A cheat sheet for those who aren’t fluent in “Realtor speak”


Whether you’re a rookie agent, a rising team leader or an established veteran broker, we can all benefit from sharpening our skills. Follow our “Back to Basics” series to learn fundamental strategies, tactics, philosophies and more from real estate pros across the industry.

Nicole Solari is a top-producing broker-owner in Northern California whose regular bimonthly column, which covers real estate marketing, selling strategies and working with clients, publishes on Tuesdays. 

As we go about our business, we sometimes forget that clients might not be familiar with common terms agents throw around without thinking (aka Realtor speak).

We think any Realtor worth their salt should be able to explain every word of a purchase agreement (aka contact). However, some terms are more crucial to setting the stage for a smooth transaction than others. Here are the 21 terms we consider most crucial for agents to explain to buyers and sellers without benefit of crib notes.

1. Agency

This is the first disclosure that pops up in the offer package in California. Agency and dual agency are explained in detail, but sellers and buyers alike think the person they’re looking at is their agent. The state considers their broker their legal representative. Once they get that, they understand dual agency a good deal better.

2. Closing escrow

Sellers seem to be more confused about this term than buyers, maybe because buyers are facing a due date to fork over a large amount of cash. However, both buyers and sellers often think they have to actually do something on the date escrow closes.

You have to explain that everything — including the signing of any loan and transfer documents — has to be done  a couple of days before the scheduled date a sale is recorded. So, if they’re planning a big trip around that time, they need to tell you now! Otherwise, you too could be trying to arrange a signing at the American Embassy in Mexico during Easter week!

3. Contingencies

These come in three varieties:

Inspection contingency: The contract provides a default number of days to complete inspections and request repairs or compensation for major flaws uncovered by inspectors. If we have clients in a competitive bidding, we often shorten inspection periods to 10 days. If we’re getting well inspections or a geologic survey, we ask for more time because those inspections are never fast.

Loan and appraisal contingency: As listing agents, we provide supporting materials for the prices of properties and a list of all unseen improvements. If we believe there’s any chance a property won’t appraise for the offer price, we prepare our sellers ahead of time. They don’t have to come up with a response until that actually happens. But the more they know ahead of time, the less freaked out sellers and buyers get when something like a low appraisal occurs.

Contingency for sale of another property: Many sellers sat on the sidelines until prices for their property recovered from the housing downturn. So we’re seeing more contingent sales since that recovery took place. A contingent sale almost always requires a separate form that spells out seller and buyer responsibilities during the period one sale remains contingent on another sale.

4. Contractual timeline

The contract specifies deadlines for inspection and other contingency to be released, appraisals to finished, loan approvals granted and so forth. Our transaction coordinators extract this timeline and provide it to all involved parties. Having an electronic copy and a hard copy helps clients who bother to keep their timeline visible.

For seller and buyer peace of mind, we also send “here’s what to expect this week” notices to our clients.

5. Counter offer

Clients understands the concept of an offer; they’re less clear on counter offers. When we’re dealing with sellers who receive an offer that’s not quite up to their expectations, we let them know that any counter offer they make, by definition, is a rejection of the offer in hand. If they counter it, their buyer could find a property they like better, get cold feet or simply decide to walk away from a seller who refuses their original offer.

Buyers, by contrast, need to be aware that a counter offer leaves the seller in a position to accept other offers if they do not respond favorably to the counter fairly immediately.

6. Cancellation of contract

While all parties have ways to walk away from a deal, the most frequent cause of cancellations is buyers getting inspection reports that reveal major flaws the seller is unwilling to address. However, during the inspection contingency, buyers can back out without fear of losing any part of their deposit (provided all inspectors are paid).

Sellers have less flexibility to back out of a sale. But it can certainly happen if their buyer fails to meet deadlines on the contractual timeline. You’d be amazed how often we have to hound buyers to make their earnest money deposits!

7. Disclosures

Disclosures come in two categories:

Standard disclosures: Preprinted forms that address general, local and statewide conditions, and known local hazards (like earthquakes, fire danger, the presence of radon, etc.).

Property specific disclosures: In California, that’s the Transfer Disclosure Statement (TDS) and Seller Property Questionnaire (SPQ). If sellers wonder whether they should disclose a specific condition, we generally answer “yes.”

