The closing date is set during the negotiation phase, and is usually several weeks after the offer is formally accepted. On the closing date, the ownership of the property is transferred to the buyer. In most jurisdictions, ownership is officially transferred when a deed from the seller is delivered to the buyer. Lenders providing a mortgage loan will often require title service, including title search and title insurance, appraisal, land survey, and attorneys to be involved.
Several things happen during closing:
- The buyer and/or his/her lender delivers a cheque (generally in the US, a cashier’s check or wire transfer) for the balance owed on the purchase price.
- The seller signs the deed over to the buyer and gives it to the buyer. A recorder’s office, which would record the deed, commonly requires the seller’s signature to be notarized. If applicable, a mortgage will also be recorded. In jurisdictions that use the Torrens title system, such as New Zealand and Australia, this step involves the lodging of a transfer instrument with the relevant Registrar.
- Commonly, the seller delivers possession to the buyer, typically by giving the buyer keys for any buildings or apartment. Unless otherwise specified in the real estate contract, delivery of possession should be at the closing.
- A title company, lawyer, notary, or the buyer registers the new deed with the local land registry office or recorder’s office. A declaration or statement by the buyer or seller regarding the purchase price may have to be filed with the government. Conveyancing taxes and recorder’s fee will typically have to be paid, which are part of the closing costs.
- The seller receives a cheque or bank transfer for the proceeds of the sale, less closing costs and mortgage payouts.
- From the funds allotted for closing costs, prepayments for real estate taxes and insurance may be required, and fees charged by other parties may be paid, such as real estate brokers/agents, title companies, lawyers, etc.
It is common for a transaction to close on one day but possession of the home occurs at a later date. The buyer rents the house back to the seller during the interim period. If the clause in the contract is worded improperly, the buyer is liable for damage done by the ‘tenant.’ As a rule, addendum and creative clauses should be reviewed by a real estate attorney to insure compliance with local law and protection for all parties.
In some cases, closing in escrow may occur. In this process, a title company or other trusted party holds the money and the signed deed, and arranges for the transfer. This is primarily so that the seller can give up ownership of the property, and the buyer can hand over the payment, without both parties having to be present at the closing at the same time. Escrow ensures an orderly transaction, or if something goes wrong, an orderly termination of the agreement.
In other cases, a process called settlement takes place on a specified date and time during which all parties (usually including the agents involved) meet at a settlement company, and which is presided over or supervised by a lawyer or settlement agent. At that time, the settlement agent disburses all funds listed on the settlement statement (in form of certified or wired funds) and the property conveyance takes place, and the deed is then recorded by the settlement company.
A reference to completion is in effect the same as closing and takes its name from the contract to convey property having been completed once the balance owed on the purchase price has been paid to the seller and title transferred to the buyer.