Maybe it’s not the most fascinating topic of the day. If you’re buying a home, however, and that “time is of the essence” phrase on the purchase agreement is really applied, how easily and quickly your escrow closes is indeed the kind of thing that can keep you up at night. No one likes a long, drawn-out closing process if it can be avoided. So let’s look at what YOU and all parties can do to make this closing thing a piece of cake.
Unless your purchase is a cash transaction, the typical agreement calls for a 30 to 45 day close in which buyers, sellers, and vendors are working tirelessly to execute the terms of the purchase. The reason so many buyer agents put an escrow or transaction coordinator (TC) in charge of this process is simple — having one person there to keep everyone on track is more than a luxury. If closing is to take place on time, it’s a necessity. Once a purchase price is agreed to, and your earnest money deposit has been deposited in the escrow account, the TC will become your best friend. If you make him or her happy, you’re halfway there.
The first thing many agents and homebuilder reps do is to have you and the seller fill out a contact sheet. This sounds like a ridiculously simple task, and it is. But its importance should not be minimized. With all contact info of all parties, escrow is then able to proactively reach out and communicate to everyone and begin gathering all the necessary paperwork and information. This includes information on not only buyer and seller, but also their lenders (if the home is paid off, happy day…). The title company to be used is also listed, plus anyone else vital to the transaction closing.
Of course, the purchase agreement needs to be buttoned up with all the necessary signatures, and escrow will need to contact any homeowner associations (if they exist) that need to be made privy to the transaction. Yes. This part is important. Ask any agent around, and they will tell you that escrow is often not made aware when there is a 2nd HOA, leading to closing delays. The more complete the information is upfront, the better the process will be. In fact, it’s wise to ask your agent for a “road map” for how closing works so that you can gaze at it as each step is completed. It may help you stay sane.
Just because you’re in escrow doesn’t mean it’s time to take that much-needed vacation. There will be time for that after the close of escrow, even if it took you many months traipsing through hundreds of houses to find this one. Finding parties to the agreement for vital information is ten times more difficult when they are floating in a pool somewhere on a tropical island. When escrow calls and emails with a request, jump. You heard that right. The quicker you respond, the more time and energy is saved. Check voicemail, texts, and email regularly during this 30-day process and respond promptly to all vendor requests to ensure an on-time close.
And don’t be afraid to ask questions through the process. Typically, the person in charge of your escrow will move quickly through a lot of their checklist, but they are never too busy to answer questions and explain how and what the documents mean. Escrow also appreciates clear communication on any special requests. Can’t be there for the close and prefer to sign documents in the office with a notary, e-sign on your phone or computer, or have a mobile notary visit your home to sign? These are arrangements that need to be put in place long before the closing date. And if there are other parties to the transaction (like co-signers) the same applies to them.
The lender and escrow will inevitably need to rely on each other for accurate and timely disclosure of all fees, so introduce them right away. The sooner they become household words to one another, the quicker the documents can be produced accurately and made available for review. This shortens wait times and helps avoid unnecessary delays when the deal comes closer to final loan documents, which will begin being referred to as “docs” — not of the medical variety.
Home inspections and final loan approval (any and all conditions placed on your approval must be removed) must be satisfied and signed off on before that magic day happens. So, if you’re in doubt that you are not doing all you can, call your lender, the TC, and even the escrow company to ensure that you are doing all you can to make this happen on time. Be the squeaky wheel, even though you may feel you are surrounded by all manner of experts who reassure you everything is fine. They may have dozens of transactions to be concerned about. You only have one.
Bill Nickerson | NMLS #4194 | 978.273.3227 | Bill@billnickerson.com