Q: The closing on my house is coming up and it’s been a rough road to get here. Now we’re setting up appointments and my broker wants me to close before the buyer closes. This seems very risky to me and I don’t want to close until the buyer has closed. What if I sign everything and the buyer backs out? How do I get my house back?
A: First and foremost, congratulations on (almost) selling your house. Second, I’m sorry it’s been a tough process. Selling your house can be painful and if things become contentious between the parties, trust can be lost. So, I understand your concerns and misgivings, but let me reassure you: You can’t sell your house without both parties signing papers. And while there is the common misconception the order in which the parties sign matters, it doesn’t.
When you go to a real estate closing you are taking the final steps to complete the terms of your signed contract (the purchase agreement). Actually, the word “closing” actually means “a series of events which take place until the deed for the property is transferred into the buyer’s name.” One of those steps is the “signing,” which is often referred to as the “closing.”
The title company’s role (where the closing will take place) is to ensure everyone honors the agreement and serve as a “neutral third party” making sure the closing has been conducted properly. All of that said, the ownership of a property transfers when the signed deed is filed at the county. This happens only after both parties have signed their closing documents, and the money the buyer promised to pay the seller has been delivered in full to the title company. If either one of those items doesn’t happen (i.e. the seller signs their papers but the buyer doesn’t) then the closing doesn’t take place and the deed does not get filed at the county. In other words, if the buyer doesn’t show up or doesn’t bring the money they’ve promised to pay, then the deed doesn’t get recorded and you haven’t sold your house.
You see, while you might not trust the buyer right now, the worst thing that could happen is you spend half an hour signing papers and still own your house at the end of it. While that would be terrible since after all of this you’d rather not go back on the market, there is no risk of “selling” your house unless the buyer completes their part of the agreement.
So, go to closing. Don’t play an unnecessary game of chicken, which could spark a problem that doesn’t exist. And congratulations.
Talia Freedman is the owner of Talia Freedman and Co.