Attorney Stephanie Caponigro offers a step-by-step guide from offer to closing

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When I am introduced to a buyer, the first thing I do after congratulating them, is answer any immediate questions and talk about next steps. Even for those who have been through the process before, closing on a home can feel like a daunting process.

We talk about who they are using for a lender because not all clients go into the process understanding that there are two possible scenarios. The first includes representation of just the buyer, the second includes representation of both the buyer and the lender.  Most lenders will allow buyers to use their own attorney to handle the closing, but some do not – they have what is called a ‘closed list’ and the buyer must choose from the list. 

If I am unable to handle the closing, I can still represent the buyer and support them at all points between the accepted offer and closing, which includes negotiating the P&S, reviewing the final figures and attending the closing.

I have created this timeline for clients to use as a more detailed guide through the steps in the process, and I hope that it's helpful to you. 

OFFER TO PURCHASE

Submit an Offer in writing with a deposit ($1000+).The following terms will also be included in the Offer:

  • Date the Purchase and Sale Agreement (“P&S”) must be executed;
  • Date by which the buyer must submit a loan application;
  • Mortgage commitment date;
  • Closing date;
  • Any additional terms, such as closing cost credits, inspectional items, review of condominium documents; anything the P&S will be subject to or contingent upon.

PURCHASE AND SALE AGREEMENT (P&S)

The P&S takes the terms from the original offer and adds them to a long form contract that supersedes the offer once it's signed.

  • Buyer’s and seller’s attorney negotiate the terms of the P&S;
  • P&S is signed and the buyer delivers the second deposit check;
  • The real estate agents coordinate the signing of the P&S which can be done electronically.

FINANCING

  • Buyer decides what lender they are using and submits a loan application which can be done prior to the signing of the P&S, but the lender will need a fully executed copy of the P&S to move forward;
  • Buyer provides documentation required to ensure that the lender is able to provide them with a commitment letter on or before the mortgage commitment date;
  • Ideally, this letter will have no conditions that need to be met prior to closing, though often it will have some minor requirements (e.g. copy of recent tax returns, copies of bank statements, etc.);
  • Buyer obtains homeowner’s insurance (not applicable for condominiums);
  • Buyers of a condominium may choose to purchase H06 insurance, which is coverage on the internal items/belongings – not all lenders require this, but it is highly recommended.

CLOSING

  • Once the financing is in place, the buyer will receive a Closing Disclosure (CD), including the amount the buyer needs to bring to closing, from the lender who is required to deliver this to the Buyer three days prior to closing;
  • The buyer may wire the funds to the closing attorney’s office or provide them with a bank check or money order;
  • A final walk through of the property should be done just prior to the closing, either the day before or the morning of the closing;
  • Buyer brings a photo ID to the closing along with the funds required to close;
  • Once the closing is completed, the documents will need to be recorded at the appropriate registry of deeds before the Buyer is the record owner.  As long as the closing is completed early enough, the documents should be recorded the same day (registry stops recording at 4pm);
  • The Buyer’s broker or attorney will hold the keys until everything is on record and then the Buyer may take possession of the property.

Stephanie graduated from Suffolk University with her  BSBA in Business Management and then went on to graduate from Suffolk University Law School in 2002.  She later returned to school and attended Boston University  School of Law where she obtained her LL.M. in banking and financial law.  Since 2000, Stephanie has been involved in residential real estate.  She has not only represented buyers, sellers and lenders in real estate transactions, but she also represented lenders in foreclosure matters.  While Stephanie worked as in-house counsel at a non-profit organization in Roxbury that focuses on foreclosure prevention, she worked to prevent the displacement of families and neighborhood destabilization. Stephanie is also a member of the Real Estate Bar Association, Boston Chamber of Commerce, Beacon Hill Network,  as well as the Boston Business Builders. You can connect with her here.

"So...what are we looking for?"

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I recently met new clients at our first open house together. They also happen to be first-time buyers, so lots of firsts. As we walked into the home they asked, "So... what are we looking for?

Below are some questions to keep in mind during showings and open houses when deciding if a home is the right fit for you.

