Countdown To Payday

After you have an accepted offer the painstaking, unglamorous work begins. Whether you eventually are paid or not for all your efforts depends on your ability and willingness to follow through.

■ The Loan Application. Go with your buyers to make a formal loan application. Let them know exactly the kind of information the loan officer will need, such as savings account numbers, credit references, and so on. As a matter of policy, give them a copy of the loan application itself ahead of time to prepare them for their meeting. Actually, I would do this when you first start looking at homes. It provides really good focus. When the appointment takes place, remember that this is the loan officer's moment, not yours. Volunteer information, if needed, but generally keep an amiable low profile.

The buyers will want to know how long it will take for loan approval and so will you, so ask if they do not. Make notes about any items the buyers might need to research and produce later, and follow up to make sure they do. As part of the loan application process, the lender is required by federal law to give the applicants a good faith estimate of the settlement charges that they are likely to incur. The information should be essentially the same as the estimate you prepared when the earnest money was signed. If there are significant differences, determine why and explain the reasons to the buyers.

You will know by the conclusion of the meeting whether you can anticipate problems. Unless you have made a serious error in qualifying the buyers, the loan application meeting is ordinarily short, businesslike, and cordial. Every four or five days after the meeting call the loan officer and see if everything is progressing well. If something needs to be done, volunteer your services, if appropriate. Keep in constant contact with the buyers and let them know everything you know. "Buyer's remorse" (when buyers are unhappy with their decision) seems mainly to afflict buyers who were hustled through the buying process and then left to fend for themselves.

■ Closing. Procedures vary around the country as to who chooses the title company or attorney who will do the title research and the closing itself. No matter who chooses and who pays, you need to establish immediate contact with the "action officer"—the person who will do the actual work. Provide anything needed and follow up every few days.

At the closing itself (in most areas there's a formal meeting), you will again be a guest, but if you have done your job properly, you will know more about the entire transaction than anyone at the table. (In most states, sellers and buyers have separate closings, although in some states, it is combined.) Because closing is the time when all final documents are signed and money changes hands, it can be tense and small misunderstandings can escalate. It is a good policy to go over the official documents with the closing officer well before the buyers arrive to make sure you understand everything fully. If at all possible, have your buyers preview the basic closing documents ahead of time, as the law permits.

In most areas, buyers need to show up at the close with some kind of negotiable instrument, such as a certified check or bank draft in a specific amount. Be sure they know that amount and that they are aware that a personal check will not do. As a final action, some type of gift to the buyers is appropriate. If your local multiple listing service has taken a photo of the home, you can use that, or an enlargement of it, in a nice frame.

■ After Closing. If your buyers give you permission, send notices to their new neighbors that they are moving in. Most people think this is a great idea, but there are those who do not. Not only is it a good icebreaker for the newcomers, it is good exposure for you. You should also call a welcome wagon if the folks are new to the community.

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