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Pre-Closing Packet

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An Excellent Idea

Okay, so as much as Broker School is a pain in my patootie, the instructor had what I thought was an excellent idea the other day. Not at all related to the class material, but useful none-the-less.

Those of us in escrow states – you know that awkward moment after the signing when the escrow officer leaves the room for like 10 minutes to go make copies and you sit there and make lame small talk with your Buyers? (In my state, they don’t get their keys until several days after signing, so it’s kind of an anti-climactic moment.)

Take the Time to…

What if you took that time to give them some sort of pre-closing package? Sort of a what-to-expect-next folder that would actually be useful. You could include all kinds of things, like:

  • a list of service and repair people that you recommend
  • a pamphlet about getting rid of PMI faster, or an illustration of how an extra payment a year effects the loan balance
  • an explanation of how to interpret their property tax bill
  • relevant websites – the HOA site, the assessor site, the zoning site, etcetera
  • a suggested schedule of regular home maintenance

Or how about:

  • instructions to call me first if they anticipate having problems paying their mortgage so we can find possible solutions before the situation gets worse.
  • pointing out if they want to cash-out re-fi in order to buy their next home, that they better do that before they put the house on the market. And to call me first about that so we can explore options.

Or even:

  • when to expect to hear from me and in what manner, to reinforce that I’m going to be around to take care of you on a regular basis.
  • an offer to help them track home values in their new subdivision by emailing them as homes come on the market around them.

Other ideas

You get the idea. You might even throw in a few cards, ask that if they’ve had a good experience, that they tell their friends, if that’s your style. Might be a good time to give them a short service survey too, with an envelope to mail it back to you.

If you wanted to get fancy, you could have big plastic envelopes made with your branding, give them fresh copies of the contract and inspection reports, all their purchase documents, cram those in the folder with those copies from escrow, and then they’ll have their entire transaction in one place, and easy to store.

There must be a million good things to include in a packet like that – things you’ll know they’ll be needing in the term of their home-ownership. What else can you think of to include?

Kelley Koehler, aka the Housechick, is usually found focused on her Tucson, Arizona, real estate business. You may also find her on Twitter, where she doubles as a super hero, at Social Media Training Camp, where she trains and coaches people on how to integrate social media into successful business practices, or at KelleyKoehler.com, a collection of all things housechick-ish. Despite her engineering background, Kelley enjoys translating complex technical concepts into understandable and clear ideas that are practical and useful to the striving real estate agent.

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35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. BawldGuy Talking

    June 1, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    From the files of Believe It Or Not, comes this. From ’69 to the present the next closing I attend will be the first. Either all parties to the transaction, ESPECIALLY all the pros, have done their jobs, or they haven’t. I’ve now worked in multiple escrow states.

    It’s amazing to me how many millions of RE agent man hours are spent at closings. And by the way? The next time a CLIENT attends a closing will also be a first. They expect it t close as scheduled ‘cuz that’s what’s supposed to happen.

    Seriously, I don’t even know a CA agent who has ever attended a closing. I’d never heard of the practice ’till I took my business to other states. The first time an agent asked me if I was gonna fly in for the ‘closing’, I thought he meant the closing party at happy hour — really.

    I know I can’t be the Lone Ranger here. Someone please get my back. 🙂

  2. Kelley Koehler

    June 1, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    @BawldGuy welcome to residential resale real estate in Arizona! We separate signing and closing over here – I should have been more clear. My client sits in front of a stranger to sign all their loan docs, the deed and whatnot. A good portion of agents in this area attend that signing appointment – giving warm fuzzies, reminding them of their loan terms when they see them written on a formal scary paper, explaining what is what. I’ve been at every other major event in their transaction. I can’t imagine, when it comes to them actually putting pen to paper at the end, bringing in their huge chunk of cash, not being there as well. Better to be there to answer questions than to have them desperately trying to hunt me down on the phone, or have them refuse to sign because they don’t understand something and I’m not there to make it all better.

    Heck, half the time, I don’t even see a HUD-1 until we’re sitting at the signing table. If I’m lucky, the lender had their act together, got docs over a couple days earlier, and my escrow officer worked up numbers in time to get me a copy a day or two early. But I can’t depend on that.

    Occasionally, for savvy sellers, I’ll skip their signing appointment, since it’s a 10 minute deal anyway. But only if I know they’ll be okay signing on their own.

