How to Avoid Common Pitfalls That Can Derail a Successful Real Estate Closing

The liquidation or acquirement of real estate can be an over-whelming experience to some; however, with the right attorney, a real estate closing can be smooth and seamless. Here are some tips on how to avoid potentially menacing aspects of a real estate closing.

First and foremost, you and your client must choose an attorney that communicates. I have closed hundreds of real estate transactions and I have seen it all. I have witnessed files that collect dust on desks, never to be touched until the day before a scheduled closing. If you or your client are calling the closing attorney’s office for updates on your closing, this may be a bad sign. Lack of communication causes closing delays, and, in some cases, the closing may not even happen at all.


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Once a file is opened at an attorney’s office for a real estate closing, a title commitment is issued outlining the requirements that must be met for a title insurance policy to be issued. Requirements can range from the satisfaction of an unknown mortgage to a quiet title suit. Imagine that a buyer and seller are set to close when they are informed the day before the scheduled closing that a costly title commitment requirement has not been met! That is a scenario that everyone wants to avoid and having an experienced closing attorney is the single best way to do that.


A closing attorney must pay special attention to contract timelines. For example, most residential homes are part of a homeowner’s association, which requires an estoppel to be furnished at closing. An estoppel is a legal document outlining the fees owed to the association and any violations that may exist. When an estoppel is not ordered in a timely manner, the document can age out. If an estoppel is not ordered at all, a “rush” order must be placed which incurs additional fees to the seller. It is very distressing when a violation such as a fence repair or sod installation must be cured before closing and the seller finds out at the last minute. A rushed and anxiety-ridden closing is never a good one!

A municipal lien search is another necessary report for a real estate closing. A municipal lien search uncovers unrecorded liens and open permits. Needless to say, ordering these two items late or too early in the closing continuum can be a headache for all parties involved.


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A personable attorney sets the tone for a real estate closing. A personable attorney makes the parties feel comfortable enough to ask questions that allow the attorney to better serve them. For instance, unbeknownst to a buyer, a realtor may fail to include a spouse’s name on the purchase contract inadvertently excluding the spouse from the deed. The logic behind this is that only the party signing the mortgage note can be on the contract, which is false. Clients have contacted me after a closing that occurred elsewhere needing to add the spouse to the deed. This recording is costly when documentary stamps are involved. I often hear, “I wish someone mentioned this to me at my closing.” I discover that the closing was “in and out” and “no questions were asked by the attorney.” The client felt as though the attorney was too cold or unapproachable. An attorney that can build a rapport creates confidence in clients to explore different scenarios and solutions that may suit them best.


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