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Home selling: What to expect during the closing process

signing a contract

How the home selling process runs and for how long depends on your unique circumstances and timeline. But whether you have five or 10 steps to undergo, the end will always be the same: closing and the official handover of your property to its new owner.

Continue reading to learn everything there is to know about closing and ensure a smooth end to your home sale.

WHAT IS CLOSING?

In real estate, the closing process– also referred to as settlement– is when a seller officially transfers ownership of the property to the buyer. A date is set (closing day), but prior to this is a checklist of things to do for both parties involved. This so-called closing process begins once the purchase and sale agreement has been signed.

How long does it take to close on a home?

It depends. Some home sales close in a matter of days, while others take a few weeks or even a month or two. According to ICE Mortgage Technology, it takes an average of 44 days to close on a home.

All-cash deals tend to close fast, while buyers who are obtaining financing will still have to fulfill certain requirements to finalize their mortgage loans. Other potential causes for delays include title issues, home appraisal, and repairs.

The closing day itself, however, doesn’t need to take an entire day. If all requirements and paperwork are deemed satisfactory, the appointment only takes between an hour or two to complete.

Roles and responsibilities: who does what?

There are several individuals that may be involved in the closing process:

  • The seller and their agent: As the seller, your primary responsibilities during closing is to ensure all agreed-upon conditions are met, to provide necessary documentation, and to be present at the closing meeting to sign the final papers.

    Part of the home closing process for sellers is doing a final walk-through of the home. This is done with the buyer and both of your agents present to confirm required repairs have been completed and that the home is in its expected condition.

    Meanwhile, your agent is tasked with confirming your seller obligations are met and that all paperwork is in order. They are there to make sure all Ts have been crossed and all Is dotted to avoid any last-minute issues and disputes that might delay the closing process.

  • The buyer and their agent: Before the closing day, the buyer must work to resolve three main contingencies: financing, appraisal, and inspection. Both the appraisal and inspection may be required by their preferred bank or lender, and the results can affect the buyer’s loan application and rates. The buyer doesn’t need to concern themselves with these contingencies, however, if they offered an all-cash deal.
  • Title company or attorney: They may be involved in the closing process as the neutral third party that will conduct the closing meeting. They’re there neither for you or the buyer. Instead, their function is to ensure the proper signing of documents and appropriate distribution of funds. Prior to the closing meeting, a title company is also responsible for ensuring that there are no liens or legal issues that could affect the transfer of ownership.

Additional advisors, such as tax consultants or estate planners, may also be involved in the closing process to address specific concerns related to the transaction. Their combined efforts ensure that all aspects of the sale are handled efficiently and accurately.

THE CLOSING PROCESS FOR HOME SELLERS

Here are several things to include in your pre-closing day checklist:

  • Schedule the closing meeting

    Together with your agent, coordinate with the buyer and their representative to schedule the closing date. Ideally, it should be 30 to 45 days after you accept the buyer’s offer.

    The buyer may negotiate for a later date to resolve contingencies on their end, and if it happens, accommodate the request. Certain issues may also come up on your part and may entail you to ask to reschedule. Because of these considerations, maintain open communications between your agent and the buyer’s agent.

  • Review the sales agreement thoroughly

    Before you proceed with the rest of your responsibilities, take the time to sit down and review the sales and purchase agreement. Note the contingencies that involve your participation and their accompanying details, such as deadlines and other terms. Jot all of this information to create a clear closing timeline. Doing so will help you stay on top of your tasks and ensure everything from your end is ready come closing day.

  • Address repairs and other issues promptly

    If it was agreed in the sales contract that the seller will shoulder any repairs recommended after the home inspection, it is your duty to fulfill it in a timely manner. When you fail to do so, you might delay the closing or even cause the sale to fall through.

    Remember to look for a reputable contractor to help you fix the home– your agent might know a few people from their network. Ensure these repairs are completed to the buyer’s satisfaction.

    renovating kitchen

  • Gather all necessary documentation early

    Don’t wait until the last minute to collect all necessary documents for the official transfer of the property. You might discover that you’re lacking a few papers that take time to obtain. Start gathering documentation early to give yourself some wiggle room in case you need to file for certain reports, records, or disclosures.

    Here are some of the paperwork you should prepare (and bring) for closing:

    • Digital keys, codes, and passwords for house systems, appliances, and other installed home technology
    • Government-issued identification
    • Proof of repairs (receipts, contracts, before-and-after pictures if available, etc.)
    • Final utility of bills if it is agreed that the buyer will shoulder these expenses
  • Finalize mortgage arrangements

    If you have an existing mortgage on the property, arrangements must be made to pay off the remaining balance.

    You need to ensure you have accurate payoff information and confirm that there are no prepayment penalties or other fees associated with paying off the mortgage early. This information should be communicated to the title company to facilitate a smooth transfer of funds. Checking with your lender for any final interest or fees can help us avoid surprises.