  3. Barry Cunningham

    June 1, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Jeff..I have been to one closing…that’s why I apy attorneys and title agents.

  4. Barry Cunningham

    June 1, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    I meant to say PAY for attorneys and title agents..

  5. Chris Shouse

    June 1, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Kelly,
    That is an excellent idea and you are right those moments are strained sometimes especially if something has gone wrong and it was a rough ride. I will try this the next time and I hope I can come up with some really creative things.:)
    Sorry @BawldGuy almost every agent I know in Las Vegas would not miss a closing and if they can not go they ask someone to go for them bringing them up to speed before hand:)

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Kelley Koehler

    June 1, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Barry – we don’t use attorneys over here. It’s me, with my fiduciary duties, and the escrow officer, who doesn’t represent anyone. I’ve seen the HUD-1 change from the time I got an advance copy to the time my client signs, I’ve had escrow officers make executive- and erronious- decisions and pulled my clients out of a signing. 9 times of 10, everything goes just fine. But that one time it doesn’t, I’m usually there fixing wrong costs and agreements that someone else managed to sneak in. It’s worth it to me, and it helps cement my relationship with my client.

    Wow. Never thought I’d be addressing *attending* the closing with this post!

    I’m sure it varies widely, and I’m sure if you work with investors mostly, you treat it much differently.

    Suffice it to say, attending closing in my market area is considered good practice.

  7. BawldGuy Talking

    June 1, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    Chris — In CA the escrow officer and/or the title rep will call me to confirm closing. It happens automatically as everything has already been accomplished per the contract. I understand we’re different. In Phoenix we closed well over $10 Million in sales and exchanges and never attended a closing. The escrow/title company/lenders realized quickly it was on them to perform.

    We never, not once had a problem.

    Some day soon I’d like to attend a closing just to get the feel of it.

    Thanks to everyone.

  8. Kelley Koehler

    June 1, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    BawldGuy – I’m assuming your clients aren’t in the same state as the property either though, right? They probably do a mail-out for the signing, or use a satellite office with a notary. In my and Chris defense, local owner-occupants are a vastly different animal than the remote investor. There’s a lot more hand-holding, to say the least.

    Which is to say, you may disregard this post if you do not attend closings. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. 🙂

    And even if you don’t attend, the concept still applies. A little something for your client to let them know you’re anticipating their needs and taking care of them.

  9. BawldGuy Talking

    June 1, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Kelley — I see your point completely, and it makes real world sense.

    The 34+ years before I left San Diego involved doing biz w/San Diego props, buyers & sellers. No buyer or seller ever attended a closing ‘cuz there wasn’t a closing to attend. In CA the closing consists of the title company employee who drew the short straw, standing in line at the recorder’s office.

    This has been very enlightening, and I appreciate all of the input from everyone. Thanks so much.

  10. Mariana

    June 1, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    The only closings that we do not attend are the ones where our clients are out of state – usually sellers. However, since CO is a no-attorney state, we make sure the HUD-1 is perfect at least a day ahead of schedule. We have rockin’ closers and since we are not an escrow state, our clients (and we) are ALWAYS paid at the time of close. Everyone signs and everyone gets paid.

    Another good idea would be a gift card to the local locksmith to get their locks changed – if you represent the buyer.

  11. Mike Farmer

    June 1, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    I attend every closing (attorney’s office) and bring my file.

  12. Bill Lublin

    June 1, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    @Bawldguy I had my first California closing last year when we bought our condo in LA, and for me it was a surrealistic experience because for the first time in my real estate purchasing careeer we didn’t sit around a conference table signing the documents and passing the checks and keys all at the same time.
    In Eastern Pennsylvania, and New Jersey (the two states I’m licensed in ) we don’t close escrow, we settle the property (In some small areas in Western PA they do close in escrow) . Generally present are the buyer, the seller, title clerk, and both agents – the appropriate agent goes over the mortgage docs, reviews the marked up title report (which shows that all exceptions to title have been removed or excepted) and explains the HUD-1, If there were issues with th epre-settlement inspection, those issues are resolved at the table. As an investor, there have been occasions where I didn’t attend the settlement, but that was because I’ve done this as an investor hundreds of times, I own the title company, was buying cash, or selling a property where i already knew the proceeds (AND my assistant or an agent from my firm was present so I could rely on someone present at the closing to call if there was an issue to resolve)

    @Kelley; We actually have a transaction porcessing company and we use letters and forms similar to your suggestions. When there are problems we try to insulate the agents from being the bad guys, and when the agent attends settlement, they have copies of all of the settlement docs ready for the client (prepared by our title company) a large legal size plastic folder with the company logo and there busines card on the front so the client sees then evrytime they go to the file. Your posts has very effective suggestions and in places where the agent is with the client during this sometimes stressful experience, I think the prudent agent or company would do well to adopt them.

