As I have been doing a lot more residential real estate closings lately, I've run into a few situations where the borrower wants to read everything in the loan packet. There are usually anywhere from 60-80 pages, give or take, in a loan packet. It takes a few hours to really read through everything. I usually plan my day assuming that my closings aren't going to last any longer 30-45 minutes - maybe an hour at most. That means that if you're planning on reading every document in the packet, something has to give.
What documents do I care about when I am closing on my own residential real estate transactions? Well, let's start with what I want to know. It's just two things - what is happening in the transaction (what money is going where at closing) and what are the terms of the loan that I am taking out (payment, interest rate, term, etc.). This information can be obtained quickly from two documents - the closing disclosure (which has replaced the traditional settlement statement in residential transactions) and the note. I might also look at the payment letter or escrow account summary if my taxes and insurance are escrowed, since they are part of what I will be paying each month but aren't listed on the note (which only shows the principal and interest part of the payment). Pretty much everything else in the packet is the standard fare that every borrower signs, and I'm not going to read it other than a quick scan to get the gist of what the document is saying. Most of it is the same from loan to loan because the vast majority of loan packets are structured to conform with Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac requirements, and it's not like I'm going to be able to choose what I sign or change any of the documents anyway.
If you're still planning on reading everything, please let your loan officer (or your contact at the title company or attorney's office) know well in advance of the closing, and try to get a copy of the documents ahead of time. Bear in mind that often the documents are not available until the day of the closing, but at least everyone can plan ahead of time if they are aware, which will make everyone's experience at the closing table better - including yours.
Please remember that these posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered or relied on as legal advice. If you are ever in doubt about your rights under the law, you should consult an attorney familiar with the law in your area.
Ben Bauer is a Cincinnati-based attorney who writes about things in law and life that he finds interesting.