Buying / Selling Real Estate


Escrow is the "third party place of common custody or trust" where all parties related to a transaction place their documents and funds until the transaction has been finalized.  Escrow is common for any transaction where there are multiple stages and where one stage is dependent on the next.  To ensure that all parties "live up to their end of the deal" the money and documents are placed in escrow until the transaction is finalized.  Real estate is a common place for escrow to be used as the seller is reluctant to transfer ownership without payment and the buyer payment without ownership.

Determining Size and Location, Square Footage, Lot Size, Boundary Lines, and Encroachments

In general, buyers of real property should assume that all statements and indications regarding square footage, lot size, boundary lines, and encroachments are approximations. Before entering into a sale agreement, a buyer should employ a qualified appraiser or land surveyor to determine the exact square footage, lot size and boundaries. San Francisco housing is expensive and a new home buyer should not realize "after the fact" that their property is really 400 square feet less than what they thought or that their building actually extends two feet onto the neighbors property. These types of problems can be costly to resolve and may significantly alter an owners ability to sell the property in the future.  Title insurance policies often have clauses stating that the policy will not cover discrepancies in boundary lines.


Contingencies are the clauses a buyer notes on their offer that state that their offer is valid "contingent" upon the buyer or seller meeting certain expectations. The most common contingencies relate to financing, inspection, and title.  

Conservancy Limitations

Certain governmental agencies have significant influence in determining if an individual property or neighborhood is deemed a historical or architectural landmark. Properties labeled historic or located in historic districts often have significant limitations regarding modifications, improvements, and any changes to appearance. Buyers and sellers are advised to pay close attention to the changes implemented by historic preservation groups as they may significantly impact both the value and the ability to quickly sell a property.

Comp Survey

A comp survey is what a buyer uses to help determine the value of a property and the initial offer price.  The comp survey is a comparison of properties in a given market by size, feature, location, and price. The buyer uses the comp survey to gauge what their offer price will be.  The sellers ask price is not considered in the comp survey as it is exactly what the name states, and "ask" price.