Selling your home can be an emotional process and the closing is one of the most crucial parts of the transaction. Therefore, it’s important to know what to expect, so you don’t get blindsided or overwhelmed. Here is a guide to the house closing process for sellers specifically.
What Is A Closing?
The closing refers to the phase in the selling process when documents are signed, and money is exchanged. It’s also when the ownership of the property is transferred from you to the buyer and the keys are handed over.
The entire closing process could last several weeks. There are several tasks that both buyers and sellers, as well as their representation (broker’s, attorneys, etc.), must complete between the time that an offer is accepted, and the contracts are officially signed. The closing date refers to the actual day that the contracts are signed, and the ownership is transferred.
Step-By-Step Guide To The House Closing Process For Seller
The exact timeline of the closing will vary depending on the circumstances. But there are typically a few common stages that you must go through before signing on the dotted line. You won’t necessarily be responsible for initiating each step, but you should be aware of the process, so you know what to expect. These steps include:
- Title Search: First your agent or attorney will conduct a title search to ensure that you are the owner of the property. This will entail cross-referencing public records to verify that everything checks out. A title search will also reveal if there are any outstanding liens or judgments against the property. If so, these must be resolved or brought to the attention of the buyer before the process can proceed.
- Home Inspection: After the title search, the buyer will likely decide to conduct a home inspection. This isn’t mandatory. But, it’s common for buyers to want to verify the condition of the property before the closing. You may have already had a home inspection prior to listing the property to uncover any potential issues, but the buyer will likely want to conduct one for themselves. If there are any serious structural problems uncovered by the inspection, the buyer may decide to rescind their offer. If there are minor issues, you may have to renegotiate the price or have them taken care of before the sale.
- Appraisal: If the buyer is taking out a mortgage to purchase the home, then the lender will require an appraisal. Keep in mind that an appraisal is different than a home inspection. An inspection will examine the structural integrity and function of the home, whereas an appraisal will confirm the value. Lenders often require an appraisal because they want to be sure that the property is worth what they are lending to the borrower.
- Final Walk-Through: About 24 to 48 hours before the closing, the buyer will likely request a final walk-through to review the property one last time before the official closing. If there were any problems uncovered during the inspection that needed to be fixed before closing, this is when they will verify that they’ve been made. They will also check to make sure that all your belongings have been moved out and no additional damage has been done to the home since the inspection.
- Closing Date: Once all the necessary tasks have been handled, it’s time to schedule the closing date. This is when you will sign all the paperwork and transfer ownership to the buyer. The closing will typically take place at the office of your attorney or a title company. In some cases, you may not even be required to attend the closing, if you sign all the paperwork beforehand. Although you may want to be there just to make sure everything is handled properly.
What is the Seller Responsible for at Closing?
The closing is typically much less stressful for the seller than the buyer because there isn’t much to do other than sign the necessary paperwork and bring the keys. Your broker and attorney will brief you on what documents you need to sign and what will be required of you on the actual closing date.
The buyer will typically be responsible for paying most of the closing costs, except for broker commissions. The seller is usually required to foot the bill for both the buyer’s and seller’s brokers (if applicable). This typically equates to between 2-7% of the sales price, depending on how many brokers are involved and the terms of the agreement.
Your lawyer will be responsible for collecting the money from the buyer or the buyer’s lender and making sure the appropriate funds are transferred to the right parties. Of course, you will also be required to pay for your own attorney. Most lawyers collect their fees at closing, but some require a 50% payment in advance.
What Documents Does the Seller Need at Closing?
The seller isn’t required to bring much to the closing if everything has been properly handled. But you’ll want to make sure that you bring at least the following:
- Two forms of government ID
- The deed
- The keys to the property and any security codes
You will also be required to sign any outstanding paperwork needed to complete the sale. The exact paperwork required can vary depending on the details of the transaction and your broker or attorney will let you know what is required. Common paperwork signed by a seller during the closing process includes:
- Settlement statement: This is a document that provides an accounting of all the money required in a transaction. This form is required by law and is needed for your federal income taxes, so it’s crucial to be sure that all the numbers are accurate.
- Certificate of title: This document proves that you have the right to transfer ownership of the property.
- The deed: The instrument transferring the title
- Loan payoff: Document showing how much of your original mortgage you’ll be paying off at closing.
- Bill of sale: A document that itemizes any personal property you agreed to sell to the buyer, such as a couch or outdoor grill.
- Statement of closing costs: A document verifying that you were informed about all the related fees and closing costs beforehand.
Once all the necessary paperwork is signed and the funds have been received, you will give the keys to the buyer and begin the next chapter of your life.
How Long After Closing Is the Seller Paid?
Technically, the money is yours as soon as you sign on the dotted line and transfer ownership to the buyer. But in reality, it typically takes about 1 to 2 business days for the escrow company to issue you a check or wire the money. They have to verify that the funds are legitimate and that any third-party service providers get paid before they can disburse the money to you. In some cases, it may take longer. But if you don’t receive a payment within a week, you should consult your attorney or whoever is in charge of the escrow account to find out why it’s being delayed.
This post also has a more detailed breakdown of how long it takes for the funds to clear.