  • How is the layout? Does it work for your specific needs? For example, do you like to entertain or need separate space for a home office?
  • How is the condition of the kitchens and bathroom/s? Do they need to be renovated in order to satisfy your needs?
  • Is the natural light in the home what you are hoping for? If you are attending an evening open house, will there be a chance to come back for a daytime showing? 
  • How about the number of windows, their size, and condition? 
  • Is the ceiling high enough for your taste and comfort?
  • If you are starting a family, does the home offer room to grow? Perhaps a basement or attic that could be refinished at some later point?
  • As for closet space. Is there enough or too little? If there is not enough closet space, are there walls where storage furniture pieces might fit nicely?
  • If the basement is unfinished, it clean and tidy are do you see lots of dangling wires? Are there odd smells of mold, oil, or gas?
  • How is the condition of the exterior? Will it need to be repaired or painted in the near future?
  • If there is outdoor space, is it enough to plant that garden you've been dreaming of? Is it private enough for you? In the case of a condo, is it pet friendly? 

If anything you see raises a red flag, jot it down. My clients usually come to me with a list of concerns and questions after an open house at a home they really like. If we can't go back to see the home together, I will set up an appointment to see it separately so that we can compare notes.

With regard to renovations and repairs, consider your budget. Will the work needed wipe out the savings account you spent years building? Maybe the home would be more your style after a handful of less expensive cosmetic changes. 

Trust your instincts, let yourself be surprised by what you like, and invite as much fun into the search process as possible!

Johanna moves to Arlington

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Johanna was referred to me by clients who had recently completed their own transition out of a longtime family home. During our first meeting, she explained the sensitive nature of this move just a year after the passing of her beloved husband. 

We spent the fall together searching for a condo that would satisfy Johanna's craving for urban convenience in a quiet neighborhood near green space where she could explore with her terrier, Pepa. We found just the place and our offer won over half a dozen others. (A real nail biter!)

Johanna closed just before the holidays, and we recently celebrated with Champagne in her new home!

Johanna sent me the moving testimonial below. I was deeply touched by her gratitude! 


"Lizzy Flanagan’s professional tasks and responsibilities with me are done, but I know I will never forget her. As I find myself, though still surrounded by boxes, extraordinarily happy in the home that she patiently helped me locate, I cannot help but remember some of her many wise words: “you should look forward to coming home, your residence should make you happy.” And indeed it does. Very much so. Thank you, Lizzy!

I contacted Lizzy at the recommendation of old friends who had just relocated to the Boston area, as they modestly said how pleased they were to have worked with her. Yet for me, Lizzy was beyond any expectation I could have had of a realtor. As an older, first-time buyer, a child of immigrants, raised in the wonderful rent-controlled Manhattan of the 1960’s, I was entering new terrain, as I considered purchasing a home after losing my husband of 32 years just a year earlier, and thus having a small inheritance. And Lizzy was undoubtedly the best person to enter that stage!

My personal information here is important, as Lizzy is both a superb professional and a very warm, personal consultant. Most likely at Gibson Sotheby's her clients have had other profiles, yet Lizzy listened to me and for one (yes, only one!!) month, we ran the Fall open house scene in Cambridge, Somerville, Belmont and Arlington, and by the end of the month, well, all was settled. I had found the perfect home, and then came the cataclysmic move, after 27 years, with 3 generations of belongings in tow. Lizzy, naturally, recommended the moving company, and helped with all other details along the way. 

None of this would have been so simple with anyone else. Lizzy’s eternal patience, congeniality, persistence, and sensitivity, plus enormous amounts of common sense and creativity, created an experience for me that was manageable while working full time and trying to understand all the steps and terminology involved with purchasing and owning a home. Lizzy provided useful advice and was my most valuable spokesperson for the entire experience. Why work with anyone else?"

Kevin & Sarah gain space and time

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Sarah and Kevin came to me hoping to find a new home that would offer more space and improved commute times. They loved their first home together in Hudson, but with a baby on the way, they felt ready to make a move. 

Together we found a beautiful, spacious home for them in Norfolk that offered acres of woods, a pond, and a community that had a similar feeling to that of Hudson. I listed their home in Hudson and they accepted an offer over the asking price after just one round of open houses!

Sarah and Kevin love living in Norfolk and have sent me periodic updates-- including baby pictures! They offered some very kind words about our work together.


"It was a wonderful experience to work with Lizzy during both the purchase of our new home and the sale of our old.  She was extremely helpful in guiding us to the best homes and incredibly timely with new listings as we shifted our search around different areas.  Throughout the entire process, Lizzy provided the most helpful advice to guide us through the listing and staging process of our home, and invaluable tips for placing an offer when we found our new home. She was so responsive to our needs and was incredibly accessible to us without being overbearing or pushy in any way.  Without a doubt, we would use her again if we ever decide to move!"