So, When Do We Get The Keys?

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It’s the most asked question after the buyers sign their loan package.

So, when do we get the keys?

They may be buying their retirement home or it could be a first time home buyer. It doesn’t matter. They all want to know the answer to that question.

The official answer is “In Arizona, the property transfers or conveys upon recordation of the deed with the County Recorder.” This official answer doesn’t really help the buyer. They want to know how long it will take to complete the transaction so they can get the keys.

With so many people relocating to the area from other states, we get lots of questions about the transfer of ownership. In some states, everyone attends the closing. Buyer, Seller, Agents, Lender, Attorneys, and Escrow are all at the same table. In these states, the buyer leaves the closing with keys in hand. That is never the case in Arizona. We schedule the buyer and seller for separate appointments. As mentioned in a previous post, sometimes the agent and/or lender attend, but most of the time, they don’t. And nearly every time, the buyer asks the question: When do we get the keys?

So what happens after the documents have been signed? I’ve personally signed thousands of buyers in my career, and after they finish and leave the office (hopefully with their agent and/or lender) the same scene usually occurs outside my office window. Handshakes, hugs, high fives or fist bumps are exchanged between the buyers and the agent and/or lender. I never get tired of watching this celebration, especially when it’s a first time buyer.  OK, enough with the warm and fuzzies, it’s time for us to get this thing funded and recorded…

Here’s what happens from the escrow point of view after the signing:

The loan documents are packaged per the lenders instructions. Copies of recordable documents are made and certain items are included in the funding package to the lender.

Roughly ½ the lenders require the loan documents be returned for review prior to funding. If this is the case, the loan docs are either couriered or over-nighted to the lender.

If the documents are not required for funding, the lender usually needs a few key documents faxed in order to fund.

The recording package, consisting of at least the deed, Affidavit of Property Value, and the deed of trust is prepared and couriered to the recording desk.

The Escrow Officer now waits for contact from the lender for any final conditions or documents the lender may need to fund the loan.

When all conditions are met, the lender and Escrow Officer compare figures and agree to the amount of the loan funding.

Escrow waits for the receipt of the funds, usually via wire transfer.

Upon receipt of the wire, the Escrow Office releases the file for recording.

The Title Officer in charge of the file does one final review of the file for any liens or issues that may have occurred since the issuance of the Preliminary Title Report.

Upon the Title Officers’ approval, the recording desk scans the documents into the county system, and receives confirmation of recordation. This is immediately forwarded via e-mail to escrow.

The normal timeline from signing of the loan package to recordation is generally 24 hours or so. If the lender funds by fax, same day recordation is possible, as long as the wire can be sent to escrow. Escrow is now free to call both agents and let them know the file has recorded.

Now, they get the keys!

It’s a long answer to a simple question.  Hopefully this glimpse behind the scenes makes sense…  If it doesn’t, leave a comment below.


Bill-RisserAbout the Author: Bill Risser is an Assistant Vice President and Branch Manager of the Chicago Title – Gilbert office.   You can find him at CT-Gilbert.com and on Twitter at @billrisser, that is, when he’s not on a local golf course with his son, at the movies with his wife,  or tending to one of his four fantasy leagues (NFL, MLB, PGA, and NASCAR).

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About the Author
Bill Risser

Bill Risser is Vice President, New Media and Education of Chicago Title Agency in Maricopa County. You can find him at ChicagoTitleArizona.com and on Twitter at @billrisser, that is, when he’s not on a local golf course with his son, at the movies with his wife, or tending to one of his four fantasy leagues (NFL, MLB, PGA, and NASCAR).

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  1. Doug Francis says:

    In Northern Virginia, the custom is the buyers get the keys at the settlement table. The lenders funding would already be in the escrow account, down payments are certified funds, and the lender would have approved the final HUD-1.

    Hopefully I will never know what happens in the 12 hours between signing and the recordation at the Fairfax County Courthouse if there is some sort of CSI event… but I think that I am covered.

    Maybe I will call my favorite title guy on Monday and ask, just to be on the safe side.

  2. Here in Iowa, same as North Virginia the keys change hands at closing or as Doug puts it at the settlement table. I can't imagine the high-fives and hugs without the keys. The idea of buying a house and then just going home as usual seems a bit anti-climactic to me… As with most anything though, if that's what you're used to I'm sure it doesn't seem strange at all to you. These are just the random observations of an outsider.

  3. Alex Cortez says:

    I remember growing up, whenever my parents bought a house it was an all-day event. They would go do the closing and come back with keys to our new place. Those were the days (at least in my memory). Here in Hawaii, the buyer gets the keys three days after settlement. Anti-climatic, sure. But definitely falling on the side of caution.

  4. Vickie Wyman says:

    Here in New Hampshire and over the Border in Vermont, all parties, buyers, sellers, attorney or title company, and agents meet at the closing table. All documents have been reviewed prior to scheduling closing and any changes needed are made. Buyers are handed the keys and the celebration begins.

  5. Sonja Lovas says:

    It is amazing how differently real estate transactions are handled in different States. Having moved from Oregon to NY eleven years ago, found startling differences in the entire process from verbal offers to the final closing. It is rare to have the final numbers agreed upon by the attorneys prior to meeting at the closing table. The longest closing I attended took 9 hours.

  6. Jay Thompson says:

    Personally, I'm glad lawyers are pretty much out of the picture in Arizona. Nothing personal against attorneys, but adding two of them into the mix is bound to muck things up…

  7. Passing over the keys is one of the best parts of our job. The clients are usually bubbling over with excitement and anticipation. I never get tired of it.

  8. I just love reading how things are done differently everywhere. Here in Montreal unless the sellers and buyers have a rent agreement for a few weeks, the keys change hands at the Notary.

  9. Bill Risser says:

    Doug and Denise – I've always wondered about the scheduling nightmare of getting all the parties in one place at the same time. But as you say, if it's what you are used to, it's what you do…

    Alex – No official waiting period here. It just has to record. This does lead to trips to a satellite office of the County Recorder to speed things up… I like the idea of a standard time frame.

  10. Dan Edwards says:

    A great and detailed answer. For us in Washington the buyer gets the keys at 9pm the day of recording!

  11. Lori Cofer says:

    Bill,

    That's an awesome job of explaining how its done in AZ. Its understandable that's the first question a buyer would ask — I just bought it, now when do I get to have it!!!!!

  12. Badger says:

    Sound like quite a complicated system, over here keys are generally transferred very quickly. Normally as soon as the contract is signed.

  13. Jenna King says:

    Great post! This is the million dollar question from all buyers. I will refer them to this blog. Thanks for the insider info from a title agent.

  14. amanda says:

    Thank you!!!!

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