You know the scene. It’s been in dozens of movies. The bride and groom hold hands at the altar as the pastor says: “Should anyone present know any reason this couple should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace.”
There’s a moment of respectful silence as the prospective husband and wife gaze lovingly into one another’s eyes and smile sweetly. Adoring friends and family squirm in their seats with emotion and anticipation, and dab moistening eyes.
And then, right as the ceremony is about to conclude, BANG! someone bursts through the door of the chapel and the whole thing is off, just like that.
Closings are to home sales what wedding ceremonies are to marriages, the official culmination of a relationship between two parties. Just like movie weddings, real life closings can be dramatically interrupted for all kinds of reasons.
That’s why it’s important for home sellers and listing agents to be prepared to avoid or mitigate common problems that could cause home sales to fall apart. Some of the most common reasons closings fall through include title issues, buyer financing problems and inspection findings.
Title issues—A “title” is the crucial document that proves you own the home you think you do and therefore are empowered to sell it. A “marketable title” is one that is free and clear of any issues that would interfere with the ability to convey the property from seller to buyer.
And boy-oh-boy, just like there’s are myriad reasons a movie marriage can be interrupted, there are all kinds of unexpected title issues that could delay or interfere with the sale of your home. For example, conveyance without a recorded deed sometimes happens during transfers between family members, which can later interfere with or even inhibit the sale of your home.
Title research can reveal issues like this, as well as accurate or inaccurate “liens” that could crash your closing. For example, paid-off mortgages sometimes still show up as a valid lien on a property, or one might discover a “mechanic’s lien” that was filed for work done on the house by a subcontractor.
Just as it is advisable for buyers to get preapproved for financing, it can be beneficial for sellers to be similarly proactive with regards to title. Contact a good title company, find out what you must do to prepare for selling, and address any issues promptly. Whether valid or invalid, listed liens must be addressed. It’s better to identify and address any issues early.
Buyer financing—Buyer financing trouble is one of the most common closing killers. Talk with your listing agent about screening prospective buyers and perhaps focusing efforts on those who have preapproval for financing or proof of funds indicating they can buy in cash.
Although preapproved buyers can still get rejected in the mortgage approval process, they are nonetheless a safer bet than those who may be dreaming of homeownership without the benefit of an initial credit screening, and, perhaps, reality.
It’s also a good idea to communicate with your listing agent while the approval process is underway to monitor that the loan is on track. Some loans can be particularly tricky and time consuming.
Inspection findings—It is common for a “purchase and sale agreement” to give buyers 14 days to “speak now or forever hold your peace.” During that time smart buyers will hire professionals to conduct a series of inspections, ranging from the most common, a general home inspection, to possibly a slew of others including water, radon and septic.
Buyers typically schedule and assume the cost of inspections, while this is the home seller’s time to squirm with emotion and anticipation, as buyers can walk away from the deal if they don’t like the inspection results… pretty much for any reason.
If you have an older home and/or a property that is in obvious need of repairs, if you aren’t a professional contractor (or closely connected to one), or perhaps if you inherited a home you’re not intimately familiar with the history of, it may be advisable to hire your own inspector(s) in advance of listing the property. This can help you proactively nip issues in the bud and/or help you sell the home “as is” with appropriate pricing to allow concessions for necessary repairs.
Just like movie weddings, real life closings can be interrupted for all kinds of reasons, and you don’t want to be left standing in shock at the altar we call the closing table. Work with your listing agent to prepare to avoid or mitigate common problems that could cause your home’s sale to fall through.