There's nothing simple about buying or selling a house. Both parties must sign a mountain of paperwork at the closing table. Money changes hands. Home inspections are conducted. Attorneys review homes' titles for liens. A lot can go wrong. And when something does, a mortgage loan closing date can be pushed back, even when a home's seller and buyer both agreed on a specific date. Don't panic if this happens. Most problems can be resolved, and the buyer and seller can pick a new -- hopefully more permanent -- closing date.
After buyers make an offer, they have the right to order an inspection of the home they are buying. A home inspector tours a residence, looking for problems both large and small. When inspectors turn up serious problems -- such as a leaking roof or sagging foundation -- buyers might ask sellers to either fix the problems, lop money off the home's asking price or provide the buyers with the cash upfront to hire contractors. Depending on the severity of the repairs, and negotiations between buyers and sellers, problems turned up during the home inspection could cause a closing date to get pushed back.
Many buyers get pre-approved for their mortgage loans before they make an offer on a home, but others don't. After making an offer, they need to find a mortgage loan to pay for a home. Before a lender loans them money, it will conduct the underwriting process, during which the lender will review the financial health of potential borrowers. The underwriting process can take time -- up to 60 to 90 days, depending on how busy a lender is. If underwriting takes too long, the buyers might have to request an extended closing date.
Before approving loans to a borrower, mortgage lenders will hire appraisers to determine the market value of the home the client wants to purchase. The reason is, lenders want to make sure their clients aren't overpaying before approving the loan. If the appraiser determines that the market value of the home is less than its selling price, the home's sellers might have to lower their purchase price, or the buyers might have to bring extra cash to the closing table to make up the difference. Complications from a low appraisal can scuttle a planned closing date, forcing both buyers and sellers to either walk away from the sale or set a new closing date.
Before a real estate sale closes, title insurance companies will perform a title search of the home being purchased. The goal is to make sure that no other taxing bodies or previous owners still have an ownership interest, or lien, against the home. If a title search does find a problem -- perhaps the sellers skipped a tax bill, and their county now has a lien filed against their property -- it can greatly complicate the real estate transaction, pushing a planned closing date months into the future.
Don Rafner has been writing professionally since 1992, with work published in "The Washington Post," "Chicago Tribune," "Phoenix Magazine" and several trade magazines. He is also the managing editor of "Midwest Real Estate News." He specializes in writing about mortgage lending, personal finance, business and real-estate topics. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Illinois.