Real Estate Purchase Timeline

Following is a helpful outline for real estate purchase transactions, courtesy of Boston, MA real estate Attorney Jeremy McHugh.  

Buyers very often have questions about the timing of their purchase, especially in relation to doling out cash. This outline provides a basic framework for understanding the key deadlines, documents, and disbursements for a typical single family residence or condominium unit purchase in Massachusetts.

  1. First week: Offer to Purchase:  ($1000 deposit). Mortgage loan pre-approval in hand. Material terms of the deal are established:
    1. Purchase price;

    2. Closing date;

    3. Deadline for execution of P&S Agreement;

    4. Mortgage contingency date and amount of loan;

    5. Inspection contingency- date and amount of allowable repairs. Potential re-negotiation of purchase price depending on results of inspection report.

    6. Condominium governing document review contingency (if applicable)

    7. Appliance / Fixture inclusions / exclusions.

  2. Second Week: P&S Agreement signed. Deposit balance of 5% of purchase price into listing broker’s escrow account. Legal and financial obligations of buyer and seller during the escrow period are established. Key events for buyer:

    1. Complete mortgage loan application within 48 hours of P&S execution;

    2. Listing agent schedules Appraisal, which buyer pays for. Appraisal report must show fair market value of the property that is equal to or greater than the purchase price.

    3. Buyer complies with lender’s document requests diligently.

  3. Fifth Week: Mortgage Contingency / Commitment Letter date.

    1. Appraisal report received by buyer prior to expiration of mortgage contingency. If the report shows FMV too low, buyer either terminates or restructures the deal, depending on seller and lender options.

    2. Commitment Letter: lender’s commitment to disburse the loan funds at closing.

      1. Conditioned upon buyer satisfying any outstanding conditions such a verification of cash to close, ongoing employment, etc.

      2. If letter is not received by the deadline, or if the letter contains conditions that are not “reasonably within buyer’s control,” buyer’s counsel will either terminate the deal or negotiate an extension of the deadline.

  4. Seventh Week: Closing. Buyer and seller meet to exchange money for title deed & keys to the property.

    1. Buyer’s cash to close=(Price + Closing Costs) – (Loan Amount + Deposit).  Buyer brings a cashier’s check for the funds to close.

    2. Closing attorney will pay off any outstanding mortgages, property taxes, and any other liens.

    3. The deal is “official” when the deed is recorded. Only then will proceeds be released to seller and buyer take possession of the property.

    4. Move in to your new home.


Jeremy McHugh can be reached at