Wray Harrison, Attorney
When I started practicing real estate law in 1997, the seller(s) almost always came to closing. In today’s practice, many sellers seek to avoid the closing table for a variety of reasons – including, but not limited to: (1) It is inconvenient for my schedule that day; (2) My realtor says I don’t have to come; (3) There are only a few things to sign anyway, can’t I just swing by one day during lunch and take care of that? (4) I live far away, can’t you just email or courier those documents to me? (5) I don’t really like the buyer(s) so I’d like to avoid seeing them face-to-face… etc.
For me, I have always preferred to have everyone at the table together on the date of closing. The delivery of the keys from seller to buyer is an act that is known in legal terms as “livery of seisin” and is a tradition that dates back to medieval times when a landowner would hand over a piece of the earth to the purchaser to symbolize the transfer of possession. It is a nice custom as well to be able to share with the buyers any last words or advice about the property, such as how to care for it, where the warranties might be located, how to change the garage key code, etc. Ultimately, whether the purchase process has been smooth or tumultuous, the closing serves to provide “closure.”
Beyond this, from a practical standpoint, it is sometimes difficult to make sure that the seller can sign all of their documents in advance. Much depends on the buyer’s lender and the timing of the buyer’s loan closing package reaching the attorney’s office. Many times, sellers sign documents in advance, only to discover that there are several trailing loan documents that have arrived at the attorney’s office later or which have been corrected or changed, and that will also require another original signature. Scheduling a pre-signing with an attorney’s office or with a notary can also be more problematic or time-consuming than if you just came to closing. Some attorney’s offices may also charge more for sellers that come in to sign separately from closing, or for when documents are prepared in advance and couriered.
So should I come to closing, or shouldn’t I? By coming to closing, you are insuring that all documents that you are signing are final and complete. It also gives you a chance to meet the closing attorney and ask about receiving your proceeds or any other legal questions you may have about the transaction. My advice and preference, as you may have guessed, is that if you are seller… just mark the date and time down and come to closing. It’s a nice custom. You can also look the buyer in the eye one more time. It may be your last chance to pat them on the back, or make a comment you’ve wanted to say to them, or to just receive the “closure” you may otherwise need.
Harrison & Devins, PA