The exception is the disclosure requirement for a death on the property in California. If it occurred more than three years ago, such passings do not have to be disclosed.

8. Earnest money deposit (EMD)

The EMD is commonly a percentage of the sales price held in escrow until buyers complete or cancel a purchase. In California, the liquidated damages clause in the purchase agreement protects deposits up to 3 percent of the purchase price provided buyers back out before all contingencies are released.

Disputes arise over monies held in escrow when buyers back out after releasing all contingencies. It’s essential that buyers clearly understand up front what the penalty can be for backing out of a deal at the last minute. It never ends well.

9. Exclusions and inclusions

These are items the contract doesn’t compel the seller to leave at the property. Appliances and other items included or excluded from the sale may be written into the listing agreement and/or purchase agreement.

The important thing is to label included and excluded items clearly to avoid post-sale disputes over something like a towel bar or mirror.

10. Escrow holder, title officer and escrow attorney

California buyers’ and sellers’ transactions are handled through title companies. Escrow attorneys handle transactions in other states. In any case, it’s important that sellers and buyers understand that there are intermediaries who ensure that the exchange of funds and recording of a new deed are performed in a neutral and timely manner.

In California, Realtors might recommend a specific escrow company and officer, but the choice is entirely the buyer’s. Your state might be different.

11. Legal name(s)

Over the course of many deals, we’ve learned that it’s prudent to request the clients’ legal names very early for use on all documents. If names and spelling aren’t checked up front, they can hold up a deal at the worst possible moment.

12. Mediation/arbitration

California buyers and sellers are compelled by law to submit any disputes to mediation. It is buyer’s or seller’s choice whether to select arbitration as the default next step should mediation fail. Most sellers let buyers decide whether to pre-select this step.

13. Mortgage/mortgage lender

Your buyers might select a lender and receive a pre-qualification letter from that lender before you ever connect with them. If not, getting them pre-qualified is the first step in the buying process. We might provide an introduction to a lender to get that all-important pre-qualification letter done. And we also ask those lenders to attest that the buyer has funds sufficient to close in their pre-qualification letter as this information is a requirement of the contract.

14. Notice to perform

This is the remedy when one of the parties to the contract fails to meet a contractual deadline.

15. Pricing properties

Contrary to critics who accuse Realtors of driving up prices, sellers set the offering price of their property, and buyers offer the price they’re willing to pay. Supply and demand work in every market. So, if everyone is realistic, those numbers will be close together. If one party or the other is unrealistic, there will not be the all-important “meeting of the minds” that must occur to strike a deal.

16. Prelim

The preliminary title report provides an early warning of any trouble spots in the chain of title. Agents — along with escrow holders — should go through the prelim carefully to ensure no title issues exist.

Finding an unpaid lien or other “cloud” on the title at closing is an ugly surprise. Avoid it!

17. Property taxes and other pro-rated items

Your escrow officer will explain pro-rated items in detail when they draw up closing documents for review. But there’s so much information to process and so many foreign concepts to become aware of that clients can easily be overwhelmed. You can head off some of that overwhelm by discussing these things up front.

18. Title policy and closing costs

As early in the process as possible, ask the lender and escrow holder to give your clients a general idea of how much closing costs will amount to. For buyers who take out a mortgage, loan fees add significantly to their closing costs. So they need to be aware of that early on.

19. Title

Defer to the escrow officer and do not try to “help” your clients decide how to hold title. The only thing you ought to do to “help” is determine early on if they’re purchasing the property on behalf of a trust. If so, they need to talk with the escrow officer about which trust documents will be required from them.

20. Walkthrough

The final walkthrough is a crucial step to ensure that any repairs promised by the seller have been made and that the property is essentially in the same condition (with the exception of those repairs) it was when buyers made their offer.

This is not the time to try to extract additional concessions. You can note, on the Verification of Condition form, if promised repairs remain unfinished. But advise your client not to hold up closing if work is in progress but not yet complete. If they refuse to close until repairs are complete, they should be prepared for an extended stay in a hotel room accommodating themselves, their kids, his mother-in-law and their dog.

