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Typically buyers placing an offer do so 1-2 months before they want to actually move.  So the “normal” time for a closing would be one to two months from the date the offer is placed.  In terms of WHEN during a month you should ask to close, if you close at the END of the month, you bring less money to closing – so most buyers want to close at the END of the month.  How it works is like this: unlike RENT, your mortgage payment is paid IN ARREARS.  If you close at the end of March, your first payment isn’t due until the first of MAY – you pay the first of May for the month of April (for rent, as you know, you pay at the first of the month for the month following – for example, rent is due April 1 for all of April).

Another consideration is this: when you own and occupy your home, you qualify for what is called “homestead exemption”.  It’s a partial exemption from property tax for your principal residence.  But in every metro county, you must own and occupy the home as of January 1st in order to qualify for the homestead exemption.  Therefore, if you are looking for a home in the fall or winter, you want to be sure to close prior the end of the year in order to qualify for the exemption.  My husband and I closed on our home at the end of December for this very reason.

Other than that, there really is no “right” time to close.  It’s entirely up to you.  Most sellers are not going to want to accept a contract to close for too long after the contract date, though, because it ties up the property and makes it unavailable to other potential buyers.  You can always try, but know that the seller is probably going to counter with a closing date closer in time.  Their thinking is – what if the property is tied up for those months, and then you, Buyer, fail to close?  During the time they were under contract, they might have found another buyer for the property.

Be aware, also, that if you are making an offer on a short sale OR on a foreclosure, all bets are off, time-wise.  Short sales can take months and months to be approved (if they are approved at all), so even if you ask for a fast close date, it’s not likely to happen.  You will make an offer and then, usually, wait – and wait- and wait.  Foreclosures can sometimes close quickly, but at other times also take some time.  The seller must be sure that the foreclosure deed is recorded and in the chain of title and that other liens have been cleared before they can sell the property to you. (While many liens are extinguished by the foreclosure, some liens, such as tax liens, survive foreclosure and must be dealt with by the seller before they can give you clear title).