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Pre-Closing

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Once your offer has been accepted, your financing is in place, and your home inspector has given the thumbs up, you're ready to do the deal, that is, to close.

Before that actually takes place, though, you need to get a few things in order.

Homeowners Insurance

You need to get insurance set up for your new home a couple of days before you go to closing. Since the insurance company requires a couple of days to secure the policy, you should take care of this at least a week before closing. At that time, you arrange for an appraisal to be sent to the insurance company. You can either bring it in yourself or have your loan officer do it. However, keep in mind that it's ultimately your responsibility, so make sure that it happens.

On what will the cost of insurance be based? On the age of the home and its construction, its appraised value, and whatever choices you make in terms of deductibles and other choices that will be offered to you. Needless to say, you should shop around for the best insurance deal!

Once the insurer has the appraisal in hand and has set up a policy for you, you'll need to go in with a check for the amount for the first year. Your policy will be written so as to become effective on the closing date. You hand over your check and sign an application, and the company gives you a declaration page (showing your policy number, the coverage that you have, who owns the house, the address, how much it costs for the year) and a receipt showing that you paid. These are items that you need to bring to closing. The insurance company also generally faxes a copy of these two documents to the loan officer or settlement attorney.

A Fat Check

No, we're not talking about your weight. We're talking about a cashiers check, and it's going to be a whopper. It will comprise the down payment on your loan, plus closing costs (including attorney's fees, courier's fees, and so on, all broken down on the settlement sheet). The earnest money deposit will be subtracted from this amount, since you've already ponied up that cash.

Pre-Closing: The Walk-Through

On the day of closing, or the day before, the purchaser is allowed a walk-through of the property. All plumbing, electrical, heating, air conditioning -- all the major systems of the house -- have to be "in working order." Otherwise it is the seller's responsibility to get them up to scratch. You've already had the home inspection, of course, so there should be no major surprises here. However, that doesn't mean that there won't be. So take your time on your walk-through, even though you'll feel a natural urge to get this thing out of the way so that you can take possession of your house.

If it's summertime, turn on that air conditioner and make sure that the air that comes out is cold. And yes, even it's summer time, turn on the heat. Make sure the air is hot. Likewise in winter. Make a special point of this: Test out the systems that you would not normally use during the current season. You'll regret not doing that come January, when your teeth are chattering and icicles are forming on the end of your nose.

Just so you know, a potential snag can occur with the phrase "in working order." What exactly does that mean? If the air conditioning doesn't feel cold enough to you, but it does to the seller, then who's right?

The answer, for you, is: you. You're right. If anything isn't working, you need to bring it up right away with the seller. Say what you think. Don't let someone persuade you that the 90-degree air coming out of the duct is really cool. If this is going to result in a dispute with the seller, so be it. The two of you will either work it out, or you won't. But at least you won't be kicking yourself for having been bullied.

If everything is working, proceed to closing.