Real estate loan closing explained in 6 simple steps

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6 steps to real estate loan closing: It's not as difficult as you think

Are you in the market for a new home? If so, you'll need to secure a loan to finance your purchase. The loan closing process can be confusing, especially if it's your first time. Here is a definitive guide to help you through every step of the loan closing process.

Once underwriting is complete and the loan is approved, the closing process can take off. Depending on the institution, the mortgage lender might have a lot of power or very little control, but he almost certainly won't have as much control as he did before. 

The numerous essential and, at first glance, obscure actions that must be completed before and after the closing almost definitely will seem puzzling to those unfamiliar with them. Before a loan officer starts to feel at ease, let alone comprehend what is happening, it will likely take a few loan closings.

Depending on the intricacy of the transaction, the municipality where the closing happens, and the property's location, even closing attorneys may have trouble understanding all the legal and procedural complexities.

Real estate loan closing explained in 6 simple steps

What is loan closing in real estate? 

To close on a house or on a transaction, numerous people must gather in one location for closing. Even if a closing can be accomplished via phone, fax, overnight mail, and possibly email, doing so would probably take days rather than hours.

Face-to-face meetings enable inquiries to be answered right away, concerns to be addressed, document modifications, additions, and deletions to be handled more simply, last-minute negotiations to be entered into in-person, and the surfacing and swift resolution of misunderstandings. 

Because of this, a closing, especially for a development loan, always takes place at a specific time and place, which the lender usually chooses. It is done efficiently to keep knowledge centralized, to get personal and professional help, and to deal with unexpected problems.

6 step real estate loan closing process

The loan closing process typically consists of the following 6 steps:

6 step real estate loan closing process

Step 1 - Select the right attorney

Real property law is so complex that there are attorneys who only write and review commercial leases.

It includes those who work on residential landlord-tenant law, those who focus on property taxes reductions and tax credits, those who focus on environmental issues, those who only do closings, those who litigate in court, and those who only write construction managers and contractors' contracts, and others.

No matter how overtly simple the project appears, a trained, experienced attorney is essential due to the depth and scope of expertise and experience required to protect the lending institution, especially in creating the documentation for a development loan.

Too frequently, a senior officer of a small lending institution would insist that his real estate lenders engage a particular legal firm because he knows one or more of its attorneys or has worked with it previously in the credit industry. 

If everything goes well, the real estate attorney will carry on handling real estate deals. However, the lawyer's errors or omissions may be very problematic if things go wrong.

Although choosing the correct real estate attorney is not difficult, it does involve some judgement and, like a job interview, can result in a top candidate who later proves to be less qualified than first believed. 

The following checklist is a helpful guide for choosing an experienced lawyer:

  • At least three of the firm's attorneys should focus entirely on real estate.
  • The primary lawyer should have at least seven years of real estate law experience.
  • Several construction and development loans should have been closed by the lawyer.
  • It is essential to check out references from other lenders and borrowers thoroughly.
  • The business should be known for operating around the clock. There should always be someone on hand.
  • The firm must have extensive experience in the specialized field and demonstrate it if a given credit requires unique expertise, such as environmental, landmark, or condominium issues.
  • The offices of the law firm should be attractive. They will be seen as an extension of your lending institution since real estate closings and discussions will occur there.
  • The lawyers should be approachable but also steadfast when required. Through their negotiation skills, they'll represent and defend you.
  • Lawyers should clearly and concisely explain legal and business concepts to you and your coworkers clearly and concisely.
  • Cost shouldn't be a significant consideration, as the borrower will eventually be responsible for paying all legal fees.

Depending on the type of credit, it makes sense to retain more than one real estate lawyer. For instance, you could require the services of an environmental lawyer to analyze particular issues and a closing lawyer to secure a loan. Larger organizations may offer all the expertise and lawyers you need under one roof.

The most crucial thing to remember is that, regardless of how much you know or believe you know, you are not an attorney with the specialized and in-depth knowledge required to practice real estate law.

It will not prevent you from consulting with your lawyer or a senior loan officer before and during the closure to make business decisions that could affect the closing and possibly the loan's structure. 

A few loan terms may need to be renegotiated at the closing, and it may be necessary to determine the senior credit officer of your institution's intentions when approving the loan's final terms and conditions. You must reread your notes and the loan approval memorandums to memorize the facility's key details.

You'll be ready to respond to inquiries and make choices regarding the deal's particulars when that happens. If you are unprepared, you risk embarrassing yourself and potentially making a decision you will regret later.

