Real Estate Closings in the Charlottesville Area in the time of COVID-19

Chip Royer with Royer Caramanis has been keeping a lot of Charlottesville’s real estate community informed with frequent updates about the state of real estate closings in this time of COVID-19. I asked him if he would share some of that knowledge with me for me to publish, as I know a lot of you may be asking some of these questions. He graciously obliged. In every market I have experienced since I started practicing real estate in 2001, the people you choose to work with matter, now more than ever.

*Disclosure: Chip is one of the attorneys I recommend to my clients.

Are closings still happening in the City and County?

YES! Despite the crisis, to many onlookers real estate closings might actually look like business as usual. Loans are being closed, deeds are going to record, and buyers are moving into their homes. There are some delays, but so far things have been quite manageable.

What about other counties?

Generally speaking, we’re really only seeing delays in Greene where the clerk’s office is closed to the general public. Greene’s online title resources are, unfortunately, quite limited which has many title searchers unable to deliver title reports/commitments on properties there.

Can I move up my closing? Why not?

Generally speaking, no. Understandably, most buyers and sellers have anxiety around the impact of the public health crisis on real estate closings. This is likely due to the fact that there are so many moving parts for each closing (contracts, inspections, loans, title work, etc.), and folks worry about how each part can be affected.

In short, people feel that there’s just more that can go wrong! The truth is that all of these parts actually are continuing to work together quite well, though the system as a whole is experiencing pressure. In fact, there’s so much pressure that the system can’t really endure much more.

Advancing a closing date adds pressure to every element of the process…and can overload the system. It’s important to pick a contract closing date that you can live with from the outset (I recommend allowing 45 days for closing at this point). We need to allow the system to work—and so far it is bending a bit…but not breaking.

I know we have said for years that having local lenders is crucial; still the case?

Absolutely. Times are turbulent, and often times I need to be able to connect with a real live human being who knows the local market and understands local clerk operations and pressures we’re facing. It has never been more important to choose a local lender (as a general rule, by local I mean a lender with an experienced local loan officer who, but for social distancing, is close enough that he/she could come to your closing).

Jim’s note: a client wrote me last year about his experience with a national lender vs local lenders.

As a buyer or seller – do I need to come to closing and sign docs in this time of social distancing?

Sellers and buyers have to deliver original, notarized documents for closing. Our firm has 6 different protocols for managing obtaining signatures from buyers and sellers. Be sure to talk to your settlement attorney/agent about how to go about closing.

Any piece of advice besides please be patient?

Focus on what you can do to help manage the process. Be timely in responding to lender requests for paperwork…make sure you know how to initiate a wire for closing…talk to your settlement attorney/agent about how to go about closing…ask what you can do to help.

Most importantly, follow the guidance of your agent when it comes to choosing your service providers (attorneys, lenders, etc.). Those providers are the pilots of your aircraft and should be ready and capable to fly you safely on a turbulent flight—you’ll need to trust them so that you can mostly just be along for the ride (with your seatbelt buckled, of course).

And, finally, know this—even if clerks close (which we don’t foresee), there are STILL ways to close on your home sale or purchase and have you feeling like it’s mostly business as usual.

How about now? Can I move my closing?

Not even with a “pretty please” and sugar on top.

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