When a real estate closing goes as planned, everyone is happy. The seller sells, the buyer buys, and both parties move on to the next chapter of their lives in their new homes. All professionals involved in the transaction receive payment for their services and move on to the next deal with a spring in their step.

However, as we all know, things don’t always go as planned. Problems arise that can turn what was supposed to be a victory lap into a nail-biting nightmare. Unexpected payments, missing documents needed to complete the transaction, uncertainty during the walk-through regarding how certain repair or maintenance issues are to be handled; any of these occurrences can result in the cancellation and re-scheduling of the closing.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent such mishaps, or at least to be ready if they do come to pass.

The key is preparation. Both sides need to know what is expected of them well in advance of the close. Anything that calls for mutual agreement should be put in writing.

First, request an itemized list of documents needed for closing from either your attorney or title closing professional. These documents normally include your drivers license or other identification and any other documentation your mortgage professional may need at closing. Requirements may vary from state to state, but your attorney or title person will have that information at the ready for you.

You will also need a negotiated inspection list. This will remove any doubt as to any issues regarding the condition of the house at the time of close, what is acceptable, what needs to be addressed and in what manner. The last thing you want is to not know if the dripping faucet or termite-infested wooden steps on the deck were covered on the inspection list. Have it handy to refer to immediately in such instances.

If there are any items belonging to the seller that either the seller wants to leave or the buyer wants to take, get it in writing beforehand. Sometimes sellers will “donate” something large and difficult to move to the buyer, like a pool table in the basement. While some buyers may be thrilled by such an unexpected gift, others may see it as an unsightly obstacle they’ve been stuck with and refuse to accept it. On the other side, buyers may make assumptions about certain things they expressed an interest in being left behind, only to find them absent at the walk-through. Don’t assume anything – put it in contract form.

Finally, most states require that you receive a copy of the closing statement several days before the closing. Do yourself a favor and read through it so that you are comfortable on closing day when your attorney reviews it with you in detail.

On the day of the closing, try to schedule the walk-through of the house first thing in the morning and the closing sometime after lunch. This will give you time to react to any issues that may come up during the walk-through. Leave enough time in your schedule for a trip to the bank, as you may need more money than you thought. Bear in mind that you will need to take the day off from work. If you try to squeeze this in between the cracks of your busy workday you will more than likely short-change yourself, the other closing participants, and the people you interact with at work.

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