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Ask Charles Cherney - Question #24 - What does "on record" mean?

What does "on record" mean
in a real estate transaction?

The short answer is that "on record" means the property sale has been recorded at the Registry of Deeds.
Yes, that means the Buyer and Seller have completed the transaction - SOLD!!!

The real estate transaction process is a journey. There are many steps to the process. The final step is the closing. I work in the Cambridge and Somerville marketplace. Generally speaking, the seller's attorney (on behalf of the Seller) and the buyer's attorney and the Buyer are at the closing. The Buyer is at the closing to sign various documents. If the Buyer is getting a loan, the Buyer has even more documents to sign at the closing. After signing all those documents, the Buyer certainly feels like they have completed the process and now owns the property.

However, there is one final step. The sale event must be recorded at the Registry of Deeds.

Only when the sale event has been recorded at the Registry of Deeds - when it is "on record" - have the Buyer and Seller completed the transaction and the property is SOLD.

A few observations:

- Typically, at least a couple of hours are needed after the closing has taken place for the sale event to be recorded at the Registry of Deeds.

- Remember, a Buyer does not own the property until it is on record. A Buyer ought not to plan to move in until the property is on record and the Buyer owns it. Indeed, after leaving the closing table, the Buyer needs permission of the Seller to enter the property again before it is on record. It is not uncommon for a Buyer not to receive keys to the property until it is on record.

- The Registry is open Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. Closings take place on business days and sale events are recorded at the Registry of Deeds when it is open. In our market, it's worth noting that if a sale event is not recorded by 4 pm, the sale will not be recorded that day. Sometimes it happens that a closing is not recorded until the next day. This can have an impact on the Buyer and the Seller in the transaction. The Buyer might have been planning to move in on closing day. However, if the sale event is not on record, the Buyer cannot move in. The Seller might have been planning to use the proceeds of the property sale for another purchase. However, if the sale event is not on record, the sale is not complete and the Seller will still be waiting for their money.

In our marketplace, the Buyer has a Buyer's real estate attorney. The Seller has a Seller's real estate attorney. And the lender, if there is a lender, has an attorney. It's up to the attorneys to organize the closing and to coordinate the recording of the sale at the Registry of Deeds. Buyer and Seller ought to communicate with their respective attorney about the closing date and time and understand when the property is expected to be on record and plan accordingly.

I help Buyers BUY and Sellers SELL in Cambridge and Somerville, MA. Here to help you. Let's talk.

Call me at 617-733-8937 or email me.

See answers to frequently asked real estate questions at

Check out all editions of the Cambridge Somerville Buy Sell Report at         

Cambridge and Somerville Real Estate Blog

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