How Long Does Closing On A House Take? What New Homeowners Need To Know
Miranda Crace8-Minute Read
January 07, 2022
Buying a house can be a long process. From house hunting to getting a mortgage and having an offer accepted, it can take several months until you get the keys to your new home. Once closing day is in sight, you may feel like you’re in the home stretch.
The closing itself, though, can also be a tense process. Something can go wrong and delay you holding those keys in your hand.
In this article, we’ll take you through the closing process, what to expect on closing day and what you can do to keep things on track.
What Is A Closing Date?
The closing date is when the house closing process wraps and you become the owner of your new home. The closing process typically has two parts:
- Finalizing details on your loan
- Finalizing details on your home
When you close on your loan, it becomes final and the money is disbursed. When you close on your home, you become its legal owner. These two events usually happen at the same time. So, on your closing date, your mortgage loan becomes final and you get the keys to your new home.
How Long Does It Take To Close On A House?
The entire process of closing on a home requires some patience. Ellie Mae, a technology company that provides support to mortgage lenders, reports that in June 2021 the average time to close on a home purchase was 51 days. However, a smooth closing process can be as short as 30 days.
When you’re waiting to move into your dream home, even a month can feel like a very long time, especially if you’ve been searching for a while.
How To Prepare For Closing
You’re in the homestretch of buying a home, you should make sure you’re ready for the closing so things can go as smoothly as possible. To prepare:
- Know when and where your closing is set to take place. You’ll also want to note who is in charge of your closing: a title agent, closing attorney, escrow agent or someone else.
- Make a list of what you need to bring to your closing. This may include ID, proof of a wire transfer or a cashier’s check for the money needed to close, your Closing Disclosure and other important documents. The person in charge of your closing can provide you with a full list.
- Confirm the final amount you’ll need to pay at closing. You’ll find this detail on your Closing Disclosure.
- Review documents and compare your Closing Disclosure to your Loan Estimate. Make sure that your loan details are correct and that you understand all the fees.
If you have any questions that come up while you’re reviewing the documents, ask about these quickly. You don’t want to leave unresolved questions for closing day.
Who Attends A Closing?
Who attends your closing depends on state law and who is required to be involved in the legal transfer of homeownership from seller to buyer.
The buyer will always attend the closing. The seller may attend, but since sellers are often allowed to sign their necessary documents ahead of time, they might decide to skip this final step in the home selling process.
If you’re purchasing your home with a mortgage, your closing will likely involve a representative from your title insurance company who will handle the closing and escrow disbursement.
However, as we’ve already mentioned, this will largely depend on the state you live in and the circumstances of your transaction.
How Long Does Closing Day Take?
Closing day is the end of your home buying process, and arguably the most important part of it.
On closing day, you’ll:
- Receive your closing documents: There’s a lot of paperwork, so come prepared to keep it organized.
- Transfer money: You’ll need to pay your down payment as well as any closing costs. Your lender will pay the mortgage loan (the amount you’re borrowing), and the seller will receive their money. A closing agent will make sure that money is sent where it needs to go.
- Show proof of insurance: Before the lender agrees to fund the loan, they’ll want to see proof of homeowners insurance.
- Have an escrow account set up: You’ll also make your initial deposit into the account.
- Get ownership of the home: Once the money has been transferred and forms have been signed, you become the legal owner of the home.
So how long does closing take when you reach closing day? That can depend on how long the paperwork all takes to get signed.
How Long Does It Take To Sign Closing Papers?
At least 3 days before you close, you’ll receive a Closing Disclosure. The Closing Disclosure includes your detailed loan information, which you’ll want to compare with your Loan Estimate to make sure everything looks correct.
It also includes items like your loan amount, interest rate, services you’re paying for and buyer-specific closing costs.
If something looks incorrect, it’s important to ask about it before getting to your closing. If you need help making sense of it, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has a Closing Disclosure guide that can help.
The remainder of the documents will be reviewed and signed during closing. These documents are:
- Promissory note: Also known as a mortgage note, it is the legal document that contains all the terms of the agreement between the parties to the mortgage.
