A Buyer's Question: When Will I Get the Keys?

Real Estate Agent with Fonville Morisey, a Long and Foster Company

I get this question a lot, especially from first-time homebuyers:  "When will I get the keys to my new house?"  My answer:  "At closing."  Then I go on to explain that closing probably means something different to me than it does to them.

When we think of closing most of us think of sitting around a conference table at the attorney's office signing a bajillion papers.  That's a misnomer that has been perpetuated, unfortunately, by us Realtors who often use that word interchangeably with settlement

SETTLEMENT is the act of signing those bajillion papers at the attorney's office but once you've done that the house isn't quite yours yet!! Many agents will go ahead and slide the keys over right then and there but I'm a stickler for the rules and insist that keys wait until the deed has been recorded.  That's the true closing.  I mean, what would happen if buyers got their new keys, went over to a house that wasn't quite theirs yet, and proceeded to accidentally burn it down?  Whose homeowner's insurance do you think would have to pay for that?  There's just too many things that can happen and too many liability issues. 

BUYERS, don't come to the settlement table with a moving van full of your stuff expecting to be able to take it straight over to the house afterwards!  Wait the few hours (or a day, sometimes) that it takes to get the deed recorded down at the courthouse because then it's yours, free and clear, and then you can enjoy it to the fullest!

Comments (7)

Rob D. Shepherd
RETIRED - Florence, OR

I have experience the same from older buyers. They come a long distance with a loaded truck an want the keys when they are thru signing.

Jun 03, 2011 11:13 AM
Diane McDermott
Realtor®, GRI, Landis e2 Real Estate, LLC - Charlotte, NC
Charlotte NC Real Estate Market

Very common question and great explanation Susan, I prefer morning settlement meetings so it can actually close same day (as long as the loan funds!)

Jun 03, 2011 11:14 AM
Susan Brown
Fonville Morisey, a Long and Foster Company - Cary, NC
REALTOR - Cary NC Homes for Sale

Rob--I'm sure it still happens!  I make sure to tell my buyers that first thing so their expectations are set from the start.

Diane--Thanks!  I also try to schedule morning closings because you never know what may delay something for an hour or two--it's nice to have the wiggle room!

Jun 03, 2011 11:21 AM
Susan Neal
RE/MAX Gold, Fair Oaks - Fair Oaks, CA
Fair Oaks CA & Sacramento Area Real Estate Broker

Hi Susan - This is a question raised on nearly every transaction, so I try to handle it up front.  There is a place in the offer form in California to specify when possession begins.  I call my buyers' attention to that and explain to them that it is best to just go ahead and state that it is upon recording, since the house really isn't theirs until then.  In the one in a million chance that something came up to stop the recording they wouldn't be caught having to undo anything they have done between signing and scheduled recording.  Representing sellers I always make sure that it is clear in their minds what the buyer is asking and to prepare a counter if necessary.

Jun 03, 2011 11:21 AM
Susan Brown
Fonville Morisey, a Long and Foster Company - Cary, NC
REALTOR - Cary NC Homes for Sale

Hi Susan--Sounds like you do a great job on either side making sure they're aware of exactly when possession begins!  Our new contracts this year actually specifies the difference between settlement and closing, something that's long been needed, IMHO!

Jun 03, 2011 11:35 AM
Joshua Harley
Fathom Realty - Plano, TX
CEO, Tech Geek, Innovator, Disruptor, US Marine

Susan - very well done.  First Time Home Buyers have tons of questions!

Jun 09, 2011 08:13 AM
Susan Brown
Fonville Morisey, a Long and Foster Company - Cary, NC
REALTOR - Cary NC Homes for Sale

Hi Joshua--Thanks!  I remember being a FTHB myself and how scary and unknown the whole process was to me (this was before I became a Realtor, obviously!)

Jun 10, 2011 04:20 AM