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Step 2 - Connecting the dots

After the lending officer has done his underwriting and gotten final approval from his institution, he usually doesn't have anything to do with the preclosing process unless there are issues with the appraisal, the environment, or a consulting engineer. It involves him, the borrower, and the borrower's lawyer. 

The lender's attorney typically creates a checklist to ensure everyone follows the rules and assigns particular responsibilities. Only 3 items must be provided by the lender (QRS). They are the QRS Closing Statement, the Construction Consultant Plan and Cost Review, and the Construction Budget and Project Cost Statement. 

The overall development cost and the amount of the loan allotted to each cost item are broken down in the construction budget and project cost statement. Subject to any potential simple revisions, it was completed by the loan officer in his credit memoranda and needed only to be copied or emailed to the attorney. 

The Plan and Cost Review is a report written by the lender's consultant engineer. The Lending Officer need only send a copy of the Construction Budget and Project Cost Statement following its evaluation and potential modifications.

The loan administrator creates a document called the QRS Closing Statement.

The statement, which is a list of the sources and uses of funds that will take place at the close, is then given to the lawyer, who frequently works with the administrator to complete it.

The lending officer has a relatively minor role between the loan approval and the loan closing. He might occasionally be asked to make judgments about operations, credit, and business, but those choices are typically straightforward and largely reactive.

Step 3 - Collect closing documents

The next step in the closing process is collecting all necessary closing documents. This includes things like your loan application, tax returns, pay stubs, and bank statements. 

The lender will use these documents to verify your income and assets. Your closing binder should include the following index of closing documents - 

  • Contract of sale for the purchase of property 
  • Notice of assignment of contract to the property owner 
  • Assignment and assumption of the contract of sale 
  • Bargain and sale deed with covenants
  • Property transfer tax return 
  • Seller's Certification as to Vacancy of the Property
  • Seller's Certification of Nonforeign Status
  • Seller's Certification as to Resolution and Corporate
  • Incumbency
  • Affidavit for smoke detecting alarm
  • Notes and invoices
  • Post-closing letter
  • Loan commitment 
  • Mortgage Note 
  • Security Agreement 
  • Completion Guaranty 
  • Material Guaranty 
  • Indemnification Agreement 
  • Security Agreement 
  • Financing Agreements 
  • Assignment of leases and rents 
  • Assignment of contracts
  • Management Agreements 
  • Legal Opinion of Borrower's Counsel 

Closing Binder:

All the documentation created by a real estate transaction is collected in a closing binder. They are collated into a book and bound. Depending on the lending institution's policy, the attorney or the lender will keep the binder with the original documents in a secure location.

Step 4 - Draft a personal summary 

Making a one-page "cheat sheet" containing the critical loan conditions and any special operational requirements soon after the closure is clever because even a straightforward development loan creates a lot of paper. 

You may readily go to it and recall or refresh your memory of the critical loan phrases whenever the need arises. You won't understand even the most basic details of the loan after the first year.

Although most lending institutions need a one-page summary of the loan proposal at the beginning of a loan file, this summary typically focuses more on the transaction's credit components than the credit's operational side.

You may also insert subjective and private notes on your summary sheet. Only use it for reference.

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Step 5 - Check the terms, conditions, instructions, and rules

Most legal documents in a closing binder are simple and uncomplicated. Even a cursory look reveals what they represent and their inclusion's purpose.

Every professional should know where to find a few essential documents in a lending binder. The note, the mortgage, and the construction loan arrangement are the three that a development lender has to comprehend the most. The concise summaries that follow concentrate on these texts from an operational standpoint.

Check the Terms, Conditions, Instructions, and Rules

The note 

The note is a guarantee by the borrower to repay the lender, and typically, regardless of the loan size, it is no longer than 10 pages. It outlines fundamental terms like loan extension options (if any), the jurisdiction the documents apply to, and borrower waivers, such as the right to a jury trial. 

It also includes the principal amount of the loan, the interest rate and how it is calculated, when the loan matures, default rates, and late fees. It serves as debt proof in court. From a practical standpoint, it is helpful to search the fundamentals quickly. Due to its briefness, it is frequently bound with the mortgage paperwork.

The mortgage 

The mortgage is the loan's rules and regulations manual, which might be 50 pages or longer. Look at the note first to learn the loan's interest rate. 

Suppose you want to know what happens whether a property is damaged by fire or water, condemned, if an escrow fund has been set up to collect property taxes and how it works, or if rental goals are not fulfilled.

When to get estoppel certificates from tenants, what rights a second mortgagee has, and when to file operating statements with the lender. Who to send notices to, default events, and other rules, regulations, and covenants. For all this information, you should look at the mortgage.  

