Understanding what “the closing date” means and what to watch out for is a very good idea. A deal can go great, but if it hits a snag at the end, it can cause some big issues.
To clarify, the closing date is the day that the deed records at the courthouse, sellers get their money (or the next day possibly), and the buyers get keys (usually around 5pm). Closing is not the day everybody signs paperwork. That can and should be done early. For the seller, you can usually sign a long time before closing, but generally it is a good idea to wait until about a week before the closing date, to sign. For buyers, if they are getting a loan, they need to wait for that paperwork in order to sign. The loan paperwork is usually what we are all waiting for at the end of a deal.
At least a few days before signing, if it has not happened already, it would be a good idea to have your agents talk about the closing date:
When will the seller be out?
Where and when can the buyer get the keys?
What is the story with utilities?
Is there going to be a walk-thru?
How is the seller going to get their proceeds?
Remember, every deal is different.
It may be beneficial for the seller to negotiate a few days of possession after closing. This needs to be done at the beginning of the deal, and an experienced agent can walk you through it. This tends to take out some of the pressure of an otherwise very busy time. Usually you can work that in for free or maybe a reasonable amount of “rent” to the new owners.
Key is to be prepared and when in doubt, ask. A good agent should know to keep you in the loop, but not all of them do, so ask, never be scared to ask.