. Having your listing agent hold public open houses on the weekends can also help to increase showing traffic.

The second factor that affects length of time on the market is perhaps the most obvious one: How does the house look (or in industry speak, does it show well)? Putting in the time and energy to present your home in the most positive light can be crucial to making a quick sale. You don’t necessarily have to spend thousands of dollars on staging to give your home popular appeal. Most sellers can make a huge difference by simply putting 50% of their belongings into boxes and stacking them in a closet or the garage. Buyers want to be able to envision themselves in the home and it is much easier to do that when sellers remove personal items and the excessive “stuff” that often clutters up a home. Some houses may need more help than others – your listing agent can help you determine whether you might benefit from some new paint, landscaping or minor repairs around the house. If you need to sell quickly, you may be tempted to simply throw a sign in your yard and let buyers in without making a single change inside. However, these kinds of changes can usually be made within a few days and you’ll find it’s well worth the minor delay in order to increase the value of your house dramatically.

Lastly, sellers obviously need to carefully consider where they set their list price when they are aiming for a quick sale. This doesn’t mean undervaluing the home by setting a rock bottom price – but it does mean avoiding the “let’s just put it at this high price and see what happens” kind of approach. Listen carefully to your Realtor’s advice about the comparable sales in your neighborhood and try to stay objective. Every seller feels their home is worth more than “that one that sold down the block” but try to see your home through the eye of a buyer. Along with your home’s selling points, make sure you understand potential negatives to your home as well and how those issues might affect the overall value. The advantage that you hold in a seller’s market is that it is very difficult to sell your home for less than what it is worth. If your agent somehow unintentionally advises you to list your home for to little, the market will likely bring in hordes of buyers and the price will be driven back up to where it should be through the bidding process. However, if you list your home to high, it is likely to compare poorly with similar, lower priced homes and could sit on the market for months with few buyers coming through. You only have one chance to make a good first impression – once buyers identify your house as overpriced, they are more likely to submit lowball offers under the assumption that you are now desperate to sell.

The Los Angeles area is currently experiencing a healthy seller’s market, which is great news for homeowners looking to sell. However, taking the time to educate yourself about the selling process is still important and can greatly increase your chances of having a positive selling experience. If your home is priced appropriately, shows well, and is easy to see, it’s likely that your home will sell very quickly for a strong price!


In today’s sellers’ market, homes that are priced appropriately and show well very often receive multiple offers. This is great news for sellers – the more offers you have to choose from, the better chance you have of getting a higher price and more favorable terms. However, reviewing multiple offers can sometimes be a stressful process. It can be difficult to decide which potential buyer is going to be the best choice to proceed into escrow with when you are overwhelmed by ten or more offers. Luckily, part of your listing agent’s job is to break down each offer and explain to you the pros and cons of each potential scenario. Here are a few of the elements that you will need to consider with each offer and some tips to help you as you make a final choice. Continue reading

Your home inspection is often the single most important day of your escrow – it’s when you finally get some answers to all those questions that have been nagging you since you first set foot in your potential new home. How old is the roof? Is there copper plumbing? Has the electrical been updated? You can try and get answers to these questions before your write your offer, but you won’t have much concrete information until your general inspection. Continue reading

Every time I sit down with buyers to write an offer to purchase a home, the first question I am asked is “What price should we offer?” The answer to that question is determined by many factors, all of which need to be carefully considered before making a final decision on price. There is no “formula” for choosing the magic number that will get you an accepted offer – the circumstances surrounding each home are different and you’ll find that your offer strategies will change with each offer you write. Continue reading

If you have decided that the time is right for you to sell your home, the first step in the process is to partner with a Realtor. Picking the right listing agent can be an interesting journey for homeowners, one that sometimes evolves over many years. If you are an established homeowner and have owned your house for a long time, you’ve probably met a few Realtors at open houses in your neighborhood. Continue reading