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By John R. Merlino Jr. Esq.
Founding Attorney

Whether you’re buying or selling real estate, closing the transaction is an exciting step toward your next chapter in life. However, after the lengthy process of listing or shopping for property, many people are tempted to rush this phase and may miss important tasks along the way. 

This checklist can help you successfully and smoothly close your real estate transaction while addressing some commonly overlooked details. 

What Happens on Closing Day

On closing day, you will sign papers that officially transfer the ownership from the seller to the buyer. Though each appointment may be a little different, you can generally expect it to look something like this:

  • Signing loan documents, such as the mortgage 
  • Proving that you have homeowners insurance in place
  • Providing remaining funds, usually through a wire or cashier’s check
  • Setting up an escrow account (if required by your mortgage)
  • Getting or handing over the keys to the property

Most closing appointments take between one and two hours, and you can expect to review a lot of legal documentation. Most people choose to work with a real estate attorney during closing to ensure the paperwork aligns with their best interests. 

What You Should Bring on Closing Day

With how much paperwork to go through, it’s easy to forget important documents. However, without these key items, your closing may be delayed:

  • Two forms of identification, including a picture ID and one non-credit card option
  • Funds, usually as a cashier’s check, for the amount on your settlement statement
  • A personal checkbook in case of any last-minute adjustments
  • A copy of your homeowner’s insurance Declaration Page
  • Documents required by your mortgage lender, such as pay stubs or tax returns

Having these items neatly collected in a folder will make the closing process much smoother and faster. 

Real Estate Closing Checklist

In addition to collecting the right documentation, it’s helpful to prepare ahead of time so the closing appointment is less stressful. Using this checklist beforehand can give you peace of mind and help you avoid any delays or mistakes on closing day. 

Perform a Title Search

If a title has a lien or levy against it, the seller may not have the right to transfer ownership of the property. The last thing you want is to purchase a home that creditors could have a legal right to. 

Performing a title search can help you identify any liens or levies, but some titles aren’t very clear-cut. If there are any questions of ownership, work with an attorney to determine what you should do next. Even if the title appears clear, consider investing in title insurance to protect yourself after the sale.

Finalize Your Mortgage

Pre-approval is just the first step when it comes to setting up a mortgage. You will also need to iron out the details with your lender. They may ask for income verification, adjust your loan amount, and finalize interest rates. Taking care of this step ahead of time will make sure your funds are secured before closing. 

Get Homeowners Insurance 

Most lenders require homeowners insurance and you will be asked to show proof of your policy during closing day. Having the documentation at the ready will take one extra step off your plate right before closing day. 

Contact the Closing Agent

Having a conversation with the closing agent before the appointment can be incredibly valuable. You can ask them if there are any specific documents you’ll need or requirements you should know about. 

Why work with a real estate attorney?

While this checklist can help you prepare for a successful closing day, an attorney is also an incredibly valuable ally throughout the process of buying or selling real estate. They can help you prepare for closing, review each document, and help you negotiate when necessary.

At Merlino & Gonzalez, we can help facilitate real estate transactions in Staten Island, NY. From arranging home inspections to searching titles, our experienced attorneys are ready to guide you through each step and ensure you start your next chapter on the right foot.

About the Author
John is a fierce advocate and the office guru for problem-solving and brainstorming. He guides clients through every stage of a real estate transaction from offer to contract, navigating through nerve-shattering home inspection and title clearance concerns, maintaining constant contact with lenders, conducting the actual closing, and continuing to advise clients with regard to any post-closing concerns.  John brings a practical and fair-minded approach to the process which has earned him the respect of his clients and peers.