Tears at a Real Estate Closing

By: Steve Gillman

The real estate closing was at the title company. The seller was nervous, because she had to do it without her husband, who had moved months before to start his new job. I was a new real estate agent, young and inexperienced. The buyer was a grumpy old man.

She showed me the closing statement. Of course I had seen it, but she wanted to point out that they owed more than what they would get from their home. She would get a few hundred dollars from the closing proceeds, but she still owed $1,000 to her grandmother, for help with the down payment. She didn't know where she would get the money.

This wasn't my fault, of course, and she knew that. They had just bought the home a year earlier and had put very little down on it. They hadn't had time to build equity before her husband's job transfer came in, and my commission, along with the closing costs, ate what little there was. It was just that she found all this out this morning. The title company didn't have the closing statement ready until the last moment.

In any case, she was happier than she had been lately, because the home was finally sold and she would soon be joining her husband. The buyer, on the other hand, wasn't happy at all.

"What's this charge here?" he asked the title company representative who was doing the closing. She explained that it was for the propane in the tank. The seller had paid $300 to have the tank filled, and it was still half full. It was standard procedure to have the buyer pay for any propane still in the tank.

"I'm not paying that $150!" he insisted. The agent who had sold him the home patiently explained that he would have to buy propane to heat the home in any case, so it was only fair that he pay. He couldn't expect the seller to give him $150 worth of free propane. Unfortunately, that's exactly what he expected.

"I'll walk out of here before I pay for that!" he announced, turning red. The seller began to cry. The closing agent tried again to convince the man that this was fair. He again refused.

"I don't care!" the seller almost yelled. "I'll give him the propane." The closing agent left the room to change all the documents to reflect the new agreement. The seller was losing another $150 on her home. She wiped her tears and said, "I hope there's nothing else." Fortunately, there wasn't.

Preparing For A Real Estate Closing

I never did like being a real estate agent. But as you can imagine, after that I was at least more prepared for real estate closings. Here are some of the ways that you can be too.

1. Ask your real estate agent what will happen at the closing, and make a list. Call the closing company to verify that this is correct, and that it is everything.

2. Make sure the other party to the transaction understands everything the same way you do. Ask your agent to do this if necessary.

3. Have everything you need (papers, cashiers check, keys, etc) ready the day before closing, and check with your real estate or closing company agent to verify that you have what you need.

4. When agreeing to use a closing company, make it clear that you will only use one that has closing statements ready at least two days before closing. This way you can resolve any issues that come up before there are tears at the closing table.

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