  13. BawldGuy Talking

    June 1, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    Bill — I’m assuming your L.A. deal didn’t deed the property to the wrong buyer? 🙂

    Did all go well? Were you surprised the closing was pretty much a result of running on auto-pilot?

    From what I can tell, the real difference is how CA deals and the pros involved, must address any problems BEFORE a closing can take place. If any problems remain, there will be NO closing, period. This means the actual closing is anti-climactic at best. Deals close with a whimper and not a bang, so to speak.

    By definition, the deal can close ONLY if everything is ready to go and all parties to the transaction agree that’s the case. Don’t you think most buyers/sellers would prefer that approach instead of the drama inducing crapola that must go on regularly using the ‘group closing’ method?

  14. Hunter Jackson

    June 1, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    I can’t imagine not going to a closing. Like others above, I have had things change from the morning of closing to when I make it to the attorneys office for closing. We are an attorney state without Title Co’s, escrow etc. Clients get keys at closing, and everything is signed at closing.

    I guess it’s just the way SC law works that it is best that we are there.

  15. Lisa Sanderson

    June 1, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    How interesting to hear about this ‘escrow’ thingy. Here in PA we have and attend closings where the buyer gets the deed, keys and access to a broom-clean building immediately upon signing all the docs. And everyone gets paid. At least it *usually* works out that way.

    But to the subject at hand…these are all great ideas and I have been meaning to work on something like this but haven’t gotten around to it. I think, though, that I will wait a bit and drop if off or mail it to them after the dust settles. By the time they get to the closing table and then go over the 4 inch stack of docs, their heads are swimming and they have more papers than they ever care to read.

  16. BawldGuy Talking

    June 1, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    Kelley — Given the procedures for closing, it seems to me your ideas set forth in the post would be no brainers. They’re very well thought through, and seem to smooth the road significantly for all.

  17. Bill Lublin

    June 1, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    @Bawldguy – Yes we got the right deed though as I said it felt surreal – not being there to get a copy of the deed (though I did have the title company fax me things that I’m sure they thought were unneeded and were just to reassure me) The mortgage company nearly screwed up the deal by not having the review appraiser (new construction) through the property in time to fund the loan during the trip we made to the coast , and that would have screwed up my designer and the contractors and furniture folks etc., but compulsive me met the guy at the condo (saw my first Iphone) waited while he sent the report through his phone, called the lender, nagged them about the funding, and then (whew), got the keys. Our builder was good on the construction and the aftersale stuff, but their sales staff was terrible from a service viewpoint (you or I would have fired all of them in short order)

  18. BawldGuy Talking

    June 1, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    If I ever had a team in SC my team Captain would attend the closings — no exceptions. 🙂

  19. Chris Shouse

    June 1, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    @BillLublin You are right about sitting around the table buyers and sellers I bought and sold in Indiana twice and thats just the way it was. A problem came up during one of them and the seller said I will do this and this and this to fix that it was written up signed and the closing and papers and keys passed out. It is so different here in Las Vegas when we go in and sign and then wait for the lender to FUND so it can be recorded. It can get very nerve racking. Good luck getting the HUD1 before you sit down so you can go over it and see if your estimates are correct. But thats just the way it is here and Kelly’s idea will work here:)

  20. Thomas Johnson

    June 1, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    Kelley: I always make sure my buyers have their Home Warranty hotline toll free number. Most of the time I can get the contract number for them as well. You won’t believe how many times the A/C has a problem on move in day in the ERAHouston summer! This way, when I get that call , I can remind them that they were provided with a warranty(due to the professionalism of their agent, no doubt), call the toll-free number and follow the instructions to get the repair.

  21. Kelley Koehler

    June 1, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    Thomas – that’s a good one. Our home warranty people tend to mail out a packet to the new owners, but it can often be several weeks in arriving.

