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Home Buying and Escrow Terms
Real Estate Broker
Real Estate Brokers are the companies that employ real estate agents that represent
buyers and sellers in home sales. Typically all real estate brokerages in a given
county will use standardized forms for the entire buying or selling process and the
same listing data services for listing information. Many Real Estate Brokers are also
Mortgage Brokers and can provide both services.

Terms of the Agreement of Sale (Purchase Offer)
After discussing the terms of your offer your real estate broker will give you a
preprinted form of "
Agreement of Sale". You may make changes or additions to this
form but the seller must agree to every change you make through a "
counter offer"
(s), and as many of them as it takes for both buyer and seller to agree on everything.

Sales Price. For most home purchasers, the sales price is the most important term.
Don't forget that other non-monetary terms of the agreement are also important.

Closing Date. The day the escrow will close. Generally escrow closing is contingent
upon financing being ready regardless of the set closing date, but not meeting the
date affords the seller wiggle room.

Financing Amounts. These are the "Loan" and "Down Payment" amounts you will
be working with. The less money you are putting down the more important it is to get
your loan pre-approved before doing anything.

Title. "Title" refers to the legal ownership of your new home. The seller should
provide title, free and clear of all claims by others against your new home. Claims by
others against your new home are sometimes known as "liens" or "encumbrances."
You may negotiate who will pay for the title search which will tell you whether the title
is "clear."

Mortgage Clause. The agreement of sale should provide that your deposit will be
refunded if the sale has to be canceled because you are unable to get a mortgage
loan. For example, your agreement of sale could allow the purchase to be canceled if
you cannot obtain mortgage financing at an interest rate at or below a rate you
specify in the agreement.

Pests. Your lender will require a certificate from a qualified inspector stating that the
home is free from termites and other pests and pest damage. You may want to
reserve the right to cancel the agreement or seek immediate treatment and repairs
by the seller if pest damage is found.

Home Inspection. It is a good idea to have the home inspected. An inspection
should determine the condition of the plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical
systems. The structure should also be examined to assure it is sound and to
determine the condition of the roof, siding, windows and doors. The lot should be
graded away from the house so that water does not drain toward the house and into
the basement.

Most buyers prefer to pay for these inspections so that the inspector is working for
them, not the seller. You may wish to include in your agreement of sale the "Right to
Cancel", if you are not satisfied with the inspection results. In that case, you may want
to re-negotiate for a lower sale price or require the seller to make repairs.

Lead-Based Paint Hazards in Housing Built Before 1978. If you buy a home built
before 1978, you have certain rights concerning lead-based paint and lead poisoning
hazards. The seller or sales agent must give you the EPA pamphlet "Protect Your
Family From Lead in Your Home" or other EPA-approved lead hazard information.
The seller or sales agent must tell you what the seller actually knows about the
home's lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards and give you any relevant
records or reports.

You have at least ten (10) days to do an inspection or risk assessment for lead-
based paint or lead-based paint hazards. However, to have the right to cancel the
sale based on the results of an inspection or risk assessment, you will need to
negotiate this condition with the seller.

Finally, the seller must attach a disclosure form to the agreement of sale which will
include a Lead Warning Statement. You, the seller, and the sales agent will sign an
acknowledgment that these notification requirements have been satisfied.

Other Environmental Concerns. Your city or state may have laws requiring buyers
or sellers to test for environmental hazards such as leaking underground oil tanks,
the presence of radon or asbestos, lead water pipes, and other such hazards, and to
take the steps to clean-up any such hazards. You may negotiate who will pay for the
costs of any required testing and/or clean up.

Sharing of Expenses. You need to agree with the seller about how expenses
related to the property such as taxes, water and sewer charges, condominium fees,
and utility bills, are to be divided on the date of settlement. Unless you agree
otherwise, you should only be responsible for the portion of these expenses owed
after the date of sale.

Settlement Agent/Escrow Agent. Depending on seller negotiations, you may have
an option to select the settlement agent or escrow agent or company. For California
where an escrow agent and company will handle the settlement, the buyer, seller and
lender will provide instructions.

Settlement Costs. You can negotiate which settlement costs you will pay and which
will be paid by the seller.

Shopping for a Loan

Mortgage Brokers. Some companies, known as "mortgage brokers," offer to find you a mortgage
lender willing to make you a loan. A mortgage broker may operate as an independent business
and may not be operating as your "agent" or representative. Your mortgage broker may be paid by
the lender, you as the borrower, or both. You may wish to ask about the fees that the mortgage
broker will receive for its services.


