Some might say the real estate closing process is a necessary evil, with mountains of paperwork, details, and deadlines that can delay the deal you’ve worked so hard to reach.
As a busy broker or team leader, it can be tempting to wash your hands of the whole process, especially if you’ve got a strong team of transaction coordinators and a streamlined system to keep closings on track.
But when it comes to getting your clients through the closing process, the leadership principle of ‘delegate, don’t abdicate’ was never truer.
For first time homebuyers who comprise 33% of buyers, and even for those who aren’t rookies, the period from contract to close can feel like a chapter out of Alice in Wonderland — confusing, sometimes illogical, and chock full of unfamiliar characters.
The last thing you want to do is add to the chaos. After all, a poor closing experience will not only damage the client relationship you’ve worked so hard to build, it can also limit your opportunities to leverage the customer experience into repeat business and referrals.
On the flip side, when you actively participate in the closing process and build a complete system for managing the close, you amplify the customer experience and strengthen your client relationships for more mutual wins in the future.
Today, we’ll cover:
- How your real estate closing checklist can boost customer experience
- The 5 stages to building a rock-solid real estate closing checklist
- Why a strong closing is only the beginning
How your real estate closing checklist can boost customer experience
Once an offer is accepted, your buyer is bombarded with requests and requirements. There is a seemingly endless list of things standing between them and their dream home, including:
- Securing the earnest money deposit
- Scheduling inspections
- Gathering records and documents for the loan application
- Making insurance decisions
- Reviewing disclosures
- Choosing escrow and title companies
- And completing about a million other forms!
A typical closing process usually takes anywhere from 30-60 days. That’s a long time for your clients to be kept in limbo.
But with an airtight closing checklist you can:
- Help clients monitor the process and check off all the required boxes so nothing falls through the cracks.
- Make sure you and your clients have addressed all the necessary requirements to begin with.
- Nurture the client relationship by letting them know they’re in caring and capable hands.
With Smart Views in Preclose GO!, TCs can build their own customized views. Arrange, sort, and filter information any way you like so you and your team can move through transactions faster!
The 5 stages to building a rock-solid real estate closing checklist
To create a foolproof real estate closing checklist, first you’ll need a system for managing the closing process itself.
We’ve broken the transaction coordination process down to five stages, from the time the purchase offer is written to the pivotal moment of placing the keys into the hands of the buyer.:
- The offer to purchase
- Offer acceptance
- Pre-closing checklist
- The closing
- After the sale closes
Breaking up your checklist into these five stages helps you anticipate the moments when you’re likely to be most active in assisting your clients so that you can stay organized and focused on their needs.
Each stage should also include key touchpoints for your team members.
For example, your transaction coordinator might be responsible for sending signed purchase agreements to the mortgage lender and escrow company. A rock-solid closing checklist helps make sure you’re looping them and any other team members into the process at exactly the right time.
Got it? Great!
Now you’re ready to start setting up your checklist!
Real Estate Closing Checklist Item #1: The Offer to Purchase
With so much riding on the closing, it’s important you don’t leave everything until the last minute.
Your checklist should begin at the time an offer is submitted to avoid the inevitable crunch time that comes at the actual closing.
- Review the closing process with your client.
First-time buyers especially might not be familiar with the different players that are involved in closing a home purchase. Home buyers today, and especially millennial home buyers, want to understand the nuts and bolts of the purchase. It’s a good idea to offer FAQs handouts explaining the steps and the roles and responsibilities of team members, as well as loan and escrow officers, title agents, home inspectors and others. Take the time before the pressure is on to review this information with your client, prepare them for what’s ahead, and give them ownership in the process.
- Confirm the buyer is pre-qualified or pre-approved for a loan.
This is also a good time to explain to your client that their pre-qualification isn’t a loan approval, and it’s important that they don’t make major purchases that can affect their credit rating or interest rate once their loan is approved.
- Confirm the buyer has lined up a source for the earnest money deposit.
Make sure the buyer knows when an earnest money deposit will be due and has teed up their source for the money.
- Assist with lender selection.
If your buyer got pre-qualified before you began working with them, it’s a good idea to review the financing landscape, and offer options from your list of preferred vendors.
With the Ultimate Client Experience inside Preclose GO!, you can present your network of lenders and other partners directly to your client with links, videos, and more to help your buyers make informed decisions during closing.
Real Estate Closing Checklist Item #2: Offer acceptance
Once the buyer’s offer is accepted, it’s important to make sure agent/TC communication is as seamless and hiccup-free as possible.
Remember, just because an offer is accepted, doesn’t mean it’s ok for agents to drop all communication. Even when the tasks below are handled by a TC, it’s important to make sure your agents also have visibility into the closing schedule and process.
Offer acceptance is also a great time to ask your clients for a referral. Take advantage of this brief respite before the hardest part of the process kicks in, to text or email your request. Here’s how to break it down in your closing checklist.
- Signing purchase agreements.
You know most purchase agreements are boilerplate. Your client might not. You’ll want to walk them through the contract, answer any questions, and offer explanations such as how the contingency provisions work. It’s also important to keep your client in the loop by letting them know when the purchase agreement is transmitted to the escrow company and the lender.
- Obtain or confirm wire transfer instructions.
Whether your agent, admin or a TC is acting as go-between with the lender, it’s important to let your client know when transfer instructions have been received and recorded.
- Confirm receipt of list of documentation required by the lender.
Remember, your client is probably feeling inundated. Check in to make sure they know what documents they’ll need to submit to the lender and those they’ll have to bring to the closing.
- Schedule and attend the home inspection and any additional inspections that might be needed.
If you’ve done a good job of prepping your client, you won’t have to take time at this point to explain the different inspections that might be needed, and you’ll be able to move right to scheduling those appointments.
- Review seller’s disclosure.
The seller’s disclosure is an important document, and you’ll want to take the time to review it with your client.
- Follow-up with the lender on appraisal scheduling.
Make sure everyone is on the same page, understands the timeframes required, and scheduling is taking place within those timeframes.
With the Preclose GO! + Dotloop integration, you can instantly unify all your transaction documentation and communication, and automatically sync updates between systems. As soon as your agreement is imported, automatically send an invite via text or email to agents and clients, giving them full visibility into the transaction process.
Real Estate Closing Checklist Item #3: Pre-closing checklist
The days immediately preceding the close of the sale can be especially hectic. Make sure you answer phone calls and texts from your client promptly as this is the time when they’ll really want to know you’re available for them.
- Review inspection reports.
Follow up to confirm your client received the inspection reports, review them with your client, and discuss strategies for responding as needed.
- Review appraisal.
While the lender is typically responsible for ordering the appraisal, you’ll want to keep close tabs on the process so that you can advise your client if the appraisal comes in below the sale price.
- Deliver repair requests to seller or seller’s agent.
You’ll want to work closely with your client and offer options for repairs or purchase price credits and ensure that they’re comfortable with the decisions made.
- Follow up with clients about home insurance.
Check in with your buyers to make sure they’ve set up their home insurance policy, and that it’s scheduled to take effect upon the close of the sale.
- Schedule and hold the walk-through.
Bring a list of items to be conveyed and repairs to be completed to the walk-through. Follow up if there are discrepancies.
- Contact the HOA if applicable.
If your client is purchasing a home that has an HOA, you’ll want to make sure they’ve received a copy of the CC&Rs and any instructions for setting up an account and other matters.