Real estate closings have changed outwardly in many ways, especially since the beginning of the pandemic. Most parties sign ahead of time, and--usually--not much happens at the closing. The monies are often wired from buyer to seller, and sometimes the commission is paid that way as well.
Delay in the closing date
Although that all sounds smooth, there are often glitches that pop up at the last minute. The most problematic, and maybe most common, is a delay in the closing date. It could happen that the mortgage funds are not available. That could be due to processing issues, or for any number of other reasons. That commonly delays the closing. It's interesting to know that our contracts in Connecticut allow for closings to take place after the date specified, and that a couple of weeks, which can feel like forever to the seller, is not unusual. In fact, not all contracts in real estate use the phrase "time is of the essence," which signals that the transfer must take place on time, or there will be consequences. It is not uncommon for the party who wanted that phrase used to be the one who cannot close on the date identified. We had one buyer who insisted on using it, and then had a child with chickenpox, and was unable to move when required. Attorneys on vacation are another likely cause of a delayed closing, and they would most often work that out amongst themselves, without the buyers and sellers having much say in the matter.
Sometimes buyers want to move in before the closing, or at least store furniture in the new home. That raises issues of insurance--the buyer, before closing, has no "insurable interest" in the property, and the seller has no reason to take the risk. Attorneys would normally be used to write up an agreement of indemnification. Sellers frequently worry that the buyers will move in, find something wrong, and refuse to close. That's not crazy. Usually, something gets worked out, especially if it is the seller who isn't ready to close for some reason.
The walk-through can be sticky, if something is discovered to be broken or missing. The contract is usually clear that the purpose of the walk-through is just to be sure that the house is in the same condition as it was at the time the contract was signed, so it isn't clear that a buyer could get satisfaction for something found that wasn't working--it should really be that he or she would have to prove that it was not broken when the contract was signed. At other times, the argument is over what was taken. It could be the washing machine or the dishwasher, although the usual culprits are chandeliers and pool equipment. There has even been one closing held up because the sellers took the light bulbs, and the buyers wouldn't close without them! All in all, everyone breathes easier when that inspection is done
Many other situations occur every once in a while, enough so that we caution sellers not to "count their chickens before they hatch." That way, a little bump in the road will be expected, which can be all that is needed to defuse the tension and find a way to move forward, if all parties are reasonable. And, if there are no last-minute items that arise, everyone can be pleasantly surprised!