When can I get the keys to the house we’re buying?

Real Estate Agent with Alain Pinel BRE 01367196

When can I get the keys to the house we’re buying? Alameda County and Contra Costa County, CA Keys to house

The answer is different in every state --- sometimes it’s even different within the same state.

When we lived in Florida, the day we signed our documents at a lawyer’s office  is the same day we got the keys to the house.

But when we moved to northern California, it’s a different story.

  • Loan documents to title company. Loan underwriter sends the paperwork to the escrow officer who will need at least 24 hours to review the documents, confirm the terms of the sale, prepare the paperwork for signing and then schedule the appropriate parties to sign.
  • Document signing. Typically,  when buyers sign their loan documents and other paperwork, there will or should be an allowance of at least 24 hours from the time of signing for the loan underwriter to give final approval and fund the loan.
  • Loan funding. Title company waits for confirmation that the loan is funded, usually 24 hours from loan document signing.
  • Recording. Upon receipt of confirmation and if done early enough, the title company may have enough time or could request special accommodation to get the sale recorded by noon, or no later than 3 pm that same day. Otherwise, it could be another 24 hours after funding before it is recorded.
  • Keys. Only upon confirmation of recording will a realtor give the keys to the buyer who is then officially the new owner.

What are the reasons for possible delays in funding/recording?

  • When/where signing occurs. Since buyers and sellers don’t always sign during business hours, and if they require a notary public to assist them with the document signing, that could delay the process another day.
  • New lender conditions. At the very last minute, the underwriter may have certain conditions that must be satisfied, or he may have discovered new information that affects the loan. For example:
    • The buyer’s credit score takes a hit if buyer engages in purchases of large ticket items like new furniture. As such, ability to qualify for the loan may change.
    • The buyer’s employer has not confirmed employement --- is the buyer still employed?
  • Recording schedule. And depending on the county, they may have certain hours/days when they do not handle recordings

Why can’t I get the keys sooner?

Buyer does not own the property until the sale is recorded.
Buyer can not and should not attempt to make any changes to the property until it’s his.
If Buyer attempts to make some changes to the property and damage or injury occurs at the premises, it is a huge liability.


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Dale Samples
304.741.4705 • www.dalesamples.com - Charleston, WV
REALTOR -Homes for Sale Charleston, West Virgini

Interesting. In our market, we get the keys at closing. Everything is said and done prior to closing or it doesn't happen.

May 29, 2012 01:07 PM #1
Kwee Huset
Kwee Huset Realty - Venice, FL
Venice Florida Homes For Sale

Pacita, some bank owned properties in Florida - the buyers may not get the keys on the day of closing.

May 29, 2012 01:32 PM #2
Florida Tolbert Team Keller Williams Advantage
Keller Williams Advantage III Realty in Lake Nona - Orlando, FL
Million $ Guild Cert Luxury Home KW Land Division

Florida is contracted on DAY OF CLOSING.  If you are purchasing an REO, it is in the contract that rekey is to take place and if it is not done by walkthru the morning of then don't sign until it is.  You are the buyer.  You have control that you are not even aware of.

May 29, 2012 01:35 PM #3
John Juarez
The Medford Real Estate Team - Fremont, CA


Excellent overview of the closing process in our area. Your post also reminds us of why an experienced Realtor is an important asset for buyers who need to be guided throughout the home buying process, not only at the front end but through the entire process until the handing over of the keys.

May 29, 2012 01:50 PM #4
Pacita Dimacali
Alain Pinel - Oakland, CA
Alameda/Contra Costa Counties CA

Dale --- I've lived and bought property in different states, and it's interesting to note how different they are. In New York, the buyer had lawyers, the sellers had lawyers, and we as buyers must have written a dozen checks. I can't remember when we got the keys.

Kwee --- that's interesting. I always thought the day the buyers sign their documents is the day they get their keys.

Kevin -- that was my experience in Florida....so I was surprised at how different it is in California.

John --- I didn't even mention that we recommend closing on Tuesday-Friday but to avoid Mondays if possible.

May 29, 2012 01:54 PM #5
Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366
Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366 - Placerville, CA
General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage

I never really thought about it Pacita, but it does make sense that you don't get the keys until you own it.

May 29, 2012 05:42 PM #6
Antonio & Alexia Cardenas
Alameda County - San Leandro, CA. - San Leandro, CA
"The Realtors In Motion"

And it also helps to tell the buyers way in advance how this works. The average person has no idea of the time elements involved at this point. It is so clear to us, when recording happens... it is your house, not before! And by the way, be prepared for delays... they are always lurking around closing time! Thanks for the post Pacita


May 31, 2012 04:50 AM #7
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Pacita Dimacali

Alameda/Contra Costa Counties CA
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