CLOSING REAL ESTATE ON TIME WITHOUT COMPLICATIONS
In addition to the stress involved in the actual house hunting process, there is also the stress associated with closing real estate. To help reduce the level of frustration, I’ve provided some tips and information.
To begin with, once a contract has been signed to buy a house, now the settlement portion (also known as the closing) starts. This settlement, or closing escrow, is when the title of ownership is transferred from the seller to the buyer.
However, before you can go into the settlement process a few things need to take place.
In order to close a house you must first secure financing, which means taking out a mortgage loan. The lender will require specific financial information such as a credit report, proof of income, current expenses, current appraisal, property survey, and in some cases, an inspection to check for termites, radon gas, etc. Because of competition among lenders, approval should not take more than a few days.
You will be required to purchase hazard insurance or what’s called homeowners insurance, which protects the lender should anything happen to the house such as fire, flooding (which requires a special policy), or some other type of disaster as covered by the policy.
Choosing a Settlement Agent (Title Company)
As soon as possible, you will need to find an experienced and reputable settlement agent. Make sure you obtain all settlement costs and associated fees. If you feel more comfortable in having an attorney get involved with the settlement phase, you should do so one to two months in advance since they will also need time to look at the property and review all documentation.
The settlement agent will require information from both buyer and seller. You will need to include a copy of the contract and the names and contact information of any other parties involved in the sale or purchase of the house. In addition, you will need to provide the settlement agent with a paid receipt showing you have secured a minimum one-year hazard or homeowner policy.
It is your responsibility as the buyer to stay in contact with the settlement agent and make sure they order specific things such as a property survey, title insurance, title examination or search (to ensure there are no other liens on the property), and a payoff notice of the seller’s mortgage. You should also consider purchasing homeowner’s title insurance. In addition, it’s important to confirm that the seller has conducted any required inspections (termite, structure, etc.).
It is recommended that you set some basic minimum standards as to what condition you expect of the property the day you move in. For instance the seller or the neighbors could start using the back yard as a trash dump. You may also want to include some statements in your offer like the roof doesn’t leak, there are no broken or cracked windows, sump pumps are in working order, there are no plumbing leaks, and the yard has been kept up.
Within a couple of days before the settlement, you should receive an estimate summarizing all settlement costs to include pro-rated homeowner dues, utilities, etc. To help the process move along smooth and quickly, it’s a good idea to request copies of the basic settlement forms a few days before the actual settlement since there is usually a lot of information to read through and this provides you a good opportunity to thoroughly read everything and come prepared with questions.
Prior to the settlement being finalized, you will need to do a walk-through inspection of the property with a licensed inspector, to ensure there are no major problems. If there are problems found, you will need to notify the seller immediately.
In addition to a loan commitment letter, you will also be required to bring with you to the settlement a certified or cashier’s check for the down payment plus any other costs due as outlined to you relating to the settlement. These extra costs might include escrow for property taxes and insurance, recording fees, first payment due, etc. It’s probably also a good idea to bring your personal checkbook or extra cash with you just in case there are any other fees that come up that you weren’t aware of.
The settlement agent is responsible for explaining everything to you in detail. They should also double check all figures to ensure there are no errors.
If everything checks out, you will do a final review of the documents, sign the documents, and pay the money. Once that’s done, the settlement is complete and the keys to the property are handed over to you. Finally, you will receive a copy of the recorded deed and title insurance policy, if purchased.
If for any reason, you are unable to attend the settlement in person, be sure to notify the settlement agent in advance, so a Power of Attorney can be prepared.
Now the only thing left to do is move and enjoy your new home!
If you have any questions or we can be of any help with your real estate purchase or sale, please do not hesitate to call us at (586) 439-0400 or visit our page of professional agents.
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