12 Steps To The Closing Table and The Big Check For The Real Estate Investor

Okay, so your property is under contract, you’ve pre-qualified your buyer; they are working with the lender and everything is moving right along, right? Not necessarily. There are several steps to a successful closing and we are going to cover those one by one.

Now remember, once you have your dream team in place as a real estate invesotr, you will have the people available who will handle all of the details for you. In the meantime, you still need to know what all the steps are so you know everything gets handled properly.

1. Make sure you get a big enough deposit from your buyer so they have some real dollars invested in the deal. Even if they are going for one hundred percent financing I still get as much as I can in order to secure the deal better. If your buyer puts down a larger deposit they are usually more committed to going through with the closing, so this is a requirement for me. I won’t even consider a deposit less than $1,500.00, but I always try for as much as I can get. The higher dollar the property is, the more deposit I require.

2. Make sure that the lender or the mortgage broker orders credit and an appraisal on the property immediately. Usually, I will not consider a buyer who has not already been pre-qualified, so usually the credit check has already been done. Many lenders will try to wait until they get the contracts and other paperwork in before ordering the appraisal. This is a no-no. If you wait on the appraisal, it can hold up your closing by two to three weeks. Plus, if this buyer doesn’t end up buying the property, the appraisal can be used for the next buyer, but only if you have paid for the appraisal. Most appraisals are good for six months and now you have an appraisal that has already been paid for.

3. Follow up with the loan processor to make sure the appraisal has been ordered and that the other parts of the closing are moving along. Many times your title agent or your Realtor or your sales person will do this for you, after all they want to get paid too. Make sure they have everything they need from the buyer regarding loan documentation.

4. Follow up and make sure that title work has also been started. You want to make sure that everything is done in a timely matter so that there are no holdups when you go to close. Every once in awhile you may discover some small glitch in the title work that needs to be addressed, such as a deed that wasn’t done correctly. There would need to be an additional quit claim deed done to correct the mistake. Make sure the title agent understands the contract paperwork and what entity the funds are to be paid to. You also want to make sure they do the 1099 correctly so the right entity gets taxed. You will also want to provide the title company with a copy of the existing title policy. This means that they will be able to come forward from the date of your policy which takes less time and this may make the title search cheaper. Make sure the title agent understands who is going to pay for what regarding closing costs.

5. Call the loan processor to make sure the property appraised for at least the amount of the contract. Make sure your buyer has ordered a termite inspection, a survey, a radon inspection or whatever else is required by the lender in order to close. Is there anything you can do to move things along? If you have a copy of a fairly recent survey, you can provide a copy. This will also save time and move you closer to the closing. Has your buyer’s deposit been credited? Have they gotten the paperwork they need to the lender including employment verification and rental history? These are all things you need to stay on top of.

6. If your buyers are using city or county funds to supplement their loan, there will need to be another inspection done by the city or county. This is a stipulation of their program. Make sure this gets done quickly in order to address any issues that could come up with the inspection. If your buyers are having a home inspection done, make sure it is done right away. Not getting it done in a timely manner can hold up your closing.

7. Does the lender have your information in order to be able to order a payoff on any underlying loans on the property? Have they received the payoff yet and have you reviewed it to make sure it is correct? Don’t just assume that just because they have been given figures that those figures are correct. Make sure they fax you a copy of the payoff for you to review. Double check the per diem amounts and make sure you aren’t being charged a prepayment penalty if there isn’t one due. Make sure the most recent payment has been credited against the amount due. These are problems I have had to deal with. If the loan is with a private lender, sometimes it takes even longer to get a payoff from them. Some of them don’t know how to prepare one, so they need the help of the title company or their real estate attorney for this. This is also the time you might be able to negotiate a discount with them. This works especially well if it was a seller held mortgage. We have gotten private lenders and sellers to negotiate discounts on loans on several occasions which just made our paycheck bigger.

8. Has the buyer’s loan been approved? If not find out what the problem is and how to fix it if it can be fixed. If the loan has been approved find out what the proposed closing date is going to be. Has your buyer ordered insurance yet? You need to check this out and it needs to be done as soon as possible. This is another area where you could have a glitch. Sometimes the age of the property or the location of the property becomes an issue. For example, here in Florida where I live, if there is a hurricane brewing, we end up in a “box” which is a period of time where you can’t buy insurance until a hurricane passes. This can hold up a closing for several days unless the insurance is already in place. A buyer must purchase a homeowners policy for one year and it must pre-paid at closing.

9. If you are selling a condo or a home with a home owners association, make sure the lender and the buyers have a copy of the home owner association rules and documents and that the buyers have set up their appointment for their meeting with the condo association or home owners association. If they are not approved by the condo association or homeowners association, the rest of the closing is a mute point. You need to make sure your buyer’s get through this process successfully.

10. So now we have a set closing date. Make sure you contact the closing agent to make sure you get a copy of the HUD or closing statement before the closing takes place and before you arrive at a closing. Very recently we had a closing that didn’t take place because once we got the HUD all the figures including the asking price and seller assisted closing costs had all been changed. The closing price listed on the HUD was several thousand lower than the contract had called for. I have never seen anything like it and the deal never closed. Check the numbers! If there is a Realtor fee involved make sure the percentages are correct. Check the pro rated amounts you are being charged for property taxes or association fees. When you close on a property during the year, say in June and property taxes are due in October; you have to reimburse the buyer for the property taxes from January until the closing date in June since they didn’t own the property during that time period. The same would go for any association fees there might be. You will have to reimburse the buyer for the period during the month that they did not own the property. Double check to make sure these figure are correct. In my contract, if we are assisting the buyer in any way with closing costs, the buyer can’t walk away from closing with more than five hundred dollars. So this is another figure we check. Any amount over the five hundred dollars is credited back to our side on the closing statement.

11. Call your buyer and make sure they have gotten a cashiers check for any monies they have to bring to closing and make sure they know where it is and what time the closing takes place. Make sure they bring a photo ID with them. The lender will require this. Believe me when I tell you that these are all lessons learned from experience.

12. Now, Show up at the closing and don’t forget to bring the keys or garage door openers. Take several deep breaths and try to relax. Once you get through the closing take another deep breath, call your spouse and go out to dinner to celebrate.

Here is another point for you to consider. In my business, it is rare that I go to closings anymore since the whole closing process is outsourced. The funds from the closing are directly wired to an account for us so we get paid right away. If I do go to a closing, I don’t go at the same time as the buyers. I usually go right after they are done with all their paperwork. The paperwork on a closing for a buyer is fairly time consuming and needs to be explained to the buyer by the title agent. I don’t like sitting at closings for an hour or more until I need to sign my documents. If you have done your due diligence and followed all the steps in the closing process, there isn’t really anything that can go wrong at the last minute, so breath easy but expect the worst.

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