Contract Closing Check List

If all goes well your a real estate transaction will look something like this info graphic below.

But as a real estate investor buyer there are some extra things you may or may not think about and I want to take a look at some of the issues that have came up in my own transactions over the past 17 years or so.

Investor Friendly Title Company

The very first transaction I was ever a part of, we were sitting at the closing table talking to the closer and going over the fees on the Settlement Statement.  One fee caught my eye and the closer explained that because we were buying without the benefit of a real estate agent in the transaction, we were much more difficult to deal with.  The agent handles much of the organizing and scheduling of the buyer and seller and since we didn’t have an agent, we were being charged an extra $250.  Title companies or closing agents that work with you as a real estate investor on a regular basis are not going to charge you extra because you don’t have a real estate agent.

At one closing we were going to “Assign the Contract” to a new buyer.  We found that while our investor friendly title company that we closed with all the time had no problem with Assignments, that the Title Company we were closing with didn’t know what an Assignment was or didn’t want to do them, so we were told that they were illegal by the person we were working with.  At the same time, I had just closed an  assignment transaction at a different office with the same company the week before.

So before you every go to contract, it helps to interview title companies and find ones that know what it is that real estate investors do and know how to close their transactions.  Or you will hit brick walls on most transactions.

Entity Documents

This will be dictated with what entity you might be buying your property in, it could be your own name.  It could be a corporation or an LLC and it could be a Self Directed IRA or Solo 401k that you are self directing.  Before you start making offers make sure you have your entity set up if you are not buying it in your own name, have all the documentation needed to prove your entity is legal and know how to fill out the contracts and sign on behalf of the entity.

If you are buying in an LLC or example you need to sign in a certain way to make sure you don’t invalidate the asset protection of the LLC and you need to have the proper documentation needed to close.  In some cases that might just be your Articles of Incorporation and in other cases you might need to have a certificate of good standing, which cost me close to $300 in the state of Utah to register as a foreign entity and to get a certificate.  And most title companies will want you to have a corporate resolution stating that you can, in fact, sign for the LLC.

Line Up Funding

This one pretty much goes with out saying.  You need to know how you are going to pay for the property before you write the offer or have some idea of who might buy it from you if you are going to wholesale the property.

Here in our office, we have been doing this for many years.  So while we don’t have a pre-approval, we have a list of about 10 people that we can take a deal to who have said they will fund us.  This ranges from family, to friends, to private money and hard money lenders at the MAREI meetings.  However, when we were new, we were pre-approved for a construction loan at the local bank and you might also reach out to the local hard money lenders.

When we have a house we are wholesaling, some of you might assign the contract and need no money to do a deal, in that case you do need to have a few very active, cash buyers lined up.  And if you are like us, you might want to have some short term funding lined up so you can close on the deal and then resell it in a few days or weeks and make a bit more money out of the deal.

Finding & Negotiating the Deal

Here over the years we have bought in many different types of situations.

When we are buying directly from the seller, there are all kinds of problems that could hinder the seller from selling that we have worked hand in hand with the title company to solve.  Other times we were buying on the courthouse steps and had to check in with our title company to make sure we had clear title before we closed.  Having a good relationship has helped immensely.

Write and Execute the Contract

This is fairly simple and straight forward, but do make sure you have the right seller names and the right buyers names.  This is especially important when you are buying from a bank seller.  When you write a contract with a bank seller, you they often will not let you change the buyers name if you mess it up or decide to switch from your personal name to your company or your self directed IRA.

Contract Summary

Back in the time of paper we had a document we filled out that listed out all the details of the transaction:  Property Address, purchase price, earnest money deposit, closing costs paid, rents or security deposits being transferred on a rental, the sellers name and contact information, the buyers name and contact information, the title company and closer and all their contact information, the same for the seller’s title company if they are using a company different that yours, the amount of earnest money deposit and who is holding it, all the real estate agents involved and their contact information and what they are getting paid and finally information on a home warranty.

If I am buying the home in a legal entity, I want to assemble all the paperwork that my title company will need, note that if you use the same company over and over, they will keep this on file for you.

I like to use this summary to give to the seller so they have contact information for everyone and I provide to the title company so they can reach every one.

In the electronic world, I would still fill this out because your seller may not be electronically savvy and I the title company will hopefully print it out and put it in their file so they don’t have to call you every time they need a phone number.  And some companies may allow you to submit this same information through a website portal, so check with your title company agent to see the best way to provide this info to them.

Send it all To the Title Company

We will usually email the contract and the summary to the title company and mail or hand deliver an earnest money check.  Your Title Company may have an easy way to electronically send money to them that is free through or may want a wire.  Do keep in mind that if the closing is in less than two weeks that they will not be able to accept a personal or business check, in this case the earnest money would need to be wired or in the form of certified funds.

Do ask for a receipt to confirm that they did in fact receive the summary and the contract via email and the earnest money in what ever form you sent it.

And if you are working with a lender, send a copy of the summary and entire contract to them as well as they will usually want to see it.

Some things to think about as you send this to the title company . . . you might want to call and talk to them about it, just in case their might be an issue you can’t live with and need to get out of the contract during the inspection period.

