By Broderick Perkins
With a few weeks left before Santa slips down the chimney, followed by the dawn of the new Millennium, you've got to move fast if you want to avoid this year's double whammy for year-end escrows.
Year-end buyers are always anxious to move in before the stockings are hung and sellers likewise feel the holiday need for speed. This year the looming specter of the "Y2K bug" gives you an extra reason to rush escrow to a close.
Not really a computer virus, the "Y2K" refers to the Year 2000 and the "bug" is really a shortsighted computer design that renders some computers incapable of recognizing the year 2000. That could, at the very least, create escrow delays, especially when so many companies, large and small, are involved in the process.
"I wouldn't want to be in escrow at the end of this year, " said Bruce F. Webster, co-founder and co-chair of the Washington D.C. Year 2000 Group.
Here's a half dozen techniques to help you speed up escrow and avoid the grasp of the twin Grinches out to steal your holiday joy.
-- Choose a good escrow or title company and stay in touch with your escrow representative, your point person for strategic speed. Give him or her all possible methods of contacting you, phone and pager numbers as well as your e-mail address. Make sure he or she can reach you at a moment's notice. Don't leave town now and expect escrow to be closed when you return.
"A good escrow or title officer will be more than happy to answer questions and explain procedures and practices before, during, and after the life of the escrow," said Jim Cortese, a division president with Stewart Title in San Jose, CA.
-- As soon as escrow opens, line up homeowners insurance and other coverage, flood, optional earthquake, etc. Give your escrow representative the name and phone number of your insurance agent or company to quickly verify coverage, suggests Stephanie Noryko, a mortgage broker with Granite Financial in Cupertino.
-- If you are the seller, tell the escrow officer to pay off your existing loans immediately. This is necessary before the buyer can put a new mortgage on the property.
"Lack of receipt of loan payoff statements is the single biggest cause of escrow delays," said Ray Brown, a San Francisco, CA broker.
-- Check the calendar. The nearer you get to the holidays, the less reliable escrow and title office hours become, Brown says. Christmas and New Year’s Day are both on a Saturday this year. Government offices and others will likely be closed Friday and shut down early on Thursday. Some offices will remain closed on Monday.
-- Hopefully you prepared a contract with as few contingencies as possible. Contingencies are tasks that must be completed before escrow proceeds. Common ones are property inspections, repairs and financing. Once the task is complete, you must notify your title or escrow company. Prepare your contingency removal letters in advance, add the date and hand deliver them as soon as the contingency is met.
"Have your inspections lined up before the offer is presented. It's easier to cancel one than to get one in a hurry," said Mary Pope-Handy an agent with Fred Sands Landmark Properties in Los Gatos.
-- Follow through. Take no one's word a contingency has been met, papers are signed or documents delivered. Make your escrow task list, and check it twice, daily.
Broderick Perkins, has been a consumer journalist for 20 years. Experienced in print, electronic, and consulting journalism, he is chief executive editor of San Jose, CA-based, DeadlineNews.Com, an editorial content and consulting firm.
© Copyright 1999 by Broderick Perkins. All Rights Reserved.