The Real Estate Closing

Real estate transactions involve a substantial amount of documentation and paperwork, including a fairly lengthy list of documents that must be signed by one or both of the parties. Once the attorneys and real estate professionals have ensured that all inspections and other due diligence have been completed, it is customary to schedule a time where the parties can get together and execute all the required documents. This is called the “closing.”

While most closings are conducted with both parties present at the same time, there is no legal requirement that this occur. Frequently, the parties will meet at the office of a real estate professional, either an agent or broker, or a title officer. Often, the party handling the closing will shuttle the parties in and out of a conference room, obtaining all required signatures from each party separately. Furthermore, even though the documents will be signed, title won’t technically pass until it is recorded, and the parties can agree to the transfer of possession at any time.

What Documents are Typically Part of a Closing?

You can expect to be asked to review and sign the following documents at a closing:

  • The deed of conveyance—This document legally transfers ownership of real property. The common types of deeds are warranty deeds, grant deeds and quitclaim deeds.
  • The bill of sale—This document identifies what is being transferred, as well as the amount being paid.
  • Any transfer tax declarations—Most municipalities charge a real property transfer tax on the sale of real estate.
  • An affidavit of title—This document warrants that the seller has clear title, or describes any known defects in the title.

As part of a closing, the closing agent will customarily prepare a closing statement. This document outlines how all expenses will be allocated as a part of the sale, including closing costs, taxes, interest points and other amounts.

What is Title Insurance and Why Do You Need It?

A policy of title insurance warrants that the seller of real estate has clear title, or provides compensation to the buyer in the event there are unknown or hidden defects or clouds on the title. Title insurance is typically applied for through the escrow or closing agent.

A policy of title insurance will protect the buyer from all potential contingencies that could compromise free and clear ownership. Some common examples include:

  • Purchasing property from a supposedly single person whose divorce is not yet final
  • Purchasing property from someone who received the real estate under the terms of an invalid will
  • Purchasing property that is subject to a tax lien, a contractor’s lien or child support/spousal support liens

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