A Helpful Checklist for Sellers When Closing on a House
Congratulations on selling your home! With any luck, you’ve sold your home with the aid of a talented and respected real estate agent. This person has guided you through the process of getting your home on the market, holding open houses, and negotiating on your behalf with the real estate agents of prospective buyers. Now, with the finish line in sight, it’s time to close on your home, and there are some parts of this process your agent can’t do for you.
- Accept the buyer’s offer
- Assemble your documents
- Talk to the title company
- Complete any home repairs
- Pack up your possessions
- Go to closing day
- Final steps
To be clear, most of the work in the closing process occurs with the buyer, but you won’t sit entirely still. The seller’s role in the successful sale of a house is essential.
How Sellers Can Successfully Navigate the Real Estate Closing Process
Any real estate agent worth their salt will happily shepherd you through the closing process, but we believe you should understand exactly what’s happening with each step. After all, it’s your home being sold and your money on the table. The only way you can make the right choices for your family is by knowing as much information as possible.
1. Accept the Buyer’s Offer
Whether it was the first, third, seventh, or forty-first, you know exactly what you want to see from any offer made on your home. You should never feel badgered into accepting an offer. You must only pick the one that fulfills everything on your personal checklist.
That said, once you find the offer you like most, the closing countdown has begun! According to recent data, this can take an average of 50 days. Much of that is spent finalizing the terms of the sale and the mortgage loan process on the buyer’s side.
2. Assemble Your Documents
While the buyer conducts inspections of your home and prepares their mortgage loan, you have your own sets of documents to assemble. These include:
- Seller disclosures
- Bill of sale
- Purchase contract
- Closing statement
- Certificate of title
Lucky for you, your accomplished real estate agent will help with this document collection, as many of them are legal documents they have access to via their experience and connections.
3. Talk to the Title Company
Welcome to Patten Title! Usually, the buyer has