House sales and closing process

I am selling my house and have a buyer and a signed contract. The original closing date for the sale was supposed to be August 17. I asked my realtor if the contract was still in effect last Friday, August 24. She assured me it was because the contract had specified that closing date was “on or about” August 17. I suspect that I have chosen either an incompetent realtor or an uncaring one. Either way I have a few questions concerning two issues.

  1. The Real estate sales process.

How long does it usually take to get approval for a deal to go through from an underwriter when the buyer is pre-approved? The Mortgager sent my house appraisal to her underwriter on Sunday August 19. The property had appraised high enough but there was some concern because the exact date of construction is unknown (My home county records only go back to 1906, and the house was built before that). The appraiser had attached a note explaining the lack of a construction date. My realtor had said that she was certain in the past that the lack of a date would not be a problem but was uncertain now since the credit crunch.

Is it usual for dates to be open-ended as mine appear to be? I do not have a new closing date as of now.

  1. The Real estate agent.

I don’t have much faith in my agent for several reasons. She has yet to provide me a copy of the sales contract. After I signed the contract about a month ago she indicated that she would send a copy. She keeps saying that she should send a copy but has not done so. When I asked her whether the buyer was taking possession at closing, she said it was in the contract and she didn’t have it with her. So I had all of my things moved out by August 17, only to find out later by phone that my contract had given me 5 days after sale to move. There are other minor issues that I won’t mention yet. My mortgage is due Sept. 1. Paying electronically requires that I pay two days in advance. Should I continue following the philosophy “more flies with honey than vinegar” or should I switch to the “squeaky wheel get the grease” mode of thought?

Any and all advice is welcomed.

Your agent sounds like an idiot, unfortunately. I’d start raising a fuss and get a copy of that sales agreement! What about the lawyers? Surely they have a copy by now. I hope.

As for extending a closing date, I think your agent is wrong there too, but I’m in Canada so it may be different. We just bought another house and we were told by the lender that they needed an appraisal before they gave us the funds. But they told us this the day before closing was supposed to occur (the 17th of August). Our RE Agent filled out an agreement to extend closing, had us sign, the seller sign, and our closing was extended until the 20th. From what I’ve read in our purchase contract, the purchase is on condition of secured financing on or before August 17th. If we hadn’t have extended and also didn’t secure financing, the contract would expire (because we weren’t able to remove the condition) and we’d lose the house.

I’d get a second opinion for sure.

Is your agent under a larger brokerage firm (like Century 21, RE/MAX, etc)? I would definitely complain higher up the ladder about her. My agent (who happened to also be the owner of the brokerage firm) bent over backwards to get me taken care of. If there was a problem she told me right away.

No way should you let her get away with saying she’ll do something and then not come through. You’re paying her a lot of money - make her get it right. Go to her boss. Be squeaky.

First you need a copy of the agreement. Does it really say “On or about”? I think since you’re a week after the proposed closing date, you could legitimately stop the sale (but of course you don’t want to) or try to force the issue. And since they weren’t ready to close on the closing date, I’d imagine you could keep their earnest money if they can’t close.

I’d be asking to talk to the owner of the realtor’s office, if I were you. Surely with the market the way it is now, they can’t afford to lose clients because of the lackadaisical attitude of their sales staff.


Thanks StG, Zipper, and Eman for the advice. Since the preponderance of opinion is that I should act (get contract, inquire, etc.). I will. I thought so myself, but was unsure because I have never sold a house and also my house is a starter house not a McMansion. I wasn’t certain whether to expect a differing level of service on my home which is older and a good half the price of most of the newer homes.

I’ll check back after I have spoken with the agency. It is a small, local agency. Since I’ve moved, if I have to drive to the agency to get my contract, it might be a while before I can check back.

Thanks everyone.

Have you been to see the lawyer yet?

Definitely squeak! Your realtor is supposed to be working for you, no matter how expensive your house is. There is no acceptable reason for her to fail to follow through on her part of the working relationship, which is what she is doing by failing to keep you abreast of the terms of the contract and closing.

On the open-endedness of the closing process: It is my understanding that the dates in the contract are approximations, but they should be close approximations.
When we put together a contract for our recent house purchase, the realtor listed May 15th as the approximate closing date. We told him that due to our rate lock it would have to be a week sooner than that. He assured us that would be fine, that we’d have no problem closing sooner than the 15th, that the date was just an estimate.
Then when we tried to set up the closing for the 7th and the previous owners still didn’t know where they were going to live (!) he tried to tell us that legally they had until the 15th anyway and they didn’t *have * to close by the 7th.
It got nasty. We threatened to walk. We closed on the 7th. Jerk.

I know it varries by state, but around here (PA) typically closings can happen as fast as two weeks or take as long as three months.

IME, closing dates are treated as “targets” rather than “deadlines.” If you are used to keeping deadlines and performing ahead of them, you will likely be frustrated by agents’/banks’ attitude towards the closing process where everything is just expected to magically come together at the last minute (and usually does!)

