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When I buy a home, when can I move in? How do I get my keys?

Tim LucasThe Mortgage Reports Contributor

In this article:

Buying a home can be a lengthy process. You want to start moving in as soon as possible. But when can that happen? Find out:

  • When you can finally get your keys
  • When you can move in
Verify your new rate (Sep 24th, 2018)

When can I get the keys to my new home?

You’ve worked for years to save for a down payment, raise your credit score, and ensure a steady income.

It all comes down to the final days of the loan process, which can seem like an eternity. So, when can you finally get the keys?

You’ve signed final loan documents, then comes the day of funding.

The day of funding is usually the “get the keys” day.

But at least one more thing has to happen: recording.

Verify your new rate (Sep 24th, 2018)

You have to wait until after recording

Recording is when the county or local government puts the new ownership “on the books.”

You now own the house, and that fact is undisputable thanks to the government record of ownership.

In many states, recording happens on the day of funding. In other states or counties, recording may be delayed by one day or more. Ask your real estate agent or lender when your county can record.

You can’t get the keys or move in until recording happens. Don’t set a move-in date for funding day if the county can’t record the same day.

My purchase agreement says: “Buyer to take possession 3 days after closing”

We just said that you can get your keys after funding and recording takes place. But that’s not always the end of the story.

In some cases, the seller may request a few days after the official closing with which to move out.

This is annoying for buyers — but a reality, especially in a seller’s market.

The seller may fear the deal falling apart in the final days. They may have to start moving before the deal is done so you can move in right away. If the deal falls apart, they may have to “undo” their move.

For the buyer, this clause in the purchase agreement means exactly what it says. You officially own the home and are paying interest on it, but the seller gets to live there rent-free for three days. Yay.

In this case, you have to wait to get the keys and move in after the time period specified in the purchase contract.


In short, you can get the keys and move in when all the following happen:

  • Funding of your mortgage is complete
  • The county or other local government entity has recorded the deed
  • Any extended seller possession has passed

How do I get my keys?

The listing agent (the seller’s agent) will have possession of the keys to your new home. He or she can do the hand-off in a number of places: at the property, at his or her office, at a Starbucks — whatever.

If you have a hard time getting a hold of the agent, get your agent involved. As long as the transaction is a done deal, you have a right to the keys as soon as possible.

But I really need to move in before funding / recording / date of possession

That’s a really common problem. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about it.

Many buyers find themselves in hotels or with friends or relatives for days or weeks before they can move in. Their lease ended, or their previous home sold before they close on their new home.

Often, buyers need to rent a storage unit for a month and essentially move twice.

None of this is very fun, but a reality. And it’s not the end of the world. The best plan of action is to take your lumps, get favors where you can, and move in when you have the legal right.

If you have a really gracious seller (and listing agent), you could ask to move in early. But that puts the seller at pretty high risk of legal issues — and even kicking you out if the deal falls apart. Don’t expect much leeway here.

Keep the long view

It’s not hard to experience a calendar malfunction when you buy a home. But it’s all worth it when you finally get the keys, and back the U-haul up to the garage.

Verify your new rate (Sep 24th, 2018)