The last steps before you finally commit to the home buying purchase is the walkthrough and the closing. In my case, once the closing was scheduled for a Tuesday morning, the listing agent and I scheduled a time for me to do a final check of the apartment on Monday afternoon. While I had thought of doing it earlier, the lawyer’s office advised me that it should be done less than 48 hours before the closing, perhaps even the morning of, so that the period between assuring yourself that you are getting what you’re paying for and making that payment is minimal. Otherwise, for instance, if you do a walkthrough a week before the closing, and the place is somehow damaged during that week, you won’t know till after you have signed and sealed the purchase, at which point it’s your problem to fix, not the seller’s.
(The last walkthrough assumes, of course, that you did a thorough inspection at the time you first saw the place, as did the bank’s appraiser.)
At my walkthrough, I saw that the seller (or co-op) had continued to improve the apartment by re-glazing the tub—the masking tape and paper was still in place. I did have a moment’s worry on noticing a fair amount of water at the base of several window sills, but we realized that it was condensation from the radiators being turned on for a while in a closed apartment. On the advice of various recent home-buyer friends, I checked every outlet by plugging in my phone, flushed the toilet, turned all the hot and cold water faucets on and off, and opened and shut all the doors and windows to make sure everything worked.
The broker turned on the oven to make sure it was operational, but since all the appliances appeared to be new (with the manuals still in their plastic wrapping), things seemed good to go.
On our way out, I checked the building’s closest service entrance so I would know the easiest way to move my stuff in. As we left, the broker left me with a valuable bit of info: the final numbers of what checks I needed to bring to the closing the next morning might not be decided till an hour or two before the actual meeting. I was glad to hear it, because I had assumed I’d get them before the end of the day (so I could go to the bank and get the certified checks that these transactions required); without his remark, I would have been an even bigger basket case than I was at the moment—with the closing, move, and a long international trip scheduled in the next four days!
(Since one of my banks is only in Manhattan, I had taken the precaution of getting a certified check from them the previous week after checking with my lawyer about the name of the payee.)
The lawyer also emailed me at the end of the day of the walkthrough to assure me that if she didn’t get the final numbers from the other attorneys that night, she’d have them for me in the morning. As I planned for the closing, I was also emailing and calling different movers, and finally settled on “College Educated” movers, whose reviews and quote seemed reasonable in light of my meager, non-Waterford possessions.
But there was a hitch. Of course. When I contacted the management company that handles the building to notify them of the date of move (per the house rules), I was told that before I moved (1) they needed a refundable $250 move-in deposit (2) copies of the closing documents. They suggested I give these to the co-op’s attorney at the closing, who could have them messengered over to the management company’s office.
In the eventuality that this didn’t happen—the one thing this process has reinforced in my mind is the need for Plan B—I informed the moving company of the possibility of rescheduling the move from Wednesday to Thursday (Christmas Eve, with its mythic reminder of the search for shelter). They seemed okay with that, and since they didn’t need a deposit, it felt like the best I could hope for.
On the morning of the closing, I continued my packing tasks, in between posting items for sale on Craigslist or for free on Freecycle. (No one would show up to get these in time, which meant they ended up in my building’s recycling room.) The saving grace of the process was that my landlady had already sent certified letters declaring that she would be using my security deposit to clean the apartment, so I wasn’t going to be doing that on Thursday and could rest after the move on Wednesday.
At around 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, my attorney called to say that she had received the numbers and I should get the checks as listed in her email. Again, as is the theme of this process, I had a moment of panic on noting that the payee’s name for the primary payment in this list was different from the one she had given me last week when I got funds from my Manhattan bank. I hurriedly wrote her asking if I had to go to Manhattan in the 2 hours before closing to get that check redone, get to a local bank for the rest of the checks, and make it to meeting in Forest Hills at the seller’s attorney’s office. I followed it up with a phone call, which thankfully revealed that the new payee name had a typo and the original one she had given me was accurate.
Armed with the information, my check book, and photo ID, I left for the bank. (Well, not quite. When I checked on the closing’s location, Google maps gave me two different addresses, so I called both my attorney and that office to confirm where on earth I was supposed to go. What a time for Google to be confused.)
The bank had its own drama—because my life is a soap.
As the automated service economy grows, banks are slowly eliminating human tellers, which means that there were two tellers when I got there before 10:45. By the time I got to one, and she began meticulously fulfilling my requests for four certified checks (1 for the remaining cash I owed the seller, 1 for the transfer taxes that I paid as part of buying a sponsor apartment, 1 for December’s maintenance—allegedly refunded after pro-rating—and 1 for January’s maintenance, the second teller had gone on break. This meant that there was a snaking line of customers behind me that slowly turned into the French revolution.
(Note to self: when asking for multiple bank checks, you should not just give the details of the payees and amounts written out on a separate piece of paper, but also fill out withdrawal slips for each one as if you are asking for cash withdrawals. If you need this money to be taken out of multiple accounts in that bank, arrange to have the funds transferred into one account in advance.)
I fled as soon as I could, but was definitely running late for the closing at that point. A quick call to the lawyer has her assistant assuring me that it was not that big a deal. Despite the rain, I managed to get to the office of the G&G legal firm just past 11:30, and thus began the closing. It is, as these things go, fairly anti-climactic (though the paperwork means you are signing your life away).
The attendees included the bank’s attorney, the seller’s attorney, and the co-op’s attorney, as well as my lawyer and me. (The listing agent would come late, since his only role is to hand over the keys.) My lawyer first inspected and tallied all the bank checks, and then passed them to the various parties’ representatives. Following that, she explained that my name on all the documents had to be redone since there was an inconsistency between how it was written on some. Fortunately, it appeared to be a simple matter of showing my ID, and then initialing and signing in documents as and where the attorneys requested. She then notarized the changes as desired.
At the end of this process, I received an enormous tome of the co-op’s details, keys from the broker, and a stock certificate (rather than a deed, which is what one gets when buying property, such as a house or condo).
To be even more accurate, I held the stock certificate for a minute for a photo op, because the original stays with the bank till the mortgage is paid off.)
Though we were technically done at this point, we then spent some time figuring out the management company’s requirements for my move the following day. The co-op’s attorney flatly said that they do not take that move-in check, nor would they messenger the documents over that day. My lawyer suggested calling the management company and asking if I could just bring copies and the check over to their office myself that afternoon. The attempt just reached the voicemail, so on my lawyer’s advice, I took the check back, and left the management company a message with that suggestion. Their work done, all the other parties left, and I wrestled my new paperwork into my bag, and headed back to the subway. As I said, anti-climactic.
The management company and I managed to get in touch while I was on the subway platform and agreed to the handoff if I got to their office before 5. Reassured, I headed in later in the afternoon, having already emailed scanned copies of the stock certificate and some other paperwork that seemed to authorize my purchase. Following a quick chat with the management staff, who seemed very pleasant, I handed over the check for the move-in deposit and headed back to my last night in my rental apartment.