Help I’m stuck in an Illinois real estate closing and can’t get out!

With the new, red hot real estate market, the length of real estate closings has increased dramatically. In the good old days, closings took 1 hour. Now, we routinely endure closings of 2 to 3 hours.

Why? Well, there’s a lot of reasons and we’ll get to those in a minute. First, here’s what happens at an Illinois real estate closing:

  1. Parties gather. The sellers’ attorney, buyers’ attorney, buyers and real estate agents meet at the title company location selected by the sellers’ attorney. The “closer” is there too and he or she is an employee of the title company whose assignment is to close the loan for the lender. The lender and loan officer usually don’t attend. The sellers rarely attend closing because they presign the documents. Some states handle closings in escrow where no one attends, but in Illinois we don’t use escrows and closings are done with everyone present at the title company.
  1. Buyer signs loan documents. The buyers sign their loan documents and those documents are sent by fax or email by the closer to the lender for “funding.” Funding means that the lender has checked the final loan documents, approved the figures on the final HUD statement, and has given the okay to disburse. Lately, lenders require 60-150 pages of documents to be send back for approval. The entire process of loan funding has pretty much gotten out of hand.
  1. Wired funds are received. The closer checks to see if the lender’s funds and buyers’ funds have been wired to the title company’s bank. At least 40-50% of the time, the lender’s funds have not been wired. Be sure to tell your lender that you expect the funds to be at closing. I have found that lenders do listen to this. (Side note: Title companies are so busy that at least 50% of the time we get no final figure for the buyer prior to closing. We have to estimate the amount and the final figure is a mystery until you get to closing.)
  1. Lender okays final documents and loan is funded. It usually takes anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes for the lender to review the documents and fund the loan. Often, they require picky changes and that slows things down. Some closers wait 60-90 minutes to send the documents to the lender for approval and that will slow things down for sure.
  1. Checks are issued and everyone is happy. Once all of the above happen, the closer issues the checks, gives the buyers their copies and everyone is happy happy.

Some of the reasons closings are slower now that in the past are as follows:

Title companies are understaffed and overbooked. Real estate was deader than a doornail from 2007 through the beginning of 2013. Now it is up 30-50%, but title companies have not added employees. I recently slogged through the swamp that was a 3 hour closing and our closer had 18 closings the next day. That is not even remotely possible. Given that it took her 3 hours to do my closing, I pity the poor buyers stuck in one of those 18. Most (90%) title company closers are really good and efficient at their jobs. It is not easy. There are a few, though, that are phantoms. If your closer leaves the room and disappears you are in for a long wait.

-Title companies don’t get HUD preapproved. The better title companies will get the HUD closing statement pre-approved by the lender before everyone gets to closing. This will speed up the closing a lot. A closer for a besieged title company will say “I didn’t have a chance to look at the package” and will print out the 150 page loan package from a pdf file and start on it while everyone sits there. Be sure to pack a sandwich if this happens because it will be a long wait.

-Buyers show up late. A surprising number of Buyers show up very late to closing. Last week, at a 9 am closing, we waited 1 hour while the buyer did his walk through of the property. He showed up at 10 am and the closing was a 3 hour blockbuster.

Loan funding process is fundamentally flawed. The entire process of getting a loan “funded” is a joke that should be revised. The whole thing is self-serving and the lender is trying to protect itself from getting stuck with the loan for some minor defect.

So what can be done to speed things up? If you’re a Buyer, show up on time. Be sure that funds are wired to the title company the day before closing. Insist that your lender wire the funds in advance of closing (not during the closing). The rest is pretty much out of your control, but don’t be surprised if you are at closing for 2 plus hours.

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