The mortgage demonstrates an interest in the property as collateral for the loan in a legal sense. After it is recorded at the appropriate municipal office, its precedence over other current and future claims on the land are determined.

The building loan agreement

The construction loan agreement is specific to a development loan, in contrast to the note and the mortgage, which are common to all loans backed by real estate.

The administration of the loan, including, of course, the conditions and procedure for making loan advances up to and including project completion, is covered in detail in the instruction manual.

Every lender for development loans should learn at least a basic understanding of the BLA because it is specific to development loans.

A definitions section that almost all BLAs begin with can be quite beneficial in understanding a complex transaction. Reading through this introductory definition section can be a helpful learning experience even for individuals in the development loan industry for many years.

Step 6 - Before closing, collect documents from third parties

Copies of the paperwork finished before the first loan advance are included in the building loan agreement. Usually carried to the closing, these papers include third parties' attestations, warranties, and commitments.

Unfortunately, there are frequently borrowers who are unaware of the intricacy and interdependency that a construction loan entails, especially on smaller projects with inexperienced development teams.

The borrower and the lender have a continuous and active interaction in a development loan. There is also, to varying degrees, a relationship between the lender and the borrower's architect, engineer(s), construction manager, general contractor, and others.

Bottom line 

You should be able to find all the crucial details of a loan in the BLA, mortgage, and note. Most lenders do not produce copies of these three documents because they essentially serve as a replica of the loan presentation.

Instead, they favor referring to a summary document they created for themselves after the loan closed and the approved loan presentation they wrote. Typically, this yields similar results.

FAQs

Is commercial real estate riskier than residential real estate?

Commercial real estate is riskier than residential real estate because it is often used as collateral for loans and investments. If the property cannot generate enough income to cover its debts, the lender or investor can lose money. The value of a commercial property is determined by the cash flow it brings in, so if there is no tenant occupying the property, the commercial property value can fall significantly.
It is not always the case with residential real estate because people are more prone to call it quits in their business than to let someone take the home they live in.

Is it preferable to invest in residential or commercial property?

It depends on your goals and circumstances. Residential property is generally considered a "safer" investment because people will always need a place to live. Still, commercial property can be more lucrative if you find the right tenant or manage it well.

Another thing to consider is that residential property typically requires more maintenance; while commercial property may have fewer tenants but each one pays more rent. So it depends on what's important to you and what kind of risk you're comfortable taking.

What is the difference between commercial and residential real estate?

There are a few key distinctions between commercial and residential real estate. Commercial real estate is typically used for business purposes and can include everything from office buildings to retail spaces to industrial warehouses. On the other hand, residential real estate refers to properties for housing purposes, such as single-family homes, townhouses, and apartments.

Another key difference is that commercial real estate transactions are often much more significant in scale than residential transactions. Commercial leases and mortgages can be for hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, whereas most residential mortgages are for only a few hundred thousand dollars at most.

Is the commercial property a good investment?

Commercial property can be a good investment, but a few things to consider before investing. Some key factors include the property's location, the type of business occupying it, and the current economic conditions. It's also important to remember that commercial real estate prices can go up or down, so it's essential to do your research before making any decisions.

Is commercial real estate a better investment than residential real estate?

Whether or not to invest in commercial real estate is a personal one. It depends on many factors, including your risk tolerance, the amount of money you have to invest, and your goals for the real estate investment. That being said, commercial real estate property can be a great investment option.

This commercial real estate asset often offers higher returns than residential real estate and the potential for lower management costs. If you're thinking about investing in commercial real estate, be sure to do your research and consult with a financial advisor to make sure it's the right decision for you.

You can check our detailed comparison of residential and commercial real estate investments for understanding which type of real estate is beneficial for you.

How to buy commercial property?

There are a few different ways to buy commercial property - you can buy it outright, take out a mortgage, or lease it. Here are a few steps on how to go about buying commercial property:

Step 1: Gaining the commercial real estate knowledge
Step 2: Develop your investment strategy.
Step 3: Research the market
Step 4: Working with the right team
Step 5: Deciding on a suitable property
Step 6: Do your due diligence
Step 7: Analyse potential properties
Step 8: Make a financial plan.
Step 9: Make an offer and negotiate.
Step 10: Profitably manage your property
Step 11: Marketing your investment property.

How to finance a commercial property?

There are a few different ways to finance the commercial property. One option is to take out a loan from a bank or other lending institution. Another option is to use your own money to buy the property and rent it out to tenants. You can also find investors who are interested in financing commercial properties. Working with an experienced real estate agent, you can explore your options and find the best way to finance your commercial property.

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