Once sellers have reviewed the costs on the back of the standard Department of Housing and Urban Development settlement sheet, they can examine the overall accounts shown on the front.
Looking first at the buyer's side, the sheet will have the cost of the property, plus settlement fees and specific adjustments. These adjustments can include credits to the seller for pre-paid items such as taxes or fuel oil.
From this sum the mortgages and contract deposit will be subtracted. The remaining total is the amount of cash due from the buyer at settlement. This money is usually collected by the settlement arranger in the form of a certified check or bank draft.
The seller's side of the settlement sheet will show the sales price, minus closing costs and remaining mortgage obligations. After adjustments for such items as maintenance fees and assessments, a final balance will show the seller's net benefit at settlement.
While some sellers receive a check at settlement, others will not. Delays can run from several days to several weeks. Before closing, ask the settlement arranger when payment can be expected.
If payment is delayed and you need cash for the purchase of another home, you may want an assignment-of-funds letter. This irrevocable document commits some or all of the proceeds of the first settlement to the second. Before having your attorney write such a letter be certain that an assingment is acceptable at the second settlement.
The fact that settlement has occurred does not necessarily mean that legal title to the property has been exchanged. Some contract forms make the seller responsible for the property until the sale has been recorded by local officials. In these, and other cases, settlement may represent only an exchange of equity.