Whether you are purchasing your first home or the next real estate deal, closings can be a nerve racking process. There are a lot of factors that come into play in order to successfully close on a property. We have created a checklist for you to ensure your closing goes as smoothly as possible.
We broke down the closing process into three stages: pre-closing, closing and post-closing.
If you are the buyer and your offer was accepted by the seller, you will enter into a contract. Generally, your real estate agent will prepare the contract. If it is a residential property, agents typically use the TREC one to four residential contract. Your agent will also prepare the appropriate addendums. Be sure to thoroughly review the contract to ensure you understand all the terms. If there is something you do not understand, ask your agent for clarification, or, have a real estate attorney review the contract for you.
Follow the terms of your contract and calendar your deadline for due diligence. Generally, the contract will outline your time frame for your option period. An option period is a specific timeframe that both parties agree to in which the buyer can terminate the contract for any reason without risking their earnest money. This time frame is crucial because it allows for you to perform your due diligence on the property before fully committing to the contract. You can order a property inspection report which will show you any concerns or issues with the property.
Provide a copy of the contract to your lender so they have the material terms of the agreement. After the inspection is completed, you may discuss negotiation tactics with your real estate agent if there are concerns with the property. Make sure that your lender has copies of all amendments to the agreement if you agree to a different sales price or concessions/reductions are made. Then, contact your lender to ensure an appraisal for the property is ordered and scheduled.
Insurance and Title
Shop around for home insurance companies that best suit your needs and select the insurance company that provides the amount of coverage for your home owner’s insurance policy. You may also need to send a copy of this information to your lender. Additionally, you will most likely need title insurance. The title company that was designated in your contract will provide you with a title commitment to start. Be sure to review the commitment, survey and abstract within the timeframe as stated in the contract. If you have questions about title be sure to contact a real estate attorney to review the commitment on your behalf. The attorney may spot issues and recommend an objection letter. To learn more about objection letters, read our article here.
To calculate how much you can afford for a property, the general rule of thumb is 30% of your gross monthly income on home related expenses. Take into consideration the mortgage, taxes, insurance, HOA fees, and cash reserves for home repairs or replacements. Also take into consideration other expenses unrelated to the property to understand your debt to income ratio. Financing should generally be done before purchasing a home, however, sometimes your finances or sale transactions change, then you should reevaluate your budget.
Final Walk Through
The day before or day of closing, go to the property. The final walk through gives you the opportunity to inspect the property before the official sale. During this time, inspect any agreed repairs, inspect all appliances, check whether all doors and windows are secured, working properly, or to your satisfaction, belongings of the seller are completely removed, check for signs of mold, check electricity and outlets, and inspect the exterior & backyard.
First, know who all the important parties are. At closing, you will likely meet at your title company’s office and a title agent will be present. Prior to your closing make sure to ask your title agent what you need to bring on the day of closing and what needs to be completed prior to closing. For example, most title agents will request that you bring a valid form of identification such as your driver’s license.
You will also be required to bring your down payment at closing. Make sure to confirm
with the title agent if you need to bring certified funds or wire the funds beforehand and how far in advance the funds must be wired. Wire fraud is serious so be sure to double check the wiring information before you send the money. If you are uncertain if the instructions are legitimate, contact your escrow officer.
Consider whether you want your real estate agent or an attorney present with you at closing to review the documents with you. If you are bringing additional parties, be sure to account for additional time for discussions amongst everyone.
Important Closing Documents
Prior to your closing, you should set aside time to review all your documents to ensure the information is correct. Double check the names, address, loan amount, other contact information, etc A few important documents include:
The closing disclosure,
The deed of trust,
The note, and
The warranty deed.
After closing you should receive all keys, access codes, garage openers, etc. to your new property. If feasible, we recommend that you change all the locks on the property (if this was not previously completed). This ensures that you are the only people with access to the property.
If you haven’t already set up utilities, then connect your water, gas, electricity, and Wi-Fi. Typically, we suggest that you complete this prior to closing to ensure you have service by the time you close to avoid any periods of no service.
If this is your primary residence, then apply for the homestead property tax exemption and any other exemptions that you qualify for. You can usually find the forms on the county website where the property is located. Confirm that all change of ownership documents with the county appraisal districts are updated to reflect your information.
Lastly, make an electronic copy of your closing documents and store the copy you receive from closing in a safe place.