  22. Paula Henry

    June 1, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    Kelly –

    This is a great list regardless of whether an agent attends cosing. In AZ, I went to signing with my buyers. In Indiana – the agent or licensed assistant is required to go to closing. I am already adding some items from this list to give to my clients. THANKS for sharing!

  23. Cyndee Haydon

    June 2, 2008 at 8:52 am

    Kelley,
    We actually call ours “Celebrations” for our clients {idea from Joe Stumpf} since we don’t see it as the end of the relationship and when working with buyers we bring balloons that say “Welcome Home” and I buy an inexpensive ceramic box (like small jewelry box) to put the house key in to give them at the closing table.

    We used the large envelopes you discussed to have all there info and our cards stuck right in the front 🙂 – I used to get testimonials written here – now we pull out the flip camera – it’s a beautiful thing. Thanks for some great suggestions of things to add.

    P.S. The mortgage professionals we use always attend too!

  24. Hunter Jackson

    June 2, 2008 at 9:00 am

    @ bawldguy I am trying!

  25. Matthew Rathbun

    June 2, 2008 at 9:21 am

    I suppose it has a lot to do with what’s customary for your area. Virginia allows either settlement agents or attorneys to conduct closings. I much prefer attorneys, but even then you have to watch everything that goes on. There are simply too many things that can go wrong and we’re (should be) a team.

    There was only one time when I didn’t make a closing and my Broker went for me. Otherwise, even with my out of state buyers, I was there to represent them and if was just me and the other clients.

    I just never envisioned not going to a closing – this is why I like these “national” blogs. I can see how the other states do it.

    Kelley – this idea and post rocks. I forwarded this idea on to some of my instructors who teach related topics.

    Good job!

  26. BawldGuy Talking

    June 2, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Kelley — One of my house agent buddies gives the husband and wife keychains along with other stuff. I was struck by the keychain idea she used, ‘cuz she tried to ‘customize’ her choices, especially for the wife. She’d really hunt around for the perfect keychain, hoping it would have real meaning to her client. She said sometimes the wife would still be using the keychain years later.

  27. BawldGuy Talking

    June 2, 2008 at 9:41 am

    Bustin’ yer chops, Hunter. 🙂

  28. Vicki Moore

    June 2, 2008 at 11:03 am

    I attend all the signings – no attorneys here. I view it as an opportunity to be supportive and supply information, although the title company usually has that covered.. I typically don’t bring anything like you describe to the signing because clients are pretty overwhelmed with paperwork and information. I do, however, send them those things – and others – in follow up letter and emails, one at a time.

    I send them a fridge magnet with the home warranty company’s phone number, policy number and my contact info on it. Later a letter reminding them to see an attorney regarding getting a trust. At the end of January I send them another copy of their HUD statement. The title company I use most often just started giving me a copy of their file on disc for the client. So I use that as an opportunity to call/visit.

    Would be interested to hear what others do as well.

  29. Barry Cunningham

    June 2, 2008 at 11:28 am

    We leave a basket in the home when they arrive..it is always a surprise and get sthem in the heart! Because I’m such a nice guy!

  30. Mariana Wagner

    June 2, 2008 at 11:38 am

    That’s what I always hear: “That Barry Cunningham is such a nice guy.”

  31. Jonathan Dalton

    June 2, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    I’d include an orange stuffed monkey in a Macayo’s shirt. But that’s just me.

  32. Brad Nix

    June 2, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    Ditto @Mike Farmer. Must be a Georgia thang.

  33. Jennifer in Louisville

    June 2, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    I put in Business Cards – but its got a photo of their new home, names, and new mailing address – which they can give to their friends, family, business associates, etc. And I also print off address labels with a photo of their new home, and new mailing address.

  34. Ricardo Bueno

    June 3, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    I try and attend all of my closings (my brother laughs at me, he’s with Countrywide). But it works for me. It says “hey this guy’s great.” It solidifies the relationship and it garners a greater degree of trust which often means referrals.

    I like presentations. I always have… So I guess it comes a little natural to me to put something together. A small presentation binder that leaves the client with details of their new mortgage and answers “follow up” questions.

    In fact evening from our initial meeting I put something brief together. I have a cover page with my logo and contact info. on it and on the inside I have product comparisons and payments. Recent blog posts (to promote my website) and a series of other supplemental materials.

    It’s certainly better than showing up empty handed! And when I see that nod of the head I know that they like what I’m presenting.

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