For anyone who thinks that once the contract is written and ratified on a property that the Realtor's job is over, well it just isn't so. There are a myriad of details that need to be followed up on and sometimes the time from the contract ratification to the closing table can seem like an eternity.
Of first priority is the home inspection. Within the contract itself is a section where a buyer signs whether they do or do not want a home inspection. I always urge a buyer to inspect. On a few occasions buyers have insisted they have friends or family members who can fulfill the role of inspector and so that is the way it goes. Otherwise a number of inspectors that I know are offered as possibilities and obviously the buyer may find one otherwise through friends or even off the internet. There is also a separate document that spells out how much time each party has to do their part with the inspection and how quickly a response is expected, and required. Ordinarily I put in 14 days or 10 business days as the period within which the inspection should take place. That gives us (we're the buying side for this discussion) at least two weekends to fit the inspection in. It really can become a bit challenging for an out of the area buyer, to get here for the inspection, but it's important.
The way buyers participate in the inspection can run the gamut. I know people who literally follow the inspector everywhere they go and want to understand things in depth--everything (I've been told by inspectors that that is a bit distracting). Others may just be called in by the inspector when there is something of note. Others visit with friends who may have come with them, or may walk around the property noting things they didn't see before....and they just wait for the inspection to be complete when the inspector summarizes everything. After the inspection, within a day or two, a written report which flags issues of the house is forwarded on to the buyer. There are photos that show the exact problem so all can be sure they are talking about the same items.
A back and forth negotiation takes place utilizing an Addendum to list the "fix items" and eventually there is agreement. The seller will fix "X" and the buyer accepts responsibility for "Y." And yes sometimes there just is next to nothing and so there is no addendum. It's nice when that happens. Agreed to items are fixed by the seller before closing and in the walk-through these are checked and copies of invoices are given to the buyer at closing.
Most of the time the buyer is getting financing for a property. That, in and of itself, can be a challenge. Most of my buyers are really well qualified for their loan so it is really the process that is challenging. My words of wisdom are to check every week with a lender no matter how secure you feel with them and with the process. You'd be surprised how things can fall through the cracks and you don't want to be a few days out from closing with everything backed up and totally in a stressful situation. Also, to pull a lender off the internet can be pretty risky business. This past year we've had one such lender that totally failed, and at the last minute (the property was successfully financed, but obviously the schedule was off). And another an internet lender promised the moon and wasn't anywhere close to fulfilling the deadline they agreed to. This made things uncomfortable too. So the choice of lender isn't something that should be taken lightly (and not just in terms of the percentage...we'd all like the best percentage, but if you'd like to deal with a professional, be sure you're hiring a professional).
Insurance for the home comes into play and so looking for an insurer that is right for a particular buyer's needs takes time. Some purchasers add the Northern Neck home to an existing policy and that is great when it can happen. Others try to do so and find that their insurance company is leary of second homes on the water and so will charge quite the premium. Then these people embark on finding a more local insurance company. Sometimes the issue of flood insurance comes up and that can be a whole education in and of itself. The maps that show whether a house is or is not in a flood plain are available to be consulted in the counties' Building and Zoning Departments. What is tough is that new maps came out last year and some properties that were not considered in a flood plain that requires special insurance are now considered ones that require flood insurance. Sometimes that is true, something has changed, but it is more likely that what will be needed is an elevation survey from a surveyor that will be official proof that the structure is not at risk. This has a cost associated with it and the request often goes to the seller to pay for this. That cost may or may not become the seller's. It all depends on who has paid for or agreed to what and where everyone stands in the deal.
Recently an agent I know had to help figure out about the fire department question for the insurance. One of the questions was where was the closest hydrant.....well that seems like a funny question. Think about how many fire hydrants you've seen in the Northern Neck. What is the real question is where is the closest Fire Department. Being within 7 miles of that fire department versus outside of it makes the difference in a fair amount of money on an insurance policy. Don't know if people think that way....probably not. But there it is, one more detail.
Three inspections need to be done within the window of 30 days to closing. These are noted in the main contract and are "water, termite, septic." Obviously if the property has community water or sewer, these aren't tested, but most of the properties we deal with at least have to have a termite and a septic inspection. The listing agent orders these inspections and copies of the reports are sent to the agent and to the closing agent. Closing agents may either be an attorney or a title company. Some purchasers have their closing agent already determined even before they start looking at property. Others will shop and decide based on their individual needs. I have been pleased both with attorney and title company closings and so provide information on both types of agents. It really all depends.
The listing agent should give the utility information to the agent for the purchaser. This can include the water company, electric company, gas company and perhaps even the telephone company....not too many land lines these days. These utilities should be contacted prior to closing so that the purchaser is all set to go as soon as the ink is dry on their documents. And within this transfer there is the measurement of gas in any given tank. That amount is credited to the seller and the amount is then applied to the purchaser.....in other words, there's no free gas....
Closing day there is the walk through. And really what you are looking for is that the house is still standing and that in the course of the move out that there was no damage. Certainly if an appliance was to be replaced or something significant was to be done, yes, look at it, but the invoices that are received should make clear that the work was done and also who to check with if any question arises.
When someone takes possession of a property is also something that requires a bit of time sometime. Until the deed is recorded, the new owner really isn't the new owner. In some instances it is just a five minute walk to a courthouse. In others, especially if someone is closing in Richmond or Northern Virginia, someone may need to travel miles and miles and it may not be the same day. So lots of things come into play with the closing of a property. There's lots to think about and this process can go very quickly even if we do encounter "a few bumps in the road." Be prepared!!
Kathryn Murray, Principal Broker, 804-450-4442 cell