- Mortgage, security interest or deed of trust: This document gives the lender the right to foreclose on your property if you don’t pay the loan as agreed.
- Initial escrow disclosure: This form breaks down your monthly escrow.
- Right to cancel: You’ll only see this form if you’re refinancing. It details the rules for the 3-day cancellation period you’re entitled to after you sign your refinancing documents.
The signing process may happen in person, where everyone signs the documents, which could take anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours. In general, it takes less time for the seller to sign closing documents than the buyer.
No matter where you close, you’ll need to carefully review the documents and sign them, as well as transfer the remaining money you owe (usually by wire transfer or cashier’s check).
Can You Move Into A House The Day Of Closing?
If you’re hoping to leave your closing with keys in hand and move right into your new home, that can happen. However, it depends on the terms you negotiated with the seller.
The seller may have asked for – or you may have offered – to give them a few days to move out of the house once the closing was completed, or you may have negotiated to lease the house back to them for a certain amount of time.
Absent those conditions, you can likely bring your moving truck over to start getting settled.
What Happens After Closing?
After closing is completed, it’s a good idea to take that big stack of documents you just signed, make copies and store them in a secure spot. You may need these again in the future.
You may also consider getting the locks changed, to ensure that there aren’t any keys to your new home floating around in the pockets of strangers.
Then, you can begin the somewhat tedious process of making your move official by alerting all the necessary authorities and companies of your change of address, starting with the U.S. Postal Service.
Common Closing Mistakes To Avoid
Even at the very end of the process, a closing can still go awry. Some closing delays are unavoidable. Maybe there’s a cloud or outstanding lien on the title that’s taking a while to clear up, or the appraisal came in low and now the two parties can’t come to an agreement on price. These problems are out of the buyer’s control, but will likely be resolved through the conveyance process.
However, there are some things buyers can do to make sure they aren’t unnecessarily holding up the closing process.
Make sure you’re providing all requested documentation in a timely manner. Financing issues can jeopardize your transaction, so being communicative with your lender and sending the information they ask for as soon as possible is vital for keeping the process on track.
You should avoid making any big changes to your financial situation while you’re in the middle of the mortgage approval process. Putting large purchases on your credit card, applying for new credit or changing jobs can affect the terms of your mortgage or even prevent a lender from being able to move forward with your loan.
We know it’s tempting to go on a big furniture shopping spree in preparation of moving into your new home, but you should hold off until after closing.
Finally, don’t be afraid to check in regularly with the professionals you’re working with to make sure everything is moving forward smoothly. You don’t want a missed email or forgotten deadline on someone else’s behalf to hold up your closing.
What Does The Seller Need To Do For Closing?
The closing process is typically a little less involved for sellers than it is for buyers, but sellers should still make sure they’re staying on top of deadlines and meeting their contractual obligations ahead of closing. There will also be seller closing costs to keep in mind.
If any repairs were negotiated in the purchase contract, the seller should ensure that those are completed prior to the buyer’s final walkthrough. Any other contract stipulations that the seller is responsible for should be satisfied as well, such as coordinating with the buyer’s side to get a home inspection or appraisal completed.
If you’re able to do so, you may choose to sign the necessary documents ahead of time, eliminating the need to be physically present at the closing.
If you do attend closing, be sure to bring things like house keys, garage door openers or keypad codes to give to the new owner. If you’re unsure about what else you might need, your real estate agent can give you more detailed information.
Finally, once you step out of your home for the last time, make sure you’ve left it “broom clean” for the new owners. That means the home is free of clutter and has been swept, vacuumed and left reasonably clean – no need for scrubbing or professionals (unless stipulated in your contract).
The Bottom Line
Closing day is a big day – the culmination of your home buying journey. Though you may be anxious to get your keys and open the doors to your new home, don’t let details slip past you as you reach the end.
Take your time, go through each document in detail and don’t hesitate to talk to your real estate agent if you have questions or concerns. Checking all your documents thoroughly can help you avoid potentially costly mistakes. It’s worth the wait to have everything in order.
Struggling to find a home? Learn how to get your offer accepted in a seller’s market.
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