You are in the position, however, where you really want the deal to go through. If you wish to maintain that the buyer voided the contract by missing the close date, all you get will be the earnest money, and you will still need to sell your house. If the buyer really wants to back out, no court is going to require specific performance on his part. The key to making the deal go through is communication and negotiation.

You should expect better treatment from your agent. Even tho it is a small agency, there wil be some county or state board with which you could file (or threaten to file) a complaint. If missing the date by 2 weeks costs you an additional mortgage payment, you should definitely try to negotiate some compensation from either the buyer or your agent.

EmAnj, I haven’t spoken to a lawyer yet. I did just speak with my realtor. She said she didn’t know why I didn’t have a contract, “I guess because I thought we were closing in 5 days” to quote her. She said that the underwriter had sent for an appraisal review which meant that they had sent another appraiser to assess the property. She said that she had never had that happen. She said that the appraisal review was due to the house having an unknown construction date. She was unclear about when the underwriter had had this assessment done, but had said that the underwriter had said it should have been complete in 48 hours. My realtor’s implication was that it should already be complete.

I told her that I suspected that either I or the buyer could walk away from the deal at this point — that I had no intentions of walking away but it was a concern of mine. She said that she would look into the contract again, and that she had spoken with the mortgage company about the dates and that they did not see a problem. I am going to drive to Montgomery, AL and get a copy of the contract.

On a related note, when I checked on the property last Friday, the buyer was already getting mail there —which sort of signals intent to buy. He had had his debit card sent to my address. I know that it was a debit card because I recognized the originating address as that of my small credit union. The letter itself was non-descript but giving it the “feel” test I knew that it was a debit card. Apparently we use the same banking facilities. I notified my realtor who supposedly contacted the buyer and I was told to just leave it in the mail and he’d pick it up later that afternoon because he didn’t live far away.

Sorry, I didn’t realize closing dates there were so different from here. Here the closing date is firm. If you can’t remove the conditions by that date and don’t get an extension, the deal’s off AND you lose your deposit (in our case, $10K). It prevents people from making offers then disappearing, I guess.

Anyway, sounds like things are still ok, but your agent doesn’t seem to have great skills when it comes to paperwork and keeping things straight. Is she/he new?

I’ll suggest that the LAST thing you want to do is express an opinion that the buyer can walk away, or anything other than that the house is going to close in the immediate future, as soon as these last couple of niggling details get tied up. Just remain patient, and express (in writing) to your realtor your desire that the close occur before the end of the month.

And why would you have to drive to pick up a copy of the K? Doesn’t AL have fax machines yet? :wink:

EmAnJ, My realtor is fairly new. She was a housewife that later on in life realized she needed to work to put some money in Social Security is what she told me. I’m guessing she is mid50ish.

After speaking with her I am again uncertain what I should do next. Really it all does sound reasonable. I do remember her telling me before that she should have provided me a contract but since we were closing so soon she’d just bring it to closing. I remember the appraiser being a day late and telling me that he’d have the appraisal ready in the afternoon and then calling early the next morning asking if I knew the age of the house. I remember the conversation about it probably not being an issue about the age and that because the appraiser had attached an explanation saying the county’s records only date back to 1906 (on some things) would probably suffice. It seems reasonable that she might not have ever experienced an appraisal review.

I suppose I will just get a copy of the contract and maintain diligent review for a few days before I get all up-in-arms.

On preview, Dinsdale, yep AL has fax machines, but I have moved way into the country and do not have my computer facilites completely set up. I would ask her to scan the document and email it to me but I don’t think she is too technically proficient.

This is why the “profession” of realtor doesn’t get the respect that some realtors think it should. I’ve know several realtors who came to it the same way. They had essentially no marketable employment skills and could take a short course and get a license.

How far a drive is it? If it’s all inconvenient for you - tell the realtor to send you a copy of the contract overnight by Fedex and to call you back with a tracking number as soon as it’s done. She works for you. The commission she makes comes right out of your pocket. If she screwed up by not giving you a copy of the contract immediately, she can eat the $20 cost of sending it to you ASAP.

My house sale finally closed this past Thursday. So those who were saying that the close date was only an approximation were correct.

My realtor said that she had never had such a difficult closing. After all of the paperwork was in, the underwriter, whom I now know to be Countrywide, then requested verification of the buyer’s Social Security Number. Verifying the SSN took almost another week. My realtor said that she had never seen that happen at the end of the process. Usually a company verifies SSN before they pre-approve a loan if they are going to verify SSN at all.

Also my realtor gave me a card saying she was sorry that the process had been so difficult and she gave me a gift certificate to Lowe’s —which I thought was nice —totally unexpected by me.

A big thanks to all of you. I was so stressed seeing the nightly news segments saying, “OH MY GOSH THE HOUSING MARKET HAS CRASHED!” and “YOU ARE SO SCREWED IF YOU ARE A SELLER!” It seemed every time one turned on the news that would be a news segment. Your voices of reason helped and also got me in a more active role. I’m not sure my actions had any effect, but it felt a lot better than feeling blown about.