Credit Score
Your credit score  (FICO) and ability to make your payments (Debt to Income Ratio) are the two
most important qualifying factors in obtaining a loan and will influence the monthly cost of your
mortgage loan.
There are many types of lenders and loan programs from which to choose. You may be familiar
with banks, savings associations, mortgage companies and credit unions, many of which provide
home mortgage loans. You may find a listing of some mortgage lenders in the yellow pages or a
listing of rates in your local newspaper.

Government Programs. You may be eligible for a loan insured through the Federal Housing
Administration ("FHA") or guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs or similar programs
operated by cities or states. These programs usually require a smaller down payment. Ask lenders
about these programs. You can get more information about these programs from the agencies
that run them.

Types of Loans. Loans can have a fixed interest rate, variable interest rate, or be a combination of
both. Fixed rate loans have the same principal and interest payments during the loan term.
Variable rate loans can have any one of a number of "indexes" and "margins" which determine how
and when the rate and payment amount change. If you apply for a variable rate loan, also known as
an adjustable rate mortgage ("ARM"), a disclosure and booklet required by the Truth in Lending Act
will further describe the ARM. Most loans can be repaid over a term of 30 years or less. Most loans
have equal monthly payments. The amounts can change from time to time on an ARM depending
on changes in the interest rate. Some loans have short terms and a large final payment called a
"balloon." You should shop for the type of home mortgage loan terms that best suit your needs.

Interest Rate, "Points" & Other Fees. Often the price of a home mortgage loan is stated in terms
of an interest rate, points, and other fees. A "point" is a fee that equals 1 percent of the loan
amount. Points are usually paid to the lender, mortgage broker, or both, at the settlement or upon
the completion of the escrow. Often, you can pay fewer points in exchange for a higher interest rate
or more points for a lower rate. Ask your lender or mortgage broker about points and other fees.

A document called the Truth in Lending Disclosure Statement will show you the "Annual
Percentage Rate" ("APR") and other payment information for the loan you have applied for. The
APR takes into account not only the interest rate, but also the points, mortgage broker fees and
certain other fees that you have to pay. Ask for the APR before you apply to help you shop for the
loan that is best for you. Also ask if your loan will have a charge or a fee for paying all or part of the
loan before payment is due ("prepayment penalty"). You may be able to negotiate the terms of the
prepayment penalty.

Lender-Required Settlement Costs. Your lender may require you to obtain certain settlement
services, such as a new survey, mortgage insurance or title insurance. It may also order and
charge you for other settlement-related services, such as the appraisal or credit report. A lender
may also charge other fees, such as fees for loan processing, document preparation,
underwriting, flood certification or an application fee. You may wish to ask for an estimate of fees
and settlement costs before choosing a lender. Some lenders offer "no cost" or "no point" loans
but normally cover these fees or costs by charging a higher interest rate.

Comparing Loan Costs. Comparing APRs may be an effective way to shop for a loan. However,
you must compare similar loan products for the same loan amount. For example, compare two 30-
year fixed rate loans for $100,000. Loan A with an APR of 8.35% is less costly than Loan B with an
APR of 8.65% over the loan term. However, before you decide on a loan, you should consider the
up-front cash you will be required to pay for each of the two loans as well.

Another effective shopping technique is to compare identical loans with different up-front points
and other fees. For example, if you are offered two 30-year fixed rate loans for $100,000 and at 8%,
the monthly payments are the same, but the up-front costs are different:

Loan A - 2 points ($2,000) and lender required costs of $1800 = $3800 in costs.

Loan B - 2 1/4 points ($2250) and lender required costs of $1200 = $3450 in costs.

A comparison of the up-front costs shows Loan B requires $350 less in up-front cash than Loan A.
However, your individual situation (how long you plan to stay in your house) and your tax situation
(points can usually be deducted for the tax year that you purchase a house) may affect your choice
of loans.

Lock-ins. "Locking in" your rate or points at the time of application or during the processing of your
loan will keep the rate and/or points from changing until settlement or closing of the escrow
process. Ask your lender if there is a fee to lock-in the rate and whether the fee reduces the amount
you have to pay for points. Find out how long the lock-in is good, what happens if it expires, and
whether the lock-in fee is refundable if your application is rejected.

