Your Closing Journey
Whether you're buying or selling a home, it's a milestone – and we appreciate the opportunity to be part of the process. To ensure you have all the information you need to understand the closing process, we’ll walk you through each step, from the placing of the order through the closing and beyond.
Click on each phase to learn about what we do for that part of the transaction.
Upon receiving the order, we first review the executed contract between the seller and buyer. If applicable, earnest money is also deposited into an escrow account at this time.
We then complete a title and tax search for the property:
Title Search – In a title search, we review documents relating to the property’s past ownership and location. This can include:
- Deeds (transfer of ownership)
- Security instruments (deeds of trust/mortgages)
- Judgments and liens
- Home Owners Association (HOA) documents (if applicable)
- State, county, city, municipality ordinances/restrictions
All of the information found in these searches will be examined. Any issues arising from the search that need to be addressed prior to finalizing the transaction will be addressed in the preliminary title report or title commitment.
Tax Search – In a tax search, we determine taxes owed on the property by reviewing public records as well as by contacting the various assessors and collectors, including the city and county. Certain taxes are prorated based on the time of year the closing takes place. A listing of the taxes paid and outstanding, if any, are listed on the preliminary title report or title commitment.
After gathering and reviewing all relevant documents during the search process, the title examiner determines which apply to your transaction. It is important that we verify that the owner(s) of record are the same as the individuals conveying title, per the agreement, and that they are transferring ownership (title) of the property to the buyer(s) in the manner in which it was requested per the agreement. The title examiner then ensures that all outstanding debts, liens and encumbrances are listed on the preliminary title report/title commitment so they can be addressed and resolved, which will allow the title to pass to the buyer.
The preliminary title report/title commitment is then issued to all transaction participants so they know the conditions for Stewart Title to issue the applicable title insurance policies requested. The preliminary title report/title commitment is often referred to as “the road map to closing” because it lists all outstanding debts, liens and encumbrances (“road blocks”), as well as any other action needed to be taken by either or all of the parties prior to passing title to the proposed buyers. Additionally, certain exceptions to ownership are disclosed in the preliminary title report /title commitment. Those may include HOA governing documents; city, county and state property usage restrictions; perpetual property-tax assessments; and any applicable restrictions defined in plat maps or other instruments of record.
After the preliminary title report /title commitment is issued, assuming Stewart Title is closing your transaction, the curative work begins. Curative work is any action that’s necessary in order to eliminate items identified as “road blocks” disclosed in the commitment/preliminary report, which otherwise could prevent transfer of title. Examples include paying off any liens against the property or clearing up any newfound problems with earlier transfers of the title, such as the discovery of heirs of previous owners, who never relinquished their property rights.
If these items are not eliminated or released prior to the closing and transfer of title, they will be listed as exceptions on the final title policy and will not be covered. (For example, in order to remove a lien, the seller could be required to pay a contractor who, never having been paid, placed a lien on the property.) Our objective is to clear any title issues as soon as possible in order to convey property title to the purchaser.
During the document-preparation phase, the appropriate forms are prepared by Stewart Title’s escrow and settlement department. These individuals are often referred to as the closers or escrow officers. Depending on the state where the property is located, the prepared documents executed at closing will create the final settlement for the transfer of title.
Some of the forms you can expect to see at closing include
- Real-estate closing documents (seller and buyer)
- Loan-related closing documents (buyer and borrower)
Your title company or lender may request additional documentation from their borrowers. To ensure the closing proceeds in a timely manner, the requested information should be returned as quickly as possible.
At the closing, all parties will review and sign all necessary paperwork. The closer or escrow officer will oversee the closing or signing of the transaction to ensure that all requirements are met. After all signatures are obtained and funds have been collected, the closer or escrow officer will complete the remaining steps necessary to finalize the transaction and disburse monies. Once these steps have been completed and, if applicable, the buyer’s lender has authorized funding, the closer or escrow officer will disburse sales proceeds to the seller, and keys will be released to the buyer.
The closing may be over, but our work isn’t yet complete. As part of the post-closing process, our team is taking the following steps to close out the transaction:
- We will disburse funds to the designated parties for the charges collected on the settlement statement.
- We will send the original loan-closing package back to the lender, if applicable.
- We will record the appropriate documents, such as conveyance deeds, security instruments (mortgage or deed of trust) as well as any other miscellaneous documents necessary as directed by the contract, the lender or state regulations.
- We will issue the title insurance policies.
- The owner's title policy, if not provided at closing, will be sent to the buyer along with the original recorded conveyance deed.
- The lender title policy will be delivered to the lender along with the original recorded security instrument (deed of trust or mortgage).