Many people will tell you 45 minutes. I don't know where that myth came from but its not true unless there is no mortgage and no one has a lawyer to explain what is going on. Buying or selling residential real estate in Chicago or the suburbs usually takes 2 to 3 hours; although the last hour is typically time spent waiting for the bank to review all of the documents and fund the sale. The first hour to hour and a half is usually spent making sure that you understand all the financial aspects, going over the mortgage with your lawyer if you are the buyer; and exchanging paperwork.
On the buy side, how long it takes to actually sign all of the mortgage documents for a buyer depends on both the attorney and the client. I have seen lawyers give virtually zero explanation to the mortgage documents and give instructions to the effect of “if you want the house, sign all these papers and pay your mortgage on time”. That is not my style. I am not being paid to state the obvious and point out the dotted lines. Also, I believe it is important for buyers to understand what they are signing and the terms of the loan. For instance, we need to make sure that the interest rate in the note is the same one that was promised to the borrower. If no one can be added onto title to the house, it is important to know that. What about prepayment penalties or late charges? I like to start at a medium pace, where I am explaining in my own words- each page and where appropriate, each paragraph, but am I not just reading each and every line to my clients which would take us into the next day. If someone wants me to slow done and explain in more depth, I am happy to. By the same token, if this is someone’s fourth time buying a house in the last 5 years and they want to cut to the chase, I am okay with that, too.
Banks seem to be getting better in streamlining how much paperwork needs to be signed. Even still, you are still going to be staring down a stack several inches thick. The banks have made sure that they are protected. You owe it to yourself to do the same, and have an attorney review everything with you.
On the sale side, if a seller is going to attend closing, they will typically be staying to watch the buyer sign everything, which can be frustrating and time consuming during what is usually a very busy and emotionally charged day. I allow my clients to pre-sign most documents and execute a power of attorney so that I can sign additional documents for them at closing, with arrangements made for the sellers to receive their money quickly and efficiently.