Home closing timing

This should be prefaced by sharing that the closing process of a home purchase will vary by region and per transaction, so always refer to the purchase agreement for complete details.

It’s Thursday and a buyer is excited about signing their closing documents at 4:00pm today.  The seller will be signing later.  The moving trucks actually ran ahead of time, so they’re already in the neighborhood waiting to unload.  The buyer can hardly stand the excitement, so they tell the movers they should be able to start by about 4:45 or so.

Let’s take a look at what closing is.  It’s a popular belief that “closing” is simply when a buyer or seller signs their set of documents for the process.  That is incorrect.  Closing is a process that includes much more.  It includes both the seller and buyer sides signing their documents (often at different locations and different times), title companies sharing each side’s documents with the other title company, the disbursement of proceeds, and in some areas even the registration of the deed.  The purchase contract and sometimes local protocols will dictate the steps required prior to the buyer taking possession of the property.

As you can see, the home buyer in the above example is in for a big surprise.  The movers most likely will not be able to start as soon as hoped.  Here are some reasons why:

The seller has not signed their documents yet, and will not be doing so until later in the day.

The day’s cut-off time to wire out funds to everyone has probably already passed by 4:00, so funds will not be disbursed until the next business day.

If this buyer’s agreement specifies possession does not occur until closing is completed and funds are disbursed, this buyer will not be gaining access until at least the following business day.  What if the movers cannot wait due to other commitments?

Let’s take that one step further.  This example is on a Thursday.  What if this was a Friday?  Funds would not be disbursed until the next business day… Monday, so they could potentially have a serious problem on their hands.  Either the movers cannot wait and have to unload into storage causing the buyer to hire another mover on Monday, or the buyer will be paying fees for the truck to sit over the weekend.  In most cases, the seller is in no way obligated to provide early access to the home despite the buyer’s pleading for that after realizing their mistake in scheduling.

This situation is VERY real.  It DOES happen.  How closing works and when possession is given in your area and under your purchase agreement is very important to understand.  Buyers are very often under the impression they get keys and access as soon as they put their pen down at the closing table.  Buyers should be consulted on this even before submitting an offer, but most definitely before they make assumptions and start scheduling movers.  Hopefully, the professional a buyer has chosen to work with will preempt this as part of their education on how the entire process works.  Learn what a closing timeline looks like in your situation and plan accordingly.