  • Understand and prepare for closing costs and fees
    With closing comes closing costs, which either the buyer or the seller pays on meeting day. Who pays what depends on what was agreed upon in the sales and purchase agreement, but there are practices that people often follow.

    For instance, sellers typically shoulder the commission fees for both their agent and the buyer’s agent (usually 3% of the total purchase price for each agent). It’s also common for sellers to offer to pay for the title insurance policy as well as the property taxes for that year.

    Whatever it is that you agreed to pay for, concessions included, make sure to allocate funds in anticipation of closing day. You don’t want to show up to the meeting empty-handed.

  • Review other financial obligations and implications

    Other financial preparations might include verifying that all outstanding liens or judgments against the property are cleared and ensuring that any necessary repairs are completed and paid for. This step is essential to avoid any financial surprises at closing.

    Additionally, consider consulting with a tax advisor to understand the potential tax implications of the sale. Capital gains taxes, deductions, and other tax considerations can impact our net proceeds and should be planned for accordingly.

    Knowing the tax implications, such as the $250,000 capital gains exclusion for single sellers ($500,000 for married couples), can significantly affect your financial planning. It’s always wise to have a clear picture of our financial situation before closing.

  • THE CLOSING MEETING: FINAL STEPS

    All home closing processes for sellers end here: the closing meeting. On this day, all major parties involved in the sale gather together to review if obligations were fulfilled, to sign necessary paperwork, and to witness the official transfer of the property to its new owner. Here’s what you should expect.

    Where and who: Location and attendees

    As previously mentioned, the closing meeting is usually scheduled 30 to 44 days after the acceptance of the offer. It is also typically held at the office of the title company or attorney handling the transaction. Attendees generally include you (the seller), your agent, the buyer and their agent, and a representative from the title company or attorney’s office.

    Reviewing and signing final documents

    During the closing meeting, all required documents will be reviewed and signed by both parties. These documents include the deed, settlement statement, and any loan documents if applicable. It’s essential to review each document carefully and ask questions if anything is unclear.

    Take your time to read and understand each document before signing. If you have any questions or concerns, address them with your real estate agent or the title company representative before proceeding. Making sure you understand all documents helps avoid any legal or financial issues later.

    giving house keys

    Handling closing costs and fees

    At this stage, you will pay any outstanding closing costs and fees that you agreed to shoulder. The buyer will also bring any required funds to cover their share of the costs and the down payment. Ensuring that all payments are made as agreed will avoid any delays.

    It is important to verify that all financial transactions are accurately recorded and that both parties receive a copy of the settlement statement for your personal records. This document provides a detailed account of all costs and payments associated with the transaction.

    The final handoff: Keys and possession

    Once all documents are signed and funds are distributed, it’s time to hand over the keys and any necessary access codes or information to the buyer. This step officially transfers the ownership of the home to its new owner.

    Before everyone leaves, take the time to ensure you’ve provided the buyer with all of the relevant information about the property, such as manuals for appliances, security codes, or contact information for local service providers. A smooth handover can help foster a positive relationship and ensure the buyer is satisfied with the transaction.

    Last-minute check: Final walkthrough

    One last thing to do to close the sale is to take the buyer on a final walkthrough of the property to ensure it is in the agreed-upon condition. This is just to verify that issues have been addressed, and if the buyer has any last-minute questions, they’ll have enough time to ask you.

    WRAPPING UP

    At this stage, you’ve officially handed over the ownership of your property to its new owner. The only party left with something to do is the title company or attorney, who will then work to make sure the sale as well as the transfer of ownership are both recorded, among other things.

    Recording the deed and mortgage documents

    After the closing meeting, the title company or attorney will record the deed and any mortgage documents with the local county recorder’s office. This step legally transfers ownership of the property to the buyer and is crucial for official recognition of the sale.

    For your peace of mind, confirm that the deed has been properly recorded and ask for a copy for your own records. This step ensures that the transaction is legally binding and that the new owner is officially recognized by local authorities.

    Distributing funds to all parties

    The title company will handle the distribution of funds, ensuring that all parties receive their appropriate payments. These include the real estate commission for both real estate agents, as well as the other service providers involved in the transaction.

    Don’t forget to verify that you’ve received your net proceeds as agreed and that all payments are accurately recorded. Addressing any discrepancies with the title company immediately will ensure all parties are paid correctly.

    Updating local ownership records

    Ownership records will be updated with the local authorities, reflecting the new ownership. This step is crucial for property tax purposes and ensuring that the new owner is recognized by the local government.

    BREEZE THROUGH CLOSING WITH THE RIGHT AGENT

    The finish line is within sight once closing commences. Our team at The Jamie McMartin Group ensures your home selling process goes as smoothly as possible, from start to closing. It’s one of the best ways to bid farewell to your old home and start a new chapter in your life.

    Start your home selling journey by getting a home value estimate. Or you can reach out to The Jamie McMartin Group at 281.547.6221 or through this email to schedule an appointment at your preferred day and time.

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