  • are you going to rehab it and sell it quickly?
  • do you need a notice of intent to sell?
  • will there be deed restrictions on the sale of the home placed by the seller?
  • what if you have to wait for your Self Directed Custodian to sign a document?
  • What if you are going to wholesale it?

The Waiting Game

After the contract is sent to the title company, it becomes a waiting period for the title company to get title back.  Do let them know if you think there might be problems that need addressed on the title so they research it now, this week, rather than 3 days before closing.  Or if you anticipate closing early.  And if you plan on wholesaling it, they need to know that in advance.

During this waiting period, you will typically perform your inspections on the house and renegotiate the contract or negotiate repairs.  Then if you are getting a loan that requires an appraisal, that would be done next and then the lender would review all the paperwork, possibly want to review the inspection and ask you a few more questions in order to get the final clear to close.

If you are a wholesaler, during the waiting period and possibly during your inspection period you would want to seek out and secure your end buyer.  Write and execute your “Assignment” Contract and collect the assignment fee or write and execute a sale contract and collect their earnest money deposit and send a summary of this contract, the contract and earnest money to your title company.  If you are unable to secure a buyer, your inspection period is the time to back out of the contract.

If you are not wholesaling, the last projects for you would be to secure insurance on the property, schedule utilities to be turned on, and to start lining up contractors if the home will be renovated.

During this period be sure to stay in contract with your lender or your end buyer to make sure everything is on track.  And you want to see the title to review it as soon as possible as often their are minor issues that you would need to coordinate with the seller and the title company to resolve:  Finding the divorced or estranged spouse and getting them to sign off, finding other heirs or proving there are no other heirs, getting the probate court or bankruptcy court to approve, getting loan payoffs, and other things that get a lot more complicated very quicly.

Just Before Closing

Usually the week before closing you want to review the preliminary title one more time and check with the title company to be sure all problems are resolved, if they are not, you may want to negotiate an extension on the closing with your seller and / or your end buyer.

Next check with your lender  and / gets done.or end buyer and make sure they are ready to close, if not, again go back and negotiate extensions.

If everyone is good to go, make sure the seller is all set up to close.  Sometimes that might mean they have an appointment at the title company and other times it might mean that the title company is going to email or mail them documents and then need to go sign where ever they live in front of a local notary.  In at least three transactions, our title company had to email documents to the seller, who had to get them printed and take them to a US consulate to be signed an notarized as they were not in the continental US.

You want to make sure your lender has all their documentation set up and has their money ready to go and knows how to wire it to the title company.  Not a hard proposition if you are using a bank, mortgage company or hard money company.  But if you are working with a private individual, you may need to work with them to make sure everything is ready and gets done.

If you are wholesaling, you want to double check your end buyer is ready go sign and send money.

If you are buying yourself you need to makes sure you are schedule to close, although, if you are paying cash, you can often wire the money and close via fax or email as nothing you are signing needs to be notarized as the buyer.  And if you are paying cash or have a down payment to send in, schedule your wire a couple of days in advance so you have time to get all the double checks against fraud completed.

Closing

Ask for a copy of the Settlement Statement the day before closing and review.  Errors can be fixed at closing, but catching them a day or two in advance makes things much easier.

After you close, you may or may not get keys if you are buying it.  Before you go take possession of the home and BEORE YOU DO ANY WORK ON IT, double check with the title company to make sure all parties have signed, all loans are funded and the closing is recorded.  We have heard stories of buyers who went to closing and got keys, went to the house and started work, only to find out that the seller never closed.  So always double check.

And if you are wholesaling, you would then go pick up your profit from the assignment or resale or you might have it mailed or wired.

Where Problems Arise at Closing

  • When heirs can’t be found.
  • When divorced spouses can’t be found
  • When liens can’t be paid off.
  • When lien holders can’t be found.
  • When sellers place deed restrictions, like banks do on how fast a seller can sell and the profit they can make.
  • When rehabbers are selling and the buyer’s lender takes issue with how long the rehabber has owned or the profit being made
  • When their are tax liens.
  • When there are unpaid utility bill liens.
  • When there are state or IRS tax liens.
  • When there are a lot of heirs.
  • When there are tenants.
  • When the home as bought at foreclosure auction.
  • When there are HOA liens.
  • When the home was bought at tax sale.
  • Where there are redemption rights.
  • When the seller does not own the property.
  • When the seller passes away before they close.
  • When the seller is in China.
  • When the seller is in jail.
  • When you forgot to file a notice of intent to sell.
  • When you can’t find an end buyer.
  • When the lender backs out.
  • When the seller backs out.

The above are all issues that I have had to work through in one transaction or another and having a good strong line of communication with my title company has helped me through many of these issues.  Sometimes in solving them and just keeping the transaction together while I solved them.  We will be talking with two of my title companies at the August 8th MAREI meeting to find out what the biggest issues that they see happening with investor closings.  And then on August 19th I am holding a workshop to walk you through real live transactions that I have been in and how we worked through the issues.  All along the way on most issues,  I was on the phone or emailing with the title company to resolve the issues.  If you are new to real estate investing transactions, I hope you can join me at this workshop.  Get all the details at MAREI.org

 

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