I signed the papers - where are my keys?

I signed the papers - where are my keys?

  • Sarah Rood
  • 08/7/23

Every state has their own way of handling closing, so a common question we get from new buyers moving to Washington is, "How do I get my keys?" 

Some states have all parties meet at the closing table, sign documents and hand over the keys then and there.  Not so with Washington state - this is typically, but not always, a two day process for the buyer. 

In a typical financed purchase, the lender is going to send their final approved loan documents over to the escrow officer, who will then draw up the final papers that the buyer will sign.  Escrow will schedule a signing directly with the buyer - either in their office during business hours, or by using a notary that can go to a location the buyer needs (this usually has a small extra fee attached).  The notary is convenient because buyers can often sign in the evening or on a weekend, at their own home or at a local coffee shop - which means their work day doesn't have to be rearranged to close on their new home.

As a buyer, your real estate agent may or may not be present during your signing.  It's not required for them to be and if you're signing in odd hours or an odd location it may be tough for your agent to make it work. Also, in the height of the covid pandemic, real estate agents weren't able to be present for signings because it would put too many people in a small space. In addition, I've had plenty of out of state buyers sign before moving and I certainly can't make it to another state to be present!

Personally, I do enjoy being there for signings when it's possible. But that's not when I'm going to give you the keys - in fact, I'm not even likely to have the keys at that point. 

If you're financing your purchase, after signing documents the escrow agent has to wait for the lender to then fund the loan to them - essentially, hand over the money - so usually closing is a two day process.  If you're signing documents in the afternoon or evening, that lender won't be available to release those funds until the following morning. 

Then, after the lender releases funds and your own downpayment funds have cleared, escrow can send the final documents for county recording.  This process can also take a few hours, so it's likely you won't be officially closed with the county until later in the afternoon the day AFTER signing your closing documents. 

One final step - if the home is vacant and you get officially closed at, say, 4pm, it's likely that your agent can then go and get the keys from the listing agent (or out of the lockbox), hand them over and you can start moving in!  But, the contract generally states that possession switches over at 9pm on the day of closing, so even if you get officially closed you may have to wait until 9pm to get keys and enter your home. 

One final tip: don't ever schedule a moving company too far in advance.  All sorts of things can happen during the escrow process and delays sometimes occur - the last thing you want to do is have a moving truck show up before you're able to get keys!


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Chris and Sarah have a combined 18 years of real estate experience in the greater Seattle area, with a strong client relationship focus and naturally social personalities.