Buying a new home is an exciting adventure, but it comes with loads of documents, contracts, and other paperwork that require your approval and signature. Dave Ramsey has indicated that you could be faced with up to 100 pages when you sit down at the settlement table.
Many homebuyers become impatient and frustrated signing all these closing documents, and it's possibly more paperwork than you've ever had to deal with for anything else in your life. The paperwork required to sell a home is often much less voluminous than that required for a buyer.
And you can't simply just scribble your name on page after page after page. The most important thing is that you check the accuracy of the paperwork that you sign.
You'll have minimal home-buying paperwork if you're paying cash for the property, but most buyers don't do that and most homebuying paperwork is required by the mortgage lender.
A Matter of Perspective
Some of your homeowner friends might tell you that you'll sign away your life at the title company when you show up for your closing appointment. Your lender, on the other hand, may tell you that it should take only about 20 minutes.
The truth falls somewhere in between.
Important Home-Buying Documents
Even lawyers sometimes skip over reading all the paperwork involved in a home purchase because not all of them contain important information. Homebuyers who are lawyers generally do read certain documents, however, and they scrutinize them for detail. You should, too.
Many of these documents are forms you could be sued over or suffer consequences from if the information provided is untrue. This can make people hesitate even though they have no intention of falsifying information. But as a buyer, you must sign—and review—all the required paperwork if you want the loan.
The Promissory Note
Verify the spelling of your name and the property address, including the ZIP code. Check the interest rate, the principal balance of the loan, the term to repay, and look for a prepayment penalty, if any. Make sure all this coincides with your understanding of the loan.
You'll be checking much of the same information again here. Verify the spelling of your name and the property address, including the ZIP code, and the principal balance. You'll additionally want to look for terms regarding acceleration or alienation.
The Closing Statement
Confirm the name and address of your lender, the property address, the settlement agent, and the settlement date. Check the recording date and the contract sales price. Review the amount of earnest money you put down, the amount of the loan, and all closing fees.
The most important of these are the "800 fees," which are lender fees.
Ask for an explanation if you don't understand all the debits and credits. You might be surprised at how many people really don't understand how to read a closing statement, including those in the real estate profession.
Don't Sign This Document!
You'll also have to sign a number of documents that seem like they're inconsequential, but every piece of paper in the process serves a purpose.
These other pages can include legal forms that guarantee that you haven't lied on any of the other paperwork you've signed. You might have to sign various versions of this. One blanket document stating that you're telling the truth often isn't enough for the bank's legal department.
The legal forms will paraphrase and restate, and sometimes the documents are identical to the previous documents, but they're still necessary.
You might also be asked to sign paperwork that states whether you've ever used different names or could have used different names on other documents or in other situations.
You might be requested to sign various forms of your signature to protect both you and the bank from forgery: with an initial, without an initial, or with your middle name spelled out.
Don't be surprised if you're asked about the condition of the home and to rate it from excellent to good to average to fair to poor. You might be required to sign an owner occupancy certification as well. The bank can use this document to call your loan due and payable if you don't personally move into the property.
Don't Refuse to Sign
Even if you question the need for some of this paperwork, don't refuse to sign them. Your closing will be delayed without your signature on every necessary document.
Some people have been known to complain to the bank, and they were informed that they could go elsewhere to get a mortgage if they had issues with the documents or with the process.
Closing Day Tips
Take the entire day off from work, if possible. You don't want to have to worry about the clock ticking in the background while you're dealing with all this. And feel free to take with you copies of all documents you already have in your possession so you can compare them to what you're being asked to sign. Don't hesitate to ask questions if you pick up on a discrepancy.