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The Real Estate Closing Process in The Age of Covid

February 11, 2021

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Realtor and customer Shaking Hands Over Closing Process documents in The Age of Covid-19


The first step in the real estate closing process, in times like these, is to hire an agent with years of experience who knows how to make a sale in any environment, including a worldwide virus outbreak. Last year alone, Cristal helped thirty-seven sellers find a buyer and accept an offer despite these challenging times. She also helped her discerning clients get the deal closed in record time.

Following is Cristal’s advice regarding what home sellers should expect during the real estate closing process, and how to navigate the current hurdles to stay safe and keep the deal on track, even though the process might take a bit longer than usual.

READ: Santa Barbara Housing Market: Home Prices in the Shadow of COVID-19

Sanctioned Delays in Today’s Real Estate Closing Process 

The California Association of Realtors has come up with clauses that would extend the amount of time buyers and sellers have to close their transaction by up to 30 days or longer and also allow them to back out of the deal if the coronavirus affects them. As a result, today’s real estate closings are taking longer in the age of Covid-19. At the end of last March, closing times averaged 60 days from the time an offer is accepted, up from 43 days in February and 26 in January.

Some Reasons for a Protracted Process

In part, the longer closing times are due to lenders who have been swamped with processing refinancing applications resulting from the historically low mortgage interest rates. In addition to this backlog in refi underwriting, social distance and shelter-in-place orders have delayed and complicated every step of the closing process—from home inspections and appraisals to in-person home tours. Add to that the fact that many home sellers are faced with buyer addendums and contingency timelines to account for these holdups and you’ll see how easily the process can go off the rails. If you're eager to close the deal but nervous it could fall apart, you’re not alone. Here’s some important intel on what could hold up the various stages of home closings, and why.

Home inspections

Typically, once a deal is reached, home buyers will send a home inspector to the seller's home to vet it for any flaws before the new owners move in. These days, with shelter-in-place mandates, home sellers can remain in their homes during inspections, but if this prospect makes you nervous, you can ask for a "remote home inspection" instead. A remote inspection is usually reserved for applicants who reported that their home is not livable, sanitary and safe yet require an inspection.

Home appraisals 

Traditionally, home appraisals—where an appraiser visits the house to assess its value—are required by lenders for any buyer who requires a mortgage. Even if you are paying cash, a home appraisal is still recommended. But to keep home sellers safe during COVID-19, the Federal Housing Finance Authority has instructed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to temporarily allow exterior-only appraisals or desktop appraisals during the COVID-19 crisis.

These appraisals use public records, multiple listing service information, and other data sources to identify details about the property—and don’t require going inside the home. That's good news for sellers, although the process could end up taking longer as a result.


Social distancing is also affecting buyers' final walk-throughs, with some being done virtually on FaceTime and others not happening at all.

Real estate closings

Last but not least, social distancing may also delay closings, because some title company offices are closed, and in-person gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited. The way around this is, rather than having everyone gather in one room, various parties might sit in separate rooms and shuffle papers between them. Some closings are even taking place outside on sidewalks.

READ: Buying a Santa Barbara Home During a Pandemic

Are remote home closings possible? 

While remote online notarization is allowed in 23 states across the nation, California is not one of them. California Law does not provide the authority for California notaries public to perform a remote online notarization. The personal appearance of the document signer is required before the notary public. However, California citizens who wish to have their documents notarized can seek a mobile California notary public.

The National Association of Realtors® recently sent a letter to Congress asking lawmakers to expand it nationally to speed up real estate transactions during the pandemic while limiting in-person contact.

Just keep in mind that most of the delays in selling a home during the COVID-19 outbreak are beyond anyone’s control—and are a good thing in that they're meant to protect home sellers (and buyers) from unnecessary exposure risks that might come from in-person meetings.

The front of a Elegant Birnam Wood French Country Manor currently on the market

Local Listings

There are many fine properties for sale in Montecito. One example is Cristal’s Elegant Birnam Wood French Country Manor pictured above. This sophisticated single-level home is perfect for golf lovers since it is adjacent to the 1st fairway of the enclave’s private golf course.  The property also offers dramatic panoramic views of the nearby Santa Ynez Mountains, with stunning grounds reminiscent of a French country manor. The estate also takes full advantage of Montecito’s coveted Mediterranean climate, welcoming a seamless transition from interior to exterior. 

Check out Cristal’s website for information on other amazing properties featuring the fine art of outdoor living that are currently on the market in Montecito and the surrounding communities. See something of interest? Just give Cristal a call at (805) 886-9378 or email her at She’ll happily add your home to her portfolio of fine properties for sale and she can even help find you a new home sweet home at the same time. And when you work with her, she is available to help with every step along the way, including the real estate closing process.



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Client Reviews

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch