This blog post is part of an ongoing series of articles that explains the typical closing process for home buyers in Washington State. In previous articles, we’ve offered an overview of closing costs that are encountered during a typical transaction, and also explained some of the things you can do to prepare for the big day.
Today, we’ll answer another common question: Does the seller attend the home buyer’s closing in Washington?
In Washington, Buyer and Seller Can Close Separately
The first thing to know here is that real estate closing procedures can vary from state to state. In some parts of the country, it’s an attorney-driven process where the buyer and seller sit down at a table together with their legal representation in tow. These are often referred to as “attorney states,” in a real estate context.
Washington, on the other hand, is more of an “escrow state.” In a typical sale, attorneys are not involved. Instead, the closing process for home buyers is usually managed by an escrow company that specializes in that very thing. The escrow person is also the one who gathers all of the documents needed to complete the home sale.
In Washington State, the seller and buyer do not have to attend closing at the same time. They can do it separately, with each party scheduling their own appointments with the escrow company. This is usually how it’s done, but it can vary.
Home buyers almost always have more paperwork to sign during the closing process, while sellers typically have less. The buyer’s paperwork will include loan documents (if a mortgage loan is being used), settlement statements, tax records and the like. The seller will sign over the deed to officially transfer ownership, and will have a few other things to sign.
Separate Escrow Appointments Are Common
Signing documents separately can be more convenient for both parties involved. In eastern states, where both parties attend closing together, there usually comes a time when the sellers are just sitting around watching the buyers sign a bunch of paperwork.
Then there’s a formal — and sometimes awkward — moment where the two parties shake hands and the seller gives the buyers the keys. But that kind of thing usually doesn’t happen in Washington.
Home buyers are often able to do their signing one or two business days before the scheduled closing. So the “official” closing day might be a bit anticlimactic. You might just be waiting for the property records to be updated by the county, or some other official function.
Communicate With Your Loan Officer and Escrow Agent
In the days leading up to the closing day, home buyers should keep open lines of communication with both the loan officer and the escrow person. The escrow agent will notify the mortgage company if additional documents are needed, or they might contact the buyer directly. It can vary.
So, as a best practice, make sure you stay in touch with both of these individuals prior to closing. If you do receive requests for additional information, try to handle them promptly to avoid delays. Eventually, the escrow agent will let you know when all of the documents are ready to be signed.
Remember, it’s a team effort. Everyone involved in this process wants the same thing. They want to finalize the purchase so that you, as the home buyer, can move into your new place.
Have questions? Sammamish Mortgage is a local, family-owned company based in Bellevue, Washington. We serve the entire state, as well as the broader Pacific Northwest region. Please contact us if you have mortgage-related questions.