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House Calls: Minor Matters

Edith Lank on

Local customs vary widely, but the cost of a closing ends up pretty much the same. I have been told that in parts of New England, closings are conducted by real estate brokers. The process is often referred to as "passing papers" -- "We hope to pass papers on our new house Monday morning!"

In other areas, closings may be handled by escrow services or lending institutions. They may take place at the county courthouse, a bank, an attorney's office or some other location. Sometimes everyone sits around a big table; in other places, buyer and seller don't even meet.

No matter who handles the proceedings, the same legal steps will take place and your expenses will be about the same. Your main responsibility will be to prove title, to show that you are selling clear and trouble-free ownership. You'll sign a new deed, transferring title to the buyers. It will be drawn up ahead of time so that it can be examined and approved.

Sums you and the buyers owe each other (prepaid or past-due property taxes, for example) will be properly credited. If your buyers are using a mortgage loan, the lenders' representative may participate as well. That's because those buyers won't get the loan unless they pledge the property as security, but they can't do that until they own it, but they won't own it until they pay for it, but they need the mortgage money to buy. It all has to happen at the same time.

By all means, follow local custom. If you don't, you'll only confuse everyone and complicate the progress of your sale.

Underwater Inheritance

Dear Edith: Regarding G. and M.S., I am not a lawyer, and you are right that one should be consulted for advice. While an heir could disclaim their entire inheritance, your reply might suggest one could disclaim only an underwater home (where the mortgage debt is more than the place is worth) while inheriting other valuable estate property at the lender's expense. It may not be so simple. At least in recourse states, if the mortgage is not assumed or settled, the lender may foreclose and then liquidate the estate to satisfy the deficiency. -- N.K.

Answer: Thanks for the reminder. I'm glad to remember I advised those readers to work with their own attorney.


Contact Edith Lank at, at or at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620.

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