21. Warranty

Regardless of how glowing inspections are, something always goes wrong with an appliance or system in the first year after a purchase. Having a warranty to cover such unforeseeable events benefits buyers and sellers — and their agents — alike.

In addition to their obvious benefits, home warranties can immunize sellers from accusations that they “must have known” about some defect the new buyer faces soon after close. The old adage “forewarned is forearmed” has never been more relevant than when a property is sold.

Just as home warranties are an ideal way to deter drama, getting clients familiar with all these terms as their deal progresses is the best way to avoid seller or buyer meltdowns.

And who doesn’t want that?

Nicole Solari is owner and managing broker of The Solari Group in Solano and Napa Counties in Northern California. Nicole runs one of the highest producing brokerages in all of Northern California.

Two South Florida brokerages face lawsuits alleging that their agents abused an automated texting service to market properties.

Steven Grossberg filed suit last month in West Palm Beach District Court against Coldwell Banker, alleging that he received a flood of unwanted text messages advertising the company’s listings.

The same day, Christian Larosa filed suit against Naples-based Marzucco Real Estate over similar claims.

The suits are seeking class action status.

Grossberg and Larosa are represented by the same lawyer, Michael Eisenband, who did not respond to requests for comment. Coldwell Banker also did not respond to requests for comment and Marzucco Real Estate declined to comment.

The plaintiffs in both suits claim that they were the victims of a platform called an “automated telephone dialing system” that sent “thousands” of text messages to them and others, channeled through a changing list of numbers that seem local.

Read the full article here.

Cal Home Co. hosts a Pizza and Beer Fundraising Night Benefiting the Make A Wish Foundation.

This event was put on by Henish Pulickal and Jamal Helewa of Cal Home Co and EXP.

The goal was to raise money for Make a Wish Foundation to help kids with terminal illness have one last dream come true!

Oakwood Escrow has ONE Rate that is an all-inclusive escrow fee.

We will never entice you with a low base escrow rate and then add a bunch of miscellaneous fees.

We will not surprise you at the end with wire fees, junk fees, archive fees, email fees, NO HIDDEN FEES!!!

Michelle Hickin with OTV covered the 2019 Coronado’s Talent is an amazing event showcasing local talent and raises money for Coronado’s local schools.

This event is presented by Alan Kinzel Realty Group and Donna Salof.

The event had talent of all age ranges and genre’s and helps bring music and science programs back into the classroom. https://www.coronadostalent.com/

Looking for some exciting ways to ring in the new year? We’ve got you covered! Check out our recommendations to kickoff 2019 the right way!


New Year’s Gala- Hotel Del Coronado

If you’re looking for elegance and class, the Hotel Del Coronado’s New Year’s Gala is the perfect fit for you. Enjoy a five-course meal, open bar, and live music as you dance the night away in the Hotel Del’s scenic ballroom. The event is 21+; however, kids and teens are welcome until 12:30 a.m. Activities for the youngsters include ice skating, s’mores, a late-night movie and games. Tickets are $375 for general admission and $425 for VIP seating.


Kids’ New Year’s Eve- LEGOLAND California Resort

“Midnight” comes early for families at LEGOLAND Resort! Celebrate the new year without missing your bedtime by enjoying the theme park’s re-creation of the Times Square Ball drop as well as a firework display starting at 6 p.m. If you’re looking to have fun with family this new year, LEGOLAND is the place to be!


New Year’s Eve Sunset Dinner Cruise

Perhaps you’re looking to ditch the party scene this year and want a quiet night with a loved one instead. Hornblower Cruises and Events offers a three-hour dinner cruise while enjoying the calm waters and beautiful scenery of the San Diego Bay! The dinner starts at 3 p.m. and all ages are welcome.


Hard Rock Hotel New Year’s Eve

Often thought of as the Gaslamp’s hottest New Year’s Eve party, this event takes place in eight different rooms across all three floors of the Hard Rock Hotel! Live entertainment includes 15 different DJ’s and two headliners. General Admissions starts at $50 but there are VIP options available which include bottle service.




The holiday season is upon us which means Christmas parties! If you happen to be hosting one this year, here are some of our favorite easy to make cocktails to ensure your party is a hit!


