Newton's Umpteenth Law – Concurrent Closings

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Sure, we’ve done it before. And, like back-to-school night, childbirth, and my mother-in-law’s meatloaf, you tend to forget how painful an experience it is until you have to go through it again.

Moving day.

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Our office, like so many offices, is “right sizing.” This is a simple case of math. Ginormous office + (ginormous number of agents divided by 2) = inefficient use of space with a remainder of enough to house the company’s Title processing services. So, today we are playing musical cubicles.

Steve and I have moved far too often in the past 18 months. We have become veteran relocation specialists, at least where our own stapler and two-hole punch are concerned. I watch with amusement today as the uninitiated neatly pack and label their tidy, stackable boxes in anticipation of being transferred to their new domain. Conversely, we greet the event like a guerilla warfare training exercise. All of our business accumulations from the past eleven years get ripped from the walls and drawers and cabinets, hoisted on our backs, thrown in our pockets and otherwise fired out of a slingshot into our new “home.” Like Olympic sprinters, we have perfected the art of moving our stuff to the finish line without breaking a sweat, while simultaneously negotiating a counter offer and doing our year-end taxes.

No big deal. No big deal, that is, unless you arrive at your new address to find it is still “occupado.” Our manager did his best to plan and organize the move, but he forgot one important factoid. Newton’s Umpteenth Law says that one cannot occupy a space until others have vacated the space. Well, this is not entirely true, but ignoring Newton’s lesser known law would result in 40 agents, 40 desk blotters, and 6,097 award plaques residing in a single cubicle, which is impractical at best. In technical real estate speak, we call this law of moving physics “the choo-choo train.” My manager should have seen it coming.

The vast majority of our transactions involve a seller moving into a home occupied until closing by another seller. Often there is yet another seller involved at one end or the other, and we have personally had our train run five moving vans deep. Usually, an agent has to orchestrate only two concurrent closings, and even two requires more than a little attention to detail.

Every week we encounter someone who says they will be representing themselves in the purchase (which, translated, means they are listing agent shopping) but will be hiring an agent to list their home, or a seller who has their home listed with another agent but comes to us to purchase a home. Wrong. There are just too many moving parts to concurrent closings that make this approach a potential minefield of temporary homelessness. Title and escrow companies at both ends should ideally be the same. If not, then someone needs to be making darn sure that the first one in the chain is set up to record first thing in the morning so that funds can make the wiring cut-off and the next can record same day. An early morning recording generally requires loan funding the previous day. If one of the moves is interstate, you’ve got a whole other can of worms, with varying County Recorder schedules (one allows late-day, “special” recordings while another does not), wiring cut-off concerns and time zone issues being a few obvious examples. Screw up, and someone’s moving truck is left idling at the curb.

Then there is the matter of possession. If all parties close concurrently, how do you get everyone, simultaneously, instantaneously to their new home? This is where more simple math comes into play. The first guy may get to retain possession for 3 days, the next for two days, and so on. Mess up, and you have got your client taking up temporary residence in your guest room.

So, it is moving day, and the previous owners of my new space, or “Office E” as they like to call it on the unused packing labels provided to us, are showing no signs of life. I could file an unlawful detainer, but that doesn’t solve my immediate need to close this transaction so I can get on with my life. Therefore, I have staged a sit-in in nearby “Cubicle 8.” All of my important real estate trappings, including but not limited to a parking meter, a “Children at Play” sign, and a really cool clock in the Elvis likeness (his hips swing while he counts the seconds) are parked in public storage like a neighborhood eyesore. And, I plan on spending the morning stationed at the helm, arms crossed in the universal body-language symbol for “Get the heck out of my office” until I can take my rightful possession.

Aargh. Concurrent closings. I should have picked a better agent.

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