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You’re about to close on the sale of your home—congratulations! Now that you’re embarking on this final chapter, it’s time to get familiar with the people who are going to be involved with the closing of your deal.
Something to keep in mind: this collection of folks varies from state to state. In addition, it will also vary depending on your individual transaction. With that in mind, let’s look at the people who could potentially be part of your home sale’s grand finale:
The buyer of your house
Without this person, you would not have a sale at all. At closing, a buyer is responsible for signing major documents including:
- The deed (transferring the property from seller to buyer)
- The bill of sale (list of property to be transferred)
- Affidavit of title (confirms property ownership and confirms any known title defects)
Transfer tax declarations (disclosure of purchase price and calculation of tax).
The buyer typically pays closing costs between 2% and 5% of the total home sale, and these include attorney fees, credit report fees, inspection fees, loan origination fees, survey fees, escrow deposits, and underwriting fees.
Seller of the house (but only sometimes!)
That’s you! According to Christy Friesen, a top-selling real estate agent in Wichita, Kansas, some sellers need not attend the closing depending on state and circumstance, and thus pre-sign documents including the:
- Certificate of title (saying you have the right to sell the property)
- Deed of sale (described above)
- Loan payoff (amount still owed at closing)
- Statement of closing costs (proof that you know of these ahead of time)
- Statement of information (establishing your identity for the title firm).
As for closing costs, you will get away easier than your buyer, but will still be on the hook to pay fees including title insurance premiums, transfer taxes and recording fees, prorated taxes and HOA dues, and home warranty premiums.
While a buyer’s agent is not required to physically attend the closing, he or she will at the very least work with the buyer when signing all documentation. The buyer’s agent will be able to answer any questions they have and allay any worries that may arise.
Prior to the actual closing meeting, a buyer’s agent is responsible for preparing the proper paperwork, including helping their client complete the loan package to wrap up financing in advance of the official close of sale.
Seller’s real estate attorney
One-quarter of home sales are delayed due to unforeseen obstacles. That’s where a real estate attorney comes in—organizing the deal and standing at the ready to tackle any contractual dispute or legal issues that may come up.
Additionally, a real estate attorney drafts and reviews each document line by line for accuracy. He or she will clear the title of liens and judgements, back your agent in negotiations, go over escrow documents with a fine-tooth comb, and review any fees that are incurred.
The title company wears many hats throughout your home sale: issuing insurance, overseeing escrow, and serving as closing agents.
Specifically, the title company performs a title search on your house (more important than it may seem as these issues delay more than one-tenth of home sales), issues a policy to your buyers, makes sure the title passes properly from seller to buyer, and oversees all title-related aspects of closing.
Title insurance agent
Shore Title, a New Jersey-based title insurance provider for more than 30 years, outlines the role of the title insurance agent in the closing process. The title insurance agent will begin to prepare for your closing soon after the contract is signed by requesting payoff information for existing mortgages along with information on homeowners association fees and/or transfer fees.
The agent also works with the lender of the new mortgage obtained to purchase the property to make sure that all requirements are met. Once the title search has been performed and title commitment issued to document all problems, the agent schedules a closing meeting with all concerned parties.
At that meeting, the closing documents are explained and signed by all parties. Afterward, the courthouse receives the original deed and mortgage, while the lender gets the loan package.
Buyer’s real estate attorney
Rincker Law, a New York- and Illinois-based firm lauded for its detail-oriented, professional approach, lays out the role of the buyer’s real estate attorney at closing to:
- Communicate with the broker
- Advise their client on tax consequences of the purchase
- Review, draft, and negotiate the sale
- Help their client get financing
- Order and review a title search
- Figure out zoning concerns
- Make sure warranties are upheld
- Attend the closing to make sure the documentation is accurate
Seller’s real estate agent
Your agent is tasked with facilitating the closing process and making sure that both parties have taken care of unfinished business—sometimes including pre-signing documentation—before coming to the table at closing.
Prior to that date, agents are responsible for coordinating a variety of details: title and hazard insurance, repairs and property condition checks, the seller’s closing statement, which will then be reviewed by both parties.
As the buyer’s main point of contact during the loan origination, this person is key to the closing process, which culminates when financing is complete.
The mortgage professional is responsible for examining the buyer’s submitted documentation and deciding whether to approve or deny the home loan. The mortgage process itself takes an estimated three months, during which the borrower submits his or her information and application, which is then reviewed, and all parties review and sign the documentation.
The mortgage professional kicks off the process by helping the borrower gather all documentation including pay stubs, bank statements, and any other pertinent financial information. When the closing rolls around, several important documents will be signed: the commitment stating loan terms, the appraisal, the promissory note, and the mortgage documentation itself.
Closing the deal: A formality after checking all the right boxes
By the time the actual closing on your house rolls around, most of the work has already been done prior to the closing meeting itself, including the paperwork prepared by closing agents, title companies, mortgage professionals, and attorneys. That is not to say that all those people will actually attend the closing itself.
“At the actual closing … the only ones physically present are usually myself, the buyer and seller, title officer, and (sometimes) the lender will come too,” Friesen said. “Sometimes the lender doesn’t come at all and I answer any questions. It just kind of depends.”
These meetings typically will not last more than an hour, she said. “Once the buyer or seller has signed the documents and the seller has done the same, the paperwork has to be submitted.”
Additionally, as a Realtor who represents many out-of-state buyers, Friesen is accustomed to closings where that seller does not make an appearance. “We handle it,” she said. “The title officer will send documents in the mail.”
When asked about how the role of technology has changed the face of these closing meetings, Friesen laughed. “The only person (technology) is really cutting out is the mailman,” she said. “For a long time they send documents in a FedEx package or a UPS package, overnight it after going back to the notary.
“Now they can do some things electronically—but they still have to send the package out. Even as technology (evolves), some of our laws are still ancient. You can sign a contract electronically and they can trace your ISP, but they won’t let you (complete the process online).”
However, as technology does continue to evolve, we can expect to see the closing process itself shift as well. Stay tuned.