Just a little bit further...
Not quite the end
Signing a big ol’ stack of papers and handing over all that hard-earned money feels like it should be called “closing”, doesn’t it? Surprisingly, in Oregon and Washington, it is not. Signing is preparation for closing and can’t happen any later than noon(ish) one business day before your closing date. (Note: in some states, signing and closing do happen on the same day.)
Timing can be tight
Most title companies won’t schedule signing until they have your loan papers in hand. We do our best to get closing papers out as early as we can, but signing is sometimes often set up on pretty short notice. And keep in mind that the soonest you can legally sign your closing papers is 3 days after you’ve received your Closing Disclosure.
Stay close and hang loose (please)
The takeaway? Keep your schedule as loose as possible the last week prior to closing and (please) don’t leave town. If you can’t avoid being out of town, have a challenging work schedule or will be otherwise unavailable to sign, special arrangements can be made. But we have to know in advance, so keep us posted on your availability and whereabouts.
When you show up at the title company, you need to bring a few key things.
And anybody else who will be taking title to the property (even if they are not on the loan). If you are not going to be available for signing, another person can sign for you using a “power of attorney”, but this must be arranged in advance. (More about POAs in our Glossary.)
Several of the documents you’ll be signing will be notarized, so you will need to show two forms of ID (one government-issued and with a photo).
Your funds to close, in certified form
If your money is in a local bank, you can just pop by a branch for a cashier’s check on your way to signing. If timing is tight, it’s okay to sign and then go back to drop off your check. For money that isn’t local, you’ll need to arrange a wire. Ask the title company for “wiring instructions” and give them to your financial institution with enough lead-time to send funds a day prior to your closing date. It’s also wise verify you can order a wire over the phone or need to do so in person.
Your wonderful escrow officer
Your host and guide at the title company is your “escrow officer”. Escrow officers are some of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet, especially given that they do so much of their work on short notice right at the end of the transaction. Your escrow officer will take a copy of your ID, have you sign a notary book and then settle in and guide you through your closing papers. Crack your knuckles and warm up your wrists!
How long will this take?
Most signings take about 45 minutes, with your escrow officer as your guide through the papers, explaining and pointing out key documents and information. If you prefer to read every word on every line of every document, however, signing can take far (far) longer. Rather than feeling rushed at the title company, let your escrow officer know ahead of time and s/he will get you advance copies. Timing can be tight, but it’s generally feasible for you to have at least an evening of quality time with your closing documents, making signing a breeze.
Closing Disclosure (CD)
Remember that Closing Disclosure you got when we were finalizing your financing a few days back? You’ll see it again at signing, perhaps with a few small revisions, fine-tuning it for accuracy.
What’s in there?
Page one of your CD is jam-packed with useful information. It is a summary of your transaction including, dates, price, property information, parties, loan terms, payment details, closing cost summary and the exact amount of remaining money you need to pay to close. On pages two and three, your closing costs and down payment are itemized and added up. Pages four and five include a few additional details about your loan and (if you have one) the escrow account for your taxes and/or insurance, along with calculations for the potential total interest cost and finance charges, the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) and the Total Interest Percentage (TIP). Page five also includes contact information for all the parties involved in your transaction. Keep tabs on your CD and stash it in a safe place after closing. You’ll need it to file your taxes and it is an excellent reference tool for the future.
First Payment Letter
This document goes by various names, but somewhere in your closing papers will be a page that tells you when your first payment is due, how much to pay and where to send it. Sometimes it comes with payment coupons. Most often you will not receive a statement or bill when that first payment comes due. This letter is all you’ll have, so keep an eye out for it. If your escrow officer gives you digital copies of your closing papers (pretty typical), I suggest asking for a hard copy of this one document.
The (magical) Warranty Deed
Here is an example of a Warranty Deed. This is where the magic happens. When the Deed gets recorded with the county, the property is yours! Some types of sellers (especially estates and banks) use other types of deeds, but a Warranty Deed is the most common. You will tell your escrow officer how you would like to take (“vest”) title to your new property.
Deed of Trust
This document is the “security instrument” for your loan, recorded in public record to attach the loan to the property. You promise to maintain, insure, occupy the property (if applicable), pay the loan payments, keep up on taxes, keep the property free of toxic substances and more. You give your lender rights to keep tabs on these things and, yup, foreclose if you don’t live up to your end of the deal. Here are samples of basic Deeds for Oregon and Washington. Just FYI, these links will download a Word doc to your computer.