Tax and Insurance Payments. Your monthly mortgage payment will be used to repay the money
you borrowed plus interest. Part of your monthly payment may be deposited into an "escrow
account" (also known as a "reserve" or "impound" account) so your lender or servicer can pay your
real estate taxes, property insurance, mortgage insurance and/or flood insurance. Ask your lender
or mortgage broker if you will be required to set up an escrow or impound account for taxes and
insurance payments.

Transfer of Your Loan. While you may start the loan process with a lender or mortgage broker, you
could find that after settlement another company may be collecting the payments on your loan.
Collecting loan payments is often known as "servicing" the loan. Your lender or broker will disclose
whether it expects to service your loan or to transfer the servicing to someone else.

Mortgage Insurance. Private mortgage insurance and government mortgage insurance protect the
lender against default and enable the lender to make a loan which the lender considers a higher
risk. Lenders often require mortgage insurance for loans where the down payment is less than
20% of the sales price. You may be billed monthly, annually, by an initial lump sum, or some
combination of these practices for your mortgage insurance premium. Ask your lender if mortgage
insurance is required and how much it will cost. Mortgage insurance should not be confused with
mortgage life, credit life or disability insurance, which are designed to pay off a mortgage in the
event of the borrower's death or disability.

You may also be offered "lender paid" mortgage insurance ("LPMI"). Under LPMI plans, the lender
purchases the mortgage insurance and pays the premiums to the insurer. The lender will increase
your interest rate to pay for the premiums — but LPMI may reduce your settlement costs. You
cannot cancel LPMI or government mortgage insurance during the life of your loan. However, it may
be possible to cancel private mortgage insurance at some point, such as when your loan balance
is reduced to a certain amount. Before you commit to paying for mortgage insurance, find out the
specific requirements for cancellation.

Flood Hazard Areas. Most lenders will not lend you money to buy a home in a flood hazard area
unless you pay for flood insurance. Some government loan programs will not allow you to
purchase a home that is located in a flood hazard area. Your lender may charge you a fee to check
for flood hazards. You should be notified if flood insurance is required. If a change in flood
insurance maps brings your home within a flood hazard area after your loan is made, your lender
or servicer may require you to buy flood insurance at that time.

Selecting a Settlement Agent
Settlement practices vary from locality to locality, and even within the same county or city.
Settlements may be conducted by lenders, title insurance companies, escrow companies, real
estate brokers or attorneys for the buyer or seller. You may save money by shopping for the
settlement agent.

The parties sign an escrow agreement which requires them to provide certain documents and
funds to the agent. Unlike other types of settlement, the parties do not meet around a table to sign
documents. Ask how your settlement will be handled.

Securing Title Services
Title insurance is usually required by the lender to protect the lender against loss resulting from
claims by others against your new home. In some states, attorneys offer title insurance as part of
their services in examining title and providing a title opinion. The attorney's fee may include the title
insurance premium. In other states, a title insurance company or title agent directly provides the
title insurance.

Owner's Policy. A lender's title insurance policy does not protect you. Similarly, the prior owner's
policy does not protect you. If you want to protect yourself from claims by others against your new
home, you will need an owner's policy. When a claim does occur, it can be financially devastating
to an owner who is uninsured. If you buy an owner's policy, it is usually much less expensive if you
buy it at the same time and with the same insurer as the lender's policy.

Choice of Title Insurer. Under RESPA, the seller may not require you, as a condition of the sale, to
purchase title insurance from any particular title company. Generally, your lender will require title
insurance from a company that is acceptable to it. In most cases you can shop for and choose a
company that meets the lender's standards.

Review Initial Title Report. In many areas, a few days or weeks before the settlement or closing of
the escrow, the title insurance company will issue a "Commitment to Insure" or preliminary report
or "binder" containing a summary of any defects in title which have been identified by the title
search, as well as any exceptions from the title insurance policy's coverage. The commitment is
usually sent to the lender for use until the title insurance policy is issued at or after the settlement.
You can arrange to have a copy sent to you (or to your attorney) so that you can object if there are
matters affecting the title which you did not agree to accept when you signed the agreement of sale.

Coverage & Cost Savings. To save money on title insurance, compare rates among various title
insurance companies. Ask what services and limitations on coverage are provided under each
policy so that you can decide whether coverage purchased at a higher rate may be better for your
needs. However, in many states, title insurance premium rates are established by the state and
may not be negotiable. If you are buying a home which has changed hands within the last several
years, ask your title company about a "reissue rate," which would be cheaper. If you are buying a
newly constructed home, make certain your title insurance covers claims by contractors. These
claims are known as "mechanics' liens" in some parts of the country.

