The 11th of 12 posts about the real estate process for the seller.
Answer - Congratulations and I hope you enjoy the rest of your life, wherever that takes you. And speaking of that, have you got a mover lined up? I generally don’t recommend having your stuff loaded up and driving off as you head to the closing. There are still things that could go wrong and the deal could still fall apart. At least if you have the movers scheduled for the day after closing (remember that you’ll be paying rent for two days), you can stop them if the closing doesn’t happen.
Remember that the buyer will want to walk through the house 24/48 hours before the closing to make sure that it is substantially the same as when he/she made the offer. Do not take that chandelier that you like out of the dining room and replace it with a cheap Home Depot one. That may well queer the deal and justifiably so.
Below is a checklist for sellers of things to do or remember before the actual closing. Most of this is common sense, but it’s always good to have a list just to make sure that you don’t overlook or forget something.
You may wish to read things on this site about the tax consequences of a sale – don’t worry it’s generally good news.
If you are turning over possession at closing, remember to take all of the keys with you and the garage door openers (if any). It is also a nice gesture to make up a packet of all of the documentation that you might have about things in the house, such as the heater or the appliances that you are leaving. You can take that to closing with you and discuss it with the new owners or just leave it out in and obvious place in the house for them.
As the seller, the only real thing that you need to make sure that you have with you for the closing is your driver’s license, since the closer from the title company will need to make a copy of that as proof of the identities of the parties signing the documents. Your Realtor will probably be there with you.
Closing checklist for sellers –
Make sure that you leave the power and gas on at least through the day of closing. When you call the power and gas companies to let them know that you are selling the house and need a final reading, set that up for the day of closing and tell them that the billing should be transitioned to the new owner the day after closing. They may ask you for the buyers name, so have that handy. That way, if the new owner forgets to call the utility companies until the day of closing the utilities will not be shut off until after closing. If they haven’t called the day after closing, oh well, they lose and the utilities will be cut.
Remember to call for any final water or water and sewer bills and have the final reading scheduled for the day of closing. Some water billing authorities may ask you to take the final reading and call it in to them. If you have already moved out of the house and have a paid final water bill that covers the time up to closing, bring that with you to closing. Normally the title company will hold in escrow an amount ($200-300) deemed sufficient to cover any unpaid water bill.
Make sure that you let your insurance company know when the day of closing will be and keep the property insured through that date, so, again, if the buyer forgets until the day of closing, the property is still insured while you still own it. If you are to occupy the house after closing, it is the new owners responsibility to have insurance on the property; however, you should switch your insurance to renters insurance to cover your personal property for the time that you will be occupying (renting) the house.
If you have had any work done to the house between the signing of the Purchase Agreement and closing, be sure to get Paid Receipts from the tradesmen and/or companies and bring them with you to the closing. If the work was called out in documents relating to the closing – the Purchase Agreement or Addendums – you may have to prove that the work was paid for and that no future leans may be made on the property by those tradesmen or companies. You ay have to bring Unconditional Release of Lien forms signed by each tradesman. Check with your title company.
If the Purchase Agreement contained Addendums, or had Addendums added later, that placed contingencies on the closing of the sale, such as a Well and Septic Inspection Addendum or a Contingent upon Closing the Sale of another Property Addendum, then there should also be releases signed by all parties for those contingencies. Some contingencies will have the release wording include within the contingency itself and others will require a separate document.
The expectation that is normally in writing in the Purchase Agreement is that you will leave the house in substantially the same condition it was in when the Purchase Agreement was signed and “broom clean”. This means that you should not leave things that you don’t want any more in the house or garage – throw them out on the last garbage day. If you have items that you think the new owner might find of value, like extra paint for a room, or extra furnace filters or anything else that a normal homeowner might want, have your agent ask the buyer’s agent to ask the new owner if he wants the items left or not.
Anything that is left behind becomes the property of the new owner and he/she is not responsible for storing or caring for your stuff, nor is he/she obligated to give you back something that you “forgot to take.” If you have items that you wish to leave and come back to retrieve, you must have a written agreement with the buyer to cover those items and the arrangements that you have agreed upon for them. Occasionally, buyers and sellers may agree upon things like the seller returning to dig up one or more specifically identified plants within an agreed upon timeframe, especially if the sale is closed in the winter months.
On closing day you will need to bring a driver’s license or passport to identify yourself for Notary purposes. You may also have to bring money to closing – you should know about that well ahead and get the exact amount needed when you inspect the closing packet. You will need to bring that to closing in the form of a Cashier’s Check or Certified Check from your bank. You will be expected to hand over the keys to all doors that have locks (including storage sheds and garage doors), and all garage door openers, unless you have arranged for post-closing occupancy. The turn-over of keys and garage door openers will take place at the end of any occupancy period.
As a courtesy, if you have saved any of the manufacturers documentation and owners manuals for appliances, mechanicals (heaters, air conditioners, water softeners, etc. it is generally expected that you will pass those on to the new owner. After the closing it is appropriate that you also pass along any helpful information that you might have about the house or anything in it that you think may help the new owner make a smooth transition into the house. This is not the time to say, “Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you that the roof leaks when it rains hard”, but, you might mention any quirks that you’ve learned to live with in the house, like, “The upstairs toilet runs on sometimes, just jiggle the handle and it’s OK, or, “I normally change the furnace filter every 3 months in winter and once in summer.” Let common sense and common courtesy be your guide on this. Tell the new owners what day of the week is trash day and here to put it for pickup. Some home sellers will voluntarily give the new owners a telephone number where they can be reached, if the buyers have questions later, but that is up to you, too.
Good luck to you.