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How to's and money-saving tips from resident homeowner and mortgage professional, Cathy West

Closing on a home is a crucial step in the home-buying process.

What to expect when closing on a home

Moving into a new home can be exciting. It might be a first home, a fresh start, an upgrade or a downsize. Regardless, changing addresses is the beginning of a new chapter. Despite the excitement of buying a home, closing on one isn't quite as enjoyable of a process, though it is imperative that this process goes smoothly. The National Association of Realtors reported that 31 percent of home sales in August of 2018 were from first-time buyers who have probably never experienced a closing before.

Between price negotiation, home inspections and contract-signing, both parties can get burnt out by the end of the homebuying process. Although buyers are ready to celebrate once they've signed the Purchase and Sale Agreement, their work isn't complete just yet. There are several steps between the contract negotiation process and the first moment new homeowners cross the threshold into their new place. We've compiled a list of what buyers should expect when closing on a house, as well as a checklist of tasks buyers should perform before closing day.

What to expect at the closing:

The audience
Buyers might wonder who exactly is going to be present at a closing. The answer depends on what state the closing takes place in. Often, buyers and sellers will both attend the closing. In other situations, buyers and sellers have separate appointments to sign the papers. It is important to note that the closing agent is not a real estate agent. A closing agent might be a title officer, an attorney, an escrow company officer or another qualified, unbiased third party. Buyers and sellers might also have their real estate agents in attendance. Some states require an attorney, who is not also the closing agent, to be there at closings.

Things buyers can't forget
At a closing, buyers need to have a few belongings in their possession in order to allow the process to go by as quickly and efficiently as possible. They should typically bring:

  • Photo ID in the form of a valid driver's license or passport.
  • Proof of insurance. The closing agent needs proof that the buyers have an insurance policy beginning on the date of the closing. They might also need to bring along a receipt showing that the buyers have paid the policy for a full year.
  • Final purchase and sales agreement. If the buyers' agent comes to the closing, they may bring a copy of this contract.
  • Cashier's check. Personal checks do not suffice in making the down payment and closing costs. The closing agent informs buyers ahead of time to whom the check should be payable. If buyers decide to wire the funds instead, they need to do this ahead of time to make sure the bank approves the payment.

Papers to sign
Buyers dread closing day primarily because of the amount of paperwork they need to sign. According to Zillow, just a handful of the documents homebuyers must sign on closing day include:

  • Closing disclosure.
  • Proration papers.
  • Declaration of Reports.
  • Abstract of Title.
  • Statement of Information.
  • Warranty deed.

The closing can take an hour or two, depending on how quickly the process moves along. Once it's over, buyers can take a deep breath, massage their writing hand, which are cramped from signing too many pages. The next step is to move into their home. However, before this process, the buyers should have completed several tasks to prefer for move-in day.

What to do before closing on a house:

Call a locksmith.
Without a new set of keys and locks, new homeowners will have trouble getting into the house. Even if the sellers seem like trustworthy people, they certainly should not have access to a replica key to their former home. Once buyers know the move-in date, they should schedule a locksmith to install new locks a few days ahead. Booking this professional to arrive on the morning of the move-in day could be cutting it too close, in case the locksmith is running late.

Hire movers.
In addition to scheduling a locksmith, buyers need to hire a moving company as soon as possible. Particularly in the busiest moving months, such as June and September, the highest rated companies book up quickly. If the homebuyers plan on moving their furniture themselves, they should still rent a moving truck immediately. Waiting too long might leave buyers stranded or frantically searching for trucks during the days leading up to the move.

Call the utility companies.
Notifying cable, gas and electric companies approximately a month before the move-in day can give these providers enough notice to switch services to the new address. Unless buyers want to spend the first few nights in their new home by candlelight without electricity, heat or Wi-Fi, they should add this task to their to-do list.

Hire painters and contractors.
Buyers who are planning on hiring painters should do so ahead of time. Until the walls are complete, buyers cannot put their furniture into place, preventing their house from feeling like a home until the painting job is complete. Especially if buyers are moving into a fixer-upper, they should start interviewing general contractors ahead of time. To find a trusted contractor, they might ask friends and neighbors, search online reviews and research their previous work. They should ask for cost estimates ahead of time to plan other budgeting accordingly.

For more information about this article, call 866-614-5959.

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