I am selling my house. Do I need to come to the closing?

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. 

Wray Harrison

Harrison & Devins, PA

Recorded Document Scam

Wray Harrison, Attorney

Whenever you purchase real property or even refinance it, that transaction becomes part of the public record. Documents conveying interests in real property transactions are recorded after closing at the appropriate County Register of Deeds office.

Unfortunately, there is always someone trying to take advantage of public information. A common scam is a letter or postcard you may receive a few days after closing. It is marked “URGENT” or “IMPORTANT” and it makes a general statement that documents have recently been recorded in your name. It also states that this may be your last chance or opportunity to get a “copy of your recorded documents” for a small fee of anywhere from $79.00 to $149.00.

Do not fall for this. In fact, if you receive one of these notices, please report it immediately to the Consumer Protection Division of the NC Attorney General’s office. It is an unfair and deceptive trade practice. Here is why. Your recorded documents are public information (that is how this deceptive company got the information in the first place); and you can obtain a copy of any recorded documents for free. Just go to your County’s Register of Deeds website and search under your name; then click on your recorded documents and print them. It’s free. You can search your neighbors or your friends – anyone you want, it is all public information. This form of document retrieval is utilized for free every day by abstractors and attorney offices when they are performing their title searches. If you need any assistance in finding your recorded documents online or navigating the website, just contact your local Register of Deeds office and they will be happy to assist you.

Wray Harrison

Harrison & Devins, PA

Will I get my keys at my real estate closing?

Wray Harrison, Attorney

The short answer to this common question is: “It depends.”  North Carolina law provides that a listing agent (the realtor for the seller) can refrain from delivering to the buyer the keys to the property until the conveyance deed has been recorded.  Whether the realtor holds the keys until recordation or delivers them at closing to the buyers is usually decided by that realtor’s brokerage firm as a company policy.

What does this mean?  Well, it usually means, the closing attorney gets a call next that goes like this:  “When will the deed be recorded?  We need to know! Buyer’s moving truck needs to be scheduled for arrival at the property tomorrow!”  This is a particularly difficult call to field, because even though at Harrison & Devins, P.A., we strive to get the deed recorded at the Register of Deeds at the earliest possible time, there are many variables at play that are not in the closing attorney’s control.  For example, before the deed is recorded, the closing office must, by law, receive the buyer’s certified loan funds (usually a wire) from the buyer’s lender.  Also, the buyer’s lender may require a review of documentation called “funding conditions” after all closing documents have been signed.  Sometimes even if the closing attorney sends the signed funding conditions to the lender immediately after closing, the lender may take an hour or two in the review process.  Also, many lenders have no control as to when their wires go out.  Both the funding conditions must be cleared and the wire received before the deed may be recorded.  These are only a few of the reasons why it is difficult for a closing attorney to pin down exactly what time the deed will be recorded.

So what can you do as a buyer or buyer’s agent to prevent this stress over keys?  Find out early from the listing agent what the policy is going to be on delivery of the keys.  If the keys are going to be held until the deed is recorded, a great deal of stress can be removed by scheduling the movers and other possessory activities of the buyer (like cable or utility setups) to all occur the next day.

Wray Harrison

Harrison & Devins, PA