Survey. Lenders or title insurance companies often require a survey to mark the boundaries of the
property. A survey is a drawing of the property showing the perimeter boundaries and marking the
location of the house and other improvements. You may be able to avoid the cost of a complete
survey if you can locate the person who previously surveyed the property and request an update.
Check with your lender or title insurance company on whether an updated survey is acceptable.

RESPA Disclosures
One of the purposes of RESPA is to help consumers become better shoppers for settlement
services. RESPA requires that borrowers receive disclosures at various times. Some disclosures
spell out the costs associated with the settlement, outline lender servicing and escrow account
practices and describe business relationships between settlement service providers.

Good Faith Estimate of Settlement Costs. RESPA requires that, when you apply for a loan, the
lender or mortgage broker give you a Good Faith Estimate of settlement service charges you will
likely have to pay. If you do not get this Good Faith Estimate when you apply, the lender or mortgage
broker must mail or deliver it to you within the next three business days.

Be aware that the amounts listed on the Good Faith Estimate are only estimates. Actual costs may
vary. Changing market conditions can affect prices. Remember that the lender's estimate is not a
guarantee. Keep your Good Faith Estimate so you can compare it with the final settlement costs
and ask the lender questions about any changes.

Servicing Disclosure Statement. RESPA requires the lender or mortgage broker to tell you in
writing, when you apply for a loan or within the next three business days, whether it expects that
someone else will be servicing your loan (collecting your payments).

Affiliated Business Arrangements. Sometimes, several businesses that offer settlement services
are owned or controlled by a common corporate parent. These businesses are known as
"affiliates." When a lender, real estate broker, or other participant in your settlement refers you to an
affiliate for a settlement service (such as when a real estate broker refers you to a mortgage broker
affiliate), RESPA requires the referring party to give you an Affiliated Business Arrangement
Disclosure. This form will remind you that you are generally not required, with certain exceptions, to
use the affiliate and are free to shop for other providers.

HUD-1 Settlement Statement. One business day before the settlement, you have the right to
inspect the HUD-1 Settlement Statement. This statement itemizes the services provided to you and
the fees charged to you. This form is filled out by the settlement agent who will conduct the
settlement. Be sure you have the name, address, and telephone number of the settlement agent if
you wish to inspect this form. The fully completed HUD-1 Settlement Statement generally must be
delivered or mailed to you at or before the settlement. In cases where there is no settlement
meeting, the escrow agent will mail you the HUD-1 after settlement, and you have no right to
inspect it one day before settlement.

Escrow Account Operation & Disclosures. Your lender may require you to establish an escrow or
impound account to insure that your taxes and insurance premiums are paid on time. If so, you will
probably have to pay an initial amount at the settlement to start the account and an additional
amount with each month's regular payment. Your escrow account payments may include a
"cushion" or an extra amount to ensure that the lender has enough money to make the payments
when due. RESPA limits the amount of the cushion to a maximum of two months of escrow
payments.

At the settlement or within the next 45 days, the person servicing your loan must give you an initial
escrow account statement. That form will show all of the payments which are expected to be
deposited into the escrow account and all of the disbursements which are expected to be made
from the escrow account during the year ahead. Your lender or servicer will review the escrow
account annually and send you a disclosure each year which shows the prior year's activity and any
adjustments necessary in the escrow payments that you will make in the forthcoming year.

Processing Your Loan Application
There are several federal laws which provide you with protection during the processing of your
loan. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act ("ECOA"), the Fair Housing Act, and the Fair Credit Reporting
Act ("FCRA") prohibit discrimination and provide you with the right to certain credit information.

No Discrimination. ECOA prohibits lenders from discriminating against credit applicants on the
basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, the fact that all or part of the
applicant's income comes from any public assistance program, or the fact that the applicant has
exercised any right under any federal consumer credit protection law. To help government
agencies monitor ECOA compliance, your lender or mortgage broker must request certain
information regarding your race, sex, marital status and age when taking your loan application.

The Fair Housing Act also prohibits discrimination in residential real estate transactions on the
basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin. This prohibition
applies to both the sale of a home to you and the decision by a lender to give you a loan to help pay
for that home. Finally, your locality or state may also have a law which prohibits discrimination.

Frequently, there are differences in the types and amounts of settlement costs charged to the
borrower — for example, some borrowers are charged greater fees for mortgages depending on
their credit worthiness. These differences may be justified or they may be unlawfully discriminatory.
It is important that you examine your settlement documents closely, especially lines 808-811 on
the HUD-1 settlement statement, and do not hesitate to compare your settlement costs with those
of your friends and neighbors.

If you feel you have been discriminated against by a lender or anyone else in the home buying
process, you may file a private legal action against that person or complain to a state, local or
federal administrative agency. You may want to talk to an attorney; or you may want to ask the
federal agency that enforces ECOA (the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System) or the
Fair Housing Act (HUD) about your rights under these laws.

Prompt Action/Notification of Action Taken. Your lender or mortgage broker must act on your
application and inform you of the action taken no later than 30 days after it receives your completed
application. Your application will not be considered complete, and the 30 day period will not begin,
until you provide to your lender or mortgage broker all of the material and information requested.

Statement of Reasons for Denial. If your application is denied, ECOA requires your lender or
mortgage broker to give you a statement of the specific reasons why it denied your application or
tell you how you can obtain such a statement. The notice will also tell you which federal agency to
contact if you think the lender or mortgage broker has illegally discriminated against you.

Obtaining Your Credit Report. The Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA") requires a lender or
mortgage broker that denies your loan application to tell you whether it based its decision on
information contained in your credit report. If that information was a reason for the denial, the notice
will tell you where you can get a free copy of the credit report. You have the right to dispute the
accuracy or completeness of any information in your credit report. If you dispute any information,
the credit reporting agency that prepared the report must investigate free of charge and notify you of
the results of the investigation.

Obtaining Your Appraisal. The lender needs to know if the value of your home is enough to secure
the loan. To get this information, the lender typically hires an appraiser, who gives a professional
opinion about the value of your home. ECOA requires your lender or mortgage broker to tell you that
you have a right to get a copy of the appraisal report. The notice will also tell you how and when you
can ask for a copy.

RESPA Protection Against Illegal Referral Fees
RESPA was enacted because Congress felt that consumers needed protection from "...
unnecessarily high settlement charges caused by certain abusive practices that have developed in
some areas of the country." Some of the practices Congress was concerned about are discussed
below. Most professionals in the settlement business provide good service and do not engage in
these practices.

Prohibited Fees. It is illegal under RESPA for anyone to pay or receive a fee, kickback or anything of
value because they agree to refer settlement service business to a particular person or
organization. For example, your mortgage lender may not pay your real estate broker $250 for
referring you to the lender. It is also illegal for anyone to accept a fee or part of a fee for services if
that person has not actually performed settlement services for the fee. For example, a lender may
not add to a third party's fee, such as an appraisal fee, and keep the difference.

Permitted Payments. RESPA does not prevent title companies, mortgage brokers, appraisers,
attorneys, settlement/closing agents and others, who actually perform a service in connection with
the mortgage loan or the settlement, from being paid for the reasonable value of their work. If a
participant in your settlement appears to be taking a fee without having done any work, you should
advise that person or company of the RESPA referral fee prohibitions. You may also speak with
your attorney or complain to a regulator.

Penalties. It is a crime for someone to pay or receive an illegal referral fee. The penalty can be a
fine, imprisonment or both. You may be entitled to recover three times the amount of the charge for
any settlement service by bringing a private lawsuit. If you are successful, the court may also award
you court costs and your attorney's fees.

Your Right to File Complaints
Private Lawsuits: If you have a problem, the best place to have it fixed is at its source (the lender,
settlement agent, broker, etc.). If that approach fails and you think you have suffered because of a
violation of RESPA, ECOA or any other law, you may be entitled to sue in a federal or state court.
This is a matter you should discuss with your attorney.

Government Agencies. Most settlement service providers are supervised by a governmental
agency at the local, state and/or federal level. Your state's Attorney General may have a consumer
affairs division. If you feel that a provider of settlement services has violated RESPA or any other
law, you can complain to that agency or association. You may also send a copy of your complaint to
the HUD Office of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs.

Servicing Errors. If you have a question any time during the life of your loan, RESPA requires the
company collecting your loan payments (your "servicer") to respond to you. Write to your servicer
and call it a "qualified written request under Section 6 of RESPA." A "qualified written request"
should be a separate letter and not mailed with the payment coupon. Describe the problem and
include your name and account number. The servicer must investigate and make appropriate
corrections within 60 business days.
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