Closer Q&A with Susie Ceyte
Jun 14, 2021 | Team South Oak | Share:
Behind every closing at South Oak, there’s a dedicated closer making sure your file is on time and accurate. You may never meet your closer, but the closers at South Oak are the best in the business.
Susie Ceyte has been a closer with South Oak since we opened our doors in 2012, but she’s actually been working as a closer in Birmingham for almost fifty years. We talked with Susie to learn more about her work as a closer.
How did you get started as a real estate closer?
When I graduated from college, I wasn’t working in real estate at all; I actually worked in campus ministry at UAB for a few years. When I was ready for a change, I started talking with a good friend who was a real estate attorney and I began to assist him with closings. He taught me everything I know. This attorney was such an expert, it was like going to graduate school for real estate closing.
I worked with him until 1986 when I decided I needed to take a break. By that time, I was working for four attorneys and doing closings all the time, and I was just really burnt out. After just a few months, attorneys started calling me to help with closings, even though I was technically taking a break. Eventually, I set up shop in my home to do closings for different attorneys that needed help with their closings. I’ve been doing this ever since.
I started working with Marcus Hunt, our CEO, when he called me to assist with a few closings about twelve years ago. Pretty soon, I was only working for him. I’ve now been working as a real estate close for 49 years.
What's a typical day like for you as a real estate closer?
My workday starts early, at around 7:30, and it can go late into the night if I’m really busy! I start by checking my calendar and my emails, and I prioritize what needs to be done for my closings. A runner from one of our offices will stop by in the morning to pick up the documents I have ready for that day and deliver them to the office.
It’s pretty hectic work, and every closing is different. That said, most closings follow the same format. I’m usually assigned a closing around 2 to 3 weeks before the closing date. I make my file, and I order everything I can at that point, including assessment letters, sewer letters, and payoff letters. I try to be as proactive as possible to get things ready. The title usually comes in a few days later, and I identify any title issues at that time and do what I can to resolve those.
If there’s a mortgage, I prepare a preliminary closing statement that goes back to the lender. This may have to go back and forth a few times to get it balanced. Once we have it balanced, I can start working on preparing the documents in the closing package, including the title documents and deed. After all of these documents are prepared, the file is ready to go back to the office.
Fridays and Mondays are always my busiest days, and lately, I’ve been working on 40-45 closings a month. It’s not uncommon for me to have two phones ringing at the same time and an urgent email in my inbox. I’ve had to learn how to be a really good multitasker in this job.
I spend most of my day sending emails and trying to gather things together for closings. When the phone stops ringing and the emails slow down at the end of the day, that’s when I’m really able to put my packages together for the next day.
What's the biggest change you've seen in your years in the closing industry?
The fax machine was really a huge change for us. Before we could fax documents, everything came in the mail, which was pretty unpredictable. If something didn’t arrive in time, closings had to be delayed while you waited for it to get delivered. Computers and email have definitely changed things as well, but it was the fax machine that really made the closing process more instant. I’ve seen a lot of changes in my time as a closer!
What's something people might be surprised to learn about your job as a closer?
People are definitely surprised when they learn about my hours. Most people think that real estate closing is an 8 to 5 job, and it’s definitely not. There’s not much downtime, and I usually have to work outside of normal business hours to get the job done. I often finish one thing and jump right into the next.
Fortunately, I get to work with a lot of realtors that I just really like. I love the connection I have with these realtors, and I’ve gotten to know how they work and how they like things to be done. The connections and friendships have made it all worthwhile and kept me in the business for this long.
What do you wish all realtors could know about the closing process?
While I work hard to prioritize my clients, I do work on several different closings at a time -- which means I’m also working for several different agents at the same time. And sometimes I’ll get two or three urgent needs in the same hour, so I have to perform triage and address the most urgent and pressing need first.
Honestly, it’s a lot like working in an emergency room. I have to put the most “wounded” ahead of everything else, stop the bleeding, and move on to the next urgent need. I know it can be hard to be on the other end of the computer waiting on your closer; agents can rest assured that we’re working as hard as we can to get their urgent needs addressed.
It’s also really important for agents to pay attention to details! If your closer gets inaccurate information, the closing package will also be inaccurate - and it’ll ultimately have to be redone, which can lead to delays. Agents need to be sure to communicate any complicated title issues such as divorce or death of a spouse, and pay attention to little details like the spelling of a name.
And never underestimate the power of saying, “thank you.” Closers work behind the scenes, so it means a lot when someone reaches out and expresses gratitude for the work we did to help them out. A kind word of thanks really does get you through the crazy days!
What would you say to someone who's thinking about becoming a real estate closer?
If you’re a good multitasker and you’re up for the challenge of being a closer, find a good mentor. This isn’t something you can just decide to do and pick up in a month. Every single closing is different. You need to have someone who can guide you and answer your questions. And don’t be afraid to ask questions; there are no stupid questions.
When I first got started as a closer, I didn’t even know what a deed was. It took a long time to really understand real estate closings, and the attorney I worked with all those years ago really made sure I understood the fundamentals. The process was worth it! But even now, I’m still having to learn and grow as requirements or technologies change.
At South Oak, our closers take pride in the work that they do. They work hard to ensure that every file is on time and accurate for every single closing. Our closers are truly the best in the business, and you can count on them to provide service that is both personal and professional.