North Pole Nog


  •     6 oz eggnog
  •     1 oz spiced rum
  •     2 oz bourbon
  •     1 tbsp ground cinnamon, for garnish
  •     cinnamon stick, for garnish

How to make: Add spiced rum and bourbon to eggnog and stir to combine. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Top with a cinnamon stick, for garnish.

*cocktail inspired by Town and Country magazine


Winter Wonderland


  •     1.5 oz vodka
  •     .75 oz peppermint schnapps
  •     .75 oz white chocolate liqueur
  •     candy cane
  •     red sugar

How to make: Mix and chill ingredients. Pour into a red sugar-rimmed martini glass. Garnish with a candy cane hanging on the rim.


Salted Caramel White Russians


  •     1 part Salted Caramel coffee liqueur
  •     2 parts Salted Caramel Vodka
  •     1 part Half & Half
  •     Caramel sauce for garnish

How to make: Drip the caramel sauce down the sides of your glass. Add ice until the glass is about three-quarters full; then pour in your cocktail. Add a cute straw and it’s ready to serve!


Mulled Wine: The coziest holiday cocktail!


  •     1 bottle red wine or white wine  
  •     1 orange, sliced into rounds- can also be added for garnish
  •     3 cinnamon sticks, plus more for garnish
  •     8 whole cloves
  •     2 pods of cardamom
  •     ¼ cup honey or maple syrup (whichever you like best!)
  •     ½ cup brandy

How to make: Combine all ingredients in medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat from medium to low. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Strain and serve warm with you desired garnishes such as orange slices and cinnamon sticks.




The holiday season can be a busy time what with the parties, the shopping, the food, and the lights! With so much excitement around us, it can be easy to forget what’s most important during this time of year: giving back! Here are just a few toy drives accepting donations in San Diego.

Remember: It’s always better to give than to receive!


San Diego Toys for Tots

Each year during the months of October, November and December the U.S. Marine Corps resumes their mission of collecting new, unwrapped toys to distribute to less fortunate children in the community. Toys can be dropped off at any of the designated drop off sights in your area, or you can make a monetary donation online.

To find the drop off sight closest to you, visit https://bit.ly/2SeYutg.

Little Italy Toy Drive- Bring Joy, Give a Toy!

The Little Italy Association is hosting its 8th Annual Little Italy Toy Drive that benefits the foster children of New Alternatives, Inc. The toy drive runs through Friday, Dec. 14th, and toys are requested to be unwrapped and for a child between 1 and 18 years old.

For more information on drop off locations in Little Italy, be sure to visit https://bit.ly/2qLRQ22.


In-Kind Rady Children’s Hospital Toy Drive

Rady Children’s Hospital is accepting toys in their original packaging to give to the patients staying and visiting the hospital during the holidays. Right now, the hospital’s greatest need is infant and toddler toys, however, they are also accepting items such as LEGOS, electronic games, Play-Doh, musical toys, and action figures.

Rady Children’s offers easy access to their toy drop-off bin 24/7 in the Rose Pavillion, just outside of the gift shop: 3020 Children’s Way, San Diego, CA 92123.



There’s so much to do in San Diego during the holiday season. With parades, light displays, plays and even seeing Santa himself, there’s surely something for everyone to enjoy! Here is a list of some of the top Christmas events happening in San Diego!


Balboa Park December Nights

December Nights is San Diego’s largest free festival with more than 350,000 attendees each year! This free, two-day holiday celebration consists of food from around the world, carolers, live music, holiday light displays, and dancing performances, what could be better than that?! Numerous museums will also be opening their doors free of charge from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

The festivities kick off on Friday, December 7 from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. and run through Saturday, December 8 from noon to 11:00 p.m.

Be sure to visit balboapark.org for tips and tricks on transportation/parking for the event!


Skating by the Sea at Hotel Del Coronado

There is never a shortage of things to do during the holiday season at San Diego’s most famous hotel. Events include Sunday Brunch with Santa, Holiday Ornament and Artwork, and the beachside Jingle Roast, but by far the most popular activity the hotel boasts is Skating by the Sea.

Skating by the Sea is the ultimate Southern California experience and a great activity for the whole family! The rink is located on the Windsor Lawn and features stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Coronado Beach. Skating sessions will be offered daily and will run through New Year’s Day. Tickets are $30 per person and guests are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance.


Jungle Bells at The San Diego Zoo

During Jungle Bells, the famous San Diego Zoo is transformed into a winter wonderland! Twinkling lights, special performances, and festive food fill the zoo. Santa will also be making appearances before Christmas to hang with the kiddos, with the help of his elves. Other Santa-themed adventures include 4-D experiences and Dr. Zoolittle’s Animal themed version of “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” The grounds will also be filled with colorful lights in the form of sculptures of animals!

The fun kicks off on Dec. 8 and concludes on Jan. 1, with the park open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.


Neighborhood Christmas Lights- Candy Cane Lane, Garrison Street, Christmas Card Lane, Belardo Lights

Each year, neighborhoods in San Diego work to create magical displays that are sure to make everyone’s eyes sparkle. Here are a few of our favorite neighborhoods to visit if you’re looking for some holiday magic!

Candy Cane Lane (Poway)- This cul-de-sac is themed like the North Pole and each house is estimated to have over 50,000 lights! Decorating typically begins the day after Thanksgiving and the official opening is usually the second week in December. Be sure to check out their Facebook page for more updates throughout the season!

Location: Hickory Court, Hickory Street, off Twin Peaks Road and Silverset St.

Garrison Street (Point Loma)– These high-end homes go all out during the holiday season! You can either drive throughout the neighborhood or walk around to get an up-close experience. People usually make their way over to see the lights around 5:00 p.m. and the streets are filled until 10 p.m. when the lights are shut off.

Location: 3616 Garrison St.

Christmas Card Lane (Rancho Penasquitos)– This neighborhood specializes in creating larger than life Christmas themed cards as well as homes covered in lights. The best time to go is between 7-8 p.m. to ensure that all of the lights are turned on. Most displays are up and finished by the second week in December.

Location: Ellingham Street and Oviedo Street, just off Black Mountain Road.

Belardo Lights (Tierrasanta)– Although Belardo Lights is just a single house; it does not disappoint! It is San Diego’s most famous computerized holiday lighting display and was started in 2006 by Randy and Brandon Schimka as a gift to their sons. Make sure to turn on your radio to FM 106.1 to hear holiday music in sync with the lights. Feel free to visit anytime before New Year’s Day! For more information, visit http://www.belardolights.com/.

Location: 5306 Belardo Drive.













With Thanksgiving last week and Christmas right around the corner, stress and anxiety from the holidays can be so real. Don’t forget to treat yourself this holiday season! We want to share some of our favorite spas in Solana Beach where you can go to relax, unwind, and destress the holiday season away.


Eden Esthetics

Eden Esthetics is run by Brittany Blain, who has been a licensed esthetician for over 13 years and is extremely passionate about results driven treatments, which is what her spa is centered around. This spa is located right next to the beach, where the atmosphere will help ease your mind and calm your mood. Brittany’s specialty is her Eden Facial and Peel Treatment, where she believes the treatment is a great choice for any skin condition. Head to this spa for anti-aging or acne treatments, and you’ll be pleased with Brittany’s expertise and treatment options.

Location: 124 Lomas Santa Fe Dr, Ste 206, Solana Beach, CA 92075


Spa Na’mara

Hidden away in the Hotel Del Indigo, this luxury spa overlooks the Pacific Ocean, which is the perfect setting to set your mind at ease with the sunshine and ocean breeze surrounding you. Enjoy personalized spa services, including a special couples massage, at this small retreat where you can eliminate stress and achieve relaxation, rejuvenation, and rebalance. Come to Spa Na’mara for a day to yourself and choose between a massage, facial, body treatments, or waxing services.

Location: 710 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, CA 92014


Vitality Massage and Wellness Center

Ivone Alem opened Vitality Massage and Wellness Center to treat those in need of alternative medicine and holistic treatments. The treatments received at this spa go well beyond muscle tissue manipulation, allowing you to leave feeling rejuvenated and relaxed. From acupuncture to massages, Vitality Massage and Wellness Center has everything you need for a personalized experience that will cater to your wellness needs.

Location: 243 N Hwy 101, Ste 5, Solana Beach, CA 92075