Thursday, August 19, 2010

Closing Arguments

I couldn't resist the play on words once I'd thought it. I am going a different way with this, but in some ways it is true.

Buying a home should be a wonderful experience, and I try mightily to make it so. Hassle-free, everyone thrilled - both buyers and sellers - and a Mercedes in every garage..... Like the Mercedes, it doesn't always work out that way.

This summer I have been consumed by closings, which, as Bob says, is a good thing, considering the alternative. There are still more to go, but I have a moment to breathe and reflect and express some frustrations here.

I've always said that closing is like birth - there's a due date, but nothing prevents the baby from coming early or late, and it always seems like a surprise when the little one actually arrives. There's a lot of running around, a bit of chaos, but in the end a child is born and the pangs are forgotten.

Closings this summer seem to have been especially painful, not just for my clients, but with most other Realtors with whom I've spoken recently. We lamented all spring that it's not like the old days in selling - see five houses, choose one, go to closing (with or without the buyer's house selling). Between the mortgage issues and title issues, nothing seems smooth. (Just got interrupted by a mortgage broker to tell me about issues.....honest, I did!)

So take a very hot summer, add three attorneys, two buyers, two sellers, two agents, and spice it up with the reasons everyone is moving - death, divorce, new job, addition to the family, loss of job - and the pot is stirred. Risk-taking is minimal - everyone wants assurance that all will be well, no one wants the responsibility of things not being 100% accurate - and the pot is boiling over. Add to this the uncertainty of when the actual closing will be - when will that soup be done and we can eat? - and phone calls and e-mails abound.

Everyone I firmly believe does the best he or she can, but between the corporations and the government it is more difficult than it used to be.

Solutions. I've read in our Realtor journal that assuming that the closing will take longer is the first step. The sale probably took more time than expected ("My house will sell in the first week!" - those days are gone) so will the closing. I've quoted "60 days to closing" since starting in this business - but I am going to start saying "90 days to closing." I will ask sellers and buyers to accept that time-frame. If both sides want to make accommodations because of this - pre-possession, for example - then let's look into it earlier, not when everyone is frazzled.

The second step is to begin title searches as soon as the attorney feels comfortable doing it. If there are issues, then they can be dealt with before there's a ready, willing and able buyer needing to close ASAP.

Interrupted again - but that's okay! The caller and I discussed a sale that will close soon, but first we need to deal with potential problems with the house, so we set a time to walk-through together prior to the actual walk-through. These days everyone is counting every penny, so taking all precautions is necessary.

Most importantly in any transaction is communication. The calls I took were important - but communication is difficult with so many people involved. I see my job as the facilitator after the sale is made. In one deal I had the attorneys just couldn't make contact, so issues were left uncommunicated to their sellers and buyers. Once the agents were informed of the problems, we got them resolved rapidly. We have more time - and yes, we are ready, willing and able to take and make phone calls. We just need to know there are issues!

To close this blog - the long hot summer may be waning, but there is still that magnificent fall selling season to come that will produce many more closings. The rates are at historic lows, sellers are anxious to move on, and buyers need to buy. I plan to say "90 days to closing" from here on out and look for problems, tell buyers and sellers to prepare for hold-ups ("Where will you live if it doesn't close by September?"), and keep the lines of communication open as best I can.

Then when properties do close and the process that got them there fades, I plan to celebrate with them!