If you’re a first-time home seller, the closing process may seem overwhelming. You just want to sell your home quickly, but there’s a long list of steps to take (and expenses to incur) before the deal is official.
If you know what to expect, you can close the sale of your home in a timely manner with as few surprises as possible. Here’s what you need to know about the home closing process, from start to finish.
In this article, we’ll cover the following topics:
- What is a home closing?
- What are the steps within the closing process?
- What should you bring on the closing date?
- How long does the closing process take?
- What are the seller’s responsibilities during a home closing?
- What are the buyer’s responsibilities?
- How much are closing costs?
What is closing of a house?
Closing is the phase in the home selling process when money and documents are transferred in order to transfer ownership of the property to the buyer.
The closing date is the date ownership of the property is officially transferred from the seller to the buyer; it’s an exciting moment. The home closing process is all of the steps that are outlined in the sale contract that must happen from the time you accept the buyer’s offer to the closing date.
What are the steps to closing on a house?
You’ve finished negotiations and accepted an offer from a buyer. Congratulations! Now, there are a few things to take care of:
Do a title search and obtain title insurance
Your closing agent will order a title search, which is a review of public records to make sure you’re the legal owner of your property. If there are any claims or judgments against the property, the title search should uncover them. These issues must be resolved for the sale to move forward.
Unlike homeowners insurance which helps protect against future events like a fire, title insurance helps protect against past events affecting your home. For example, if you later found out the home you purchased has a lien for unpaid bills, title insurance would typically have you covered.
→ Want to get a competitive cash offer and choose your close date? Learn how selling to Opendoor works.
There are generally two types of title insurance in a home sale: a policy for the new owner and a policy for the lender. The party responsible for paying each policy varies by state and even county, according to Bankrate. In some cases, buyers and sellers can haggle over who pays each cost.
Complete the home inspection
A home inspection isn’t required, but many buyers insist on it to ensure there are no hidden problems with the property. The inspection will take place shortly after you accept the buyer’s offer.
If your home is in need of any repairs, let your agent know if you haven’t already done so. They may recommend that you make these repairs before the home inspection to avoid any potential issues.
An inspection will typically examine the safety, functionality, and quality of the home’s features. Here are some of the most common items our home assessment team looks for.
Depending on the contingencies outlined in the sale contract, the buyer can ask you to remedy any major repairs before closing or ask for a price reduction to cover the costs of making the repairs. When you sell to Opendoor, you can choose to skip the work and have us handle any repairs after you move out. We’ll ask for a credit to cover the costs, which are often lower than engaging repair vendors yourself because we can pass wholesale savings on to you. Alternatively, you can choose to do the repairs yourself and send us photos and documentation after they are complete. Learn more about how our home assessment and repair process works.
Don’t forget lender appraisal
If the buyer is borrowing money for the purchase, the mortgage lender will arrange for a professional appraisal. This is done so the lender can be confident that the amount of money it’s lending to the buyer is in line with the market value of the home in case the lender needs to repossess the house. The appraisal is based on the estimated value of the home’s individual features, as well as comparable homes that have sold recently nearby.
If your home appraises below the sale price, lenders are unlikely to approve a loan to the buyer for that amount. If this happens, you will either have to ask the buyer to make up the difference, lower the sale price, or challenge the appraisal. Your agent or attorney can guide you through this process. One of the advantages of selling to Opendoor is you don’t have to worry about a buyer qualifying for financing; you get the certainty of a competitive, all-cash offer.
The final walk-through typically occurs 24 hours before closing. The buyer and their agent will walk through the property one last time to make sure everything is in order.
They will check that all required repairs have been made, that the property is clean and damage-free, and that all of your possessions have been removed unless you’ve arranged for certain items to stay. If the buyer discovers anything problematic, you’ll need to address it or the closing might be delayed.
Finalizing the sale on the closing date
The closing date is when the sale transaction is officially completed. You will sign a lot of paperwork, including signing the deed to the property over to the buyer. Don’t be afraid to ask your attorney or escrow agent about any documents you don’t understand. You have the right to know what you’re signing.
The closing will take place at the office of your escrow agent, title agent, or attorney. Depending on your state, you might not be required to attend the closing. Ask your real estate agent or attorney if your attendance is mandatory, or if you may sign the paperwork ahead of time. If so, your agent or attorney will provide it at the closing.
Once all paperwork has been signed and funds have been disbursed, the buyer is officially the new owner of the property.
What should you bring on the closing date?
You don’t need to bring much to the closing: usually just a government-issued photo ID, the keys to the property, and any outstanding documents and paperwork your attorney or escrow agent instructs you to bring. These may include documents showing you’ve completed all repairs requested by the buyer.
How long does the closing process take?
The full closing process, from the initial offer acceptance to the closing date, takes an average of 50 days, according to Realtor.com. If you sell to Opendoor, you can close on your timeline, whether it’s 14 days or 60 days.
In a traditional sale, the buyer’s lender will be originating and underwriting the loan. This is a time-consuming process the lender undertakes to determine if the buyer qualifies for the loan. The underwriting process is one of the major things that can delay a closing.
The National Association of Realtors reports that nearly one-third of all closings are delayed, so be prepared for that possibility. Common issues that delay closing beyond buyer financing issues include title issues, home inspection issues, and home appraisal issues.
What are the seller’s responsibilities during closing?
Both parties have obligations to fulfill under the sales contract. During the closing process, you’ll typically be required to:
- Remove all your possessions from the property, unless they’re specified to stay under the contract. Major appliances, for instance, are sometimes negotiated into a deal.
- Make any repairs you have agreed to make.
- Clean the home right before the closing date. A good rule of thumb is to leave it as clean as you’d like to find it if you were the buyer. (Typically required unless the home is sold in as-is condition.)
These items aren’t typically required but they’re either a good idea to consider or a nice gesture for the new owner:
- Notify subscription services, creditors and acquaintances of your new address and set up mail forwarding.
- Collect any manuals and warranties you have for items in the home, such as the HVAC system and any appliances you’re leaving behind. Leave them on the kitchen counter for the buyer, along with any spare keys and garage door openers.
- Shut off water valves to prevent any leaks between the time the buyer takes possession and the time they actually move in.
Some states and municipalities have additional requirements, so check with your real estate agent or attorney. For example, your state may require a septic system inspection, or a smoke and carbon monoxide detector certificate.
What are the buyer’s responsibilities during closing?
During the closing process, buyers are typically required to:
- Make an “earnest money” deposit into an escrow account, where funds allocated for closing costs will be held by a third party until the closing date.
- Provide any documentation and information requested by the lender in the loan underwriting process.
- Obtain homeowners insurance. Many mortgage lenders require evidence of coverage to approve the loan.
- Arrange for utilities to be transferred into their name effective on the closing date.
- Perform a final walk-through.
How much are closing costs – and who pays them?
Closing costs range between 1 percent to 7 percent of the sale price of the home, split between both parties. Home sellers usually pay between 1 percent to 3 percent of the final sale price, according to Realtor.com.
For more in-depth information, read our comprehensive post titled “How much are closing costs”. In this article, you will learn
- what closing costs are
- what types of fees they include
- what fees typically home sellers pay
- what fees home buyers pay
- how you can calculate closing costs.
- The closing process is everything that happens from when you accept an offer until the close date, the date when ownership of the home is officially transferred to the buyer.
- Closing costs can add up to a significant percentage of the sale. Fortunately, many of the costs that you’ll incur as a home seller are deducted from your proceeds from the sale. As long as you have sufficient equity in the home, you likely won’t need to come up with cash out-of-pocket.
- There can be a lot of steps to the closing process, which may take an average of 50 days. Selling to Opendoor gives you control over the timeline. You can also avoid many of the risks of a deal falling through like a buyer not qualifying for financing.
By Paula Pant
This article is meant for informational purposes only and is not intended to be construed as financial, tax, legal, real estate, insurance, or investment advice. Opendoor always encourages you to reach out to an advisor regarding your own situation.