Escrow StressBuying & selling a home is usually stressful for consumers, and some circumstances can heighten the anxiety further (being in multiple offers, buying a distressed home, or anything out of the ordinary).  Once you write an offer or receive one on your property, you may feel like a nervous wreck as you navigate the escrow period. In some cases, you may come down with a bad case of buyer’s remorse or seller’s remorse.

We’re In Escrow: Now What?

You will want insights and advice so that you’re sure that you are doing the right thing each step of the way.  Even if you have a great Realtor who thoroughly understands Silicon Valley real estate and is a fantastic communicator, perhaps you want some assurance from an outside source (who’s not being paid for closing the deal) that you really are making good choices in the home sale.

There are a bunch of bad ways to do this but also some good alternatives.

What not to do:

  1. Don’t call all of your local Realtor friends whom you didn’t hire and ask for their input.  First, it’s not fair to them as businesspeople that you want their professional input but not for compensation.  Second, they aren’t supposed to meddle and it puts them in an akward position of “implied agency” in which they take on some risk (being your expert upon whose advice they rely) without the benefit of ever getting paid.
  2. Beware the well-intentioned advice of non-professionals who may not be up to speed with the current market conditions, construction, your purchase agreement, etc.  Sometimes the “over the cubicle wall” advice can be very, very upsetting as these folks get a homebuyer or home seller freaked out – often over nothing or over a misunderstanding of the situation due to a lack of information.   Most often, this “advice” is from completely unqualified people and will compound problems rather than help to solve them.

How about some good alternatives?

There are a bunch of ways to combat the “in escrow jitters” and to get reassurance that you are on track and making good choices in your home purchase or home sale. (Or to validate that there is a problem which needs addressing.)

Begin by laying the groundwork to prevent problems. Before you ever get into contract, do your research upfront – keep up with your local market conditions by visiting open houses, talking to friends who have recently bought and sold real estate local to you, and reading a variety of good sources, from regular news sites (such as the San Jose Mercury News)  to realty blogs (such as this one or Live in Los Gatos) and real estate related websites & news portals.   (Homesellers, forgive the plug but I also have a book addressing the needs and questions of selling a home in Siicon Valley – I provide it to those who interview me while choosing an agent as my gift: Get The Best Deal When Selling Your Home in Silicon Valley.)    Starting with realistic expectations and understanding of the “lay of the land” are key to keeping reasonably calm in escrow.

Check the market stats:

Read a few solid news sources:

Research well, then hire, a great Realtor.  Talk with several qualified, competant, experienced, ethical Realtors before choosing one with whom you’ll work.  Hire well: this will be one of the most important decisions you make in homebuying or home selling. If you work with a great agent, your confidence will be boosted and your transaction should go smoother.

Perhaps you’ve been 100% on track, you know the market, understand the contract and have hired a super agent,  but now that you’re in escrow, you’re worried about every turn of events.   The home inspection finds some things.  The appraiser is slow to do the report.  The other party in the transaction is behind with some paperwork….  How worried should you be?  Is it nothing? Or is it the beginning of a great catastrophe?  You find yourself waking up in the middle of the night with heart palpitations over this real estate transaction.

If you find yourself freaking out, you probably need some information to keep that adrenaline in check.

First, talk to your Realtor.  Discuss your concerns and questions.  A lot of times it’s the unknown that gets us upset, so find out what the risks of the particular issue may be.  What is the likely resolution? What is the worst that could happen? Get a sense of the proportion of the problem.

Second, keep notes – sometimes being upset can make it hard to remember things, so you may find yourself asking the same question three times in one week. This is not unusual, but if you write down the answer when you first get it, you can be reminded faster than if you have to wait until you reach your agent.

Be gentle on yourself if you do forget something that’s been explained, and realize that emotions can and do play games with your memory.

If you need to bounce the situation off of other professionals, there are online sites that can help you with that, but realize that these are of limited help since other agents do not have 100% of the information you & your agent have. For instance, in most of California, buyers and sellers of residential real estate tend to use the CAR (California Association of Realtors) purchase agreement (contract).  But in part of the San Francisco Bay Area, especially along the Peninsula and west valley areas of Santa Clara County (such as Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Saratoga), another form is used much of the time – the PRDS (Peninsula Regional Data Service) contract.  This makes an enormous difference in several aspects of the escrow, such as with repairs done prior to the completion of the sale.  Agents in other parts of the state may not understand the contractual nuances, and consumers may not even realize that while they’re discussing the ramifications of one form, agents online may presume it to be a completely different one. That’s just one area where there could be a misfire of information.

With those caveats explained, three great & interactive real estate resources for consumers (nervous and otherwise) and people interested in buying and selling homes are these:


All three of these sites enable viewers to connect with real estate information, professionals and other consumers, and all are at no cost.  Questions with great detail will usually procure better, more useful responses.  (Example: “I put an offer in on a home but didn’t get it – why did that happen?” is not as helpful to an agent wanting to assist you as “I put an offer in on a home but there were 14 offers and I lost out to an all-cash offer – what can I do differently next time?”)

Finally, if a situation arises that is truly a significant problem, do not be afraid to seek out the help of a good real estate attorney.  Sometimes a brief consultation can bring light to a difficulty – it does not always turn into a giant fee to get strong help.  Again, hire well – don’t just pick a name out of the phone book!

Home buying and home selling is a big deal, and it will entail some concern and stress, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.  There will be many decisions to be made along the way, but if you hire a great agent and go into the transaction understanding the general terrain because you are well informed, you will be better equipped to handle the ordinary stress and able to avoid the unnecessary stresses.  If you hit a bad bump in the road and need a little extra help, know that it’s there, too, whether through your Silicon Valley Realtor, online or at the office of a good lawyer.  The best way to combat stress and worry is to be armed with understandable information – and it is available to you!