When you’re a first-time home buyer approaching the finish line in the journey to your new home, you want nothingÂ to go wrong, right?
Thatâs why weâve put together a home closing checklist, which outlines your action points in those few days leading up to settlement. Keep this closing process list handy to know you’ve done what you need to in order to close the deal.
1. Get all contingencies squared away
Most purchase agreements haveÂ contingenciesâthings that buyers must doÂ before the real estate transaction is official, explainsÂ Jimmy Branham, a Coral Springs, FL, real estate agent at the Keyes Company. These are the most common contingencies that are part of your new home closing process:
- Home inspection contingency: This gives buyers the right to have the home professionally inspected. If something is wrong, you can request that it be fixedâor you can back out of the sale. Itâs rarely advisable to waive an inspection contingency. Although the averageÂ home inspection costsÂ $300 to $500, itâs a drop in the bucket considering the costly home issues you might uncover, saysÂ Claude McGavic, executive director of the National Association of Home Inspectors.
- Appraisal contingency:Â With this contingency, a third party hired by your mortgage lender evaluates the fair market value of the home. If the appraised value is less than the sale price, the contingency enables you to back out of the deal without forfeiting yourÂ earnest money deposit, saysÂ Bishoi Nageh, president of the Petra Cephas Team at Mortgage Network Solutions, in Somerset, NJ.
- Financing contingency:Â This contingency gives you the right to back out of the deal if yourÂ mortgage approval falls through. You have a specified time period, as stated in the sales contract, during which you have to obtain a loan that will cover the mortgage.
2. Clear the title
When you buy a home, you âtake titleâ to the property and establish legal ownershipâa process thatâs confirmed by local public land records. As part of the closing process, your mortgage lender will require a title search, and you’ll need to purchase title insurance to protect you from legal claims to the house.
Sometimes distant relativesâor an ex-spouseâmay surface with a claim that they actually own the home, and that the seller had no right to sell it to you in the first place. But clearing title will ensure this doesnât happen, saysÂ Marc Israel, president and chief counsel of MiT National Land Services, a title company in New York City.
As the home buyer of this piece of real estate, youâre entitled to choose the title company. You can get recommendations from your real estate agent, mortgage lender, and friendsâjust be sure to check out the license and reputation of each company online.
3. Get final mortgage approval
You’ve made that down payment, but before you can go to the closing table, yourÂ home loan must go through the underwriting process. Underwriters are like real estate detectivesâitâs their job to make sure you’ve represented yourself and your finances truthfully, and that you havenât made any false or misleading claims on your loan application.
The underwriterâemployed by your mortgage companyâwill check your credit score, review your home appraisal, and ensure that your financial portfolio has remained the same since you were pre-approved for the loan.
Since underwriting typically happens shortly before closing, you donât want to do anything while youâre in contract thatâs going toÂ hurt your credit score. That includes making a down payment on a car, boat, or similar large purchase that has to be financed.
4. Review your closing disclosure
If you’re getting a loan, one of the best ways to prepare is to thoroughly review yourÂ closing disclosure, also known as a HUD-1 settlement statement.
This official document outlines your exact mortgage payments, the loanâs terms (e.g., the interest rate and duration), and additional fees youâll pay, called closing costs (which account for anywhere from 2% to 7% of your homeâs price).
Youâll want to compare your closing disclosure to the loan estimate your lender gave you at the outset. If you spot any discrepancies, ask your lender to explain them.
5. Do a final walk-through
Most sales contracts allow buyers to do aÂ walk-through of the homeÂ within 24 hours before closing. During this stage, you’re making sure the previous owner has vacated (unless youâve allowed aÂ rent-back arrangementÂ in which they can stick around for a period of time before moving).
Youâre also double-checking that the home is in the condition agreed upon in the contract. If your home inspection revealed problems that the sellers had agreed to fix, youâll want to make sure those repairs were made.
6. Bring the necessary documentation to closing
Make sure you have the following items when you head to the closing table:
- Proof ofÂ homeowners insurance
- A copy of your contract with the seller
- Your home inspection reports
- Any paperwork the bank required to approve your loan
- A government-issued photo ID (Note to newlyweds who just changed their name: The ID needs to match the name that will appear on the propertyâs title and mortgage.)
Plan to sign a ton of paperwork. An attorney or settlement agent will guide you through the process. When youâre done, youâll collect the keys, and you’re finally home free!
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