As a home seller or buyer, you’ll explore so many aspects of the real estate process that by the time you arrive at the table to close on that home for sale in Santa Fe, NM, you’ll probably be more than ready to move on with your life. And as your hands are outstretched to give away or receive those keys, the last thing you’ll want to do is worry about details you may have overlooked along the way.
That’s where a solid closing agent — the impartial third party who’s responsible for overseeing the final details of a real estate transaction — comes in. “A good closing agent makes a complicated process look simple,” says Jon Springer, a real estate agent and team leader with the Driven Real Estate Team in Florida.
Here are six things a good closing agent can do to make the process go as smoothly as possible for both the seller and the buyer.
1. Research and finalize all details (and fees!) upfront
When researching a closing agent, make sure you ask how (and when) they handle closing details. “A good closing agent should review the contract with the real estate agent at the very beginning,” says Barbara Stewart, a licensed title agent who regularly handles closings and has worked in the title industry for 18 years. “There are a lot of things that we, as the [closing] agent, need to be asking [real estate agents] upfront, like all possible fees we think could appear on the closing statement.”
Stewart adds that other factors that could trip up the process are agent commissions, home warranties, and issues with the title such as a lien on the property or even other names on the title (it’s more common than you’d think). So making sure all these details are covered from the get-go is crucial for a closing agent.
2. Be quick and efficient, but not rushed
“One of the biggest stumbling blocks for closing agents/title companies is expediency!” notes Jonathan Czarny, a mortgage specialist with Fidelity Funding Mortgage Corp. “Expediency regarding preparation of some detailed and basic items, like confirming the HOA [homeowners’ association] estoppel, if there are any outstanding issues with the HOA, or simply confirming the title has been cleared in the case of a bank-owned REO [real estate owned] property.”
And while it’s important to be quick while covering all bases, a closing agent should always double-check (or triple-check) all paperwork for incorrect information. A speedy compilation is a complete waste of time for all entities involved if it’s riddled with errors — and it could potentially cause you to push back the closing date.
3. Keep all parties in mind
Obviously, the buyer and seller are the biggest priority entities in a home sale. But what many folks don’t know is that the buyer may not actually have much of a say in who is being used as a closing agent on a home sale.
“Nine times out of 10, the seller picks the closing agent,” says Jon Springer.
So as a seller, you’ll want to choose a closing agent who makes all parties’ schedules and needs a priority, including the seller, buyer, agents, mortgage lender, and more. The closing agent should be both comfortable with and good at keeping an efficient and open line of communication among said parties. And as a buyer, the less you have to play middleman (or woman), the better.
4. Create a preliminary settlement statement
“The one thing we hear all the time is, ‘I don’t want any surprises at the closing table!’” Stewart says. “And we don’t want that either. We don’t want to tell you now you have to pay this fee or that fee, that someone else came up on the title — that kind of thing.”
An easy way to make sure there are no surprises on either side of the closing? A preliminary settlement statement, which can be reviewed by all parties ahead of time to ensure nothing is missed.
“And make sure your closing agent prepares this document with exact fees as needed per the new TRID government regulations immediately upon receipt of executed purchase agreement,” advises Czarny.
5. Provide clarity about payment types and timelines
Nowadays, coming to the closing table with the money you need isn’t as simple as sitting down and writing a check. A good closing agent should be able to tell you exactly what’s included closing costs, how it must be delivered (usually via a wire transfer or cashier’s check — a personal check is rarely an option), and what this total includes. Too often, closings get pushed back because the amount on a transfer is wrong, it came through too late, the bank had some internal issue, etc. Make sure you choose a closing agent with a track record of last-minute financial dependability.
6. Be armed with layman’s terms
Having documentation that lays out all the legalities is integral. But a good closing agent will also be able to explain every form and detail in easy-to-understand terms.
Also — and this may sound like a given — make sure the closing agent is ready to hand those keys over on closing day instead of treating it like “preclosing day.” No keys in hand could mean the agent didn’t take care of last-minute requests from the lender, there was an issue with total final fees, or a bevy of other problems. Be certain to talk to your closing agent at least a few days before closing to ensure everything is ready to go.
Has a good closing agent had an impact on your home purchase or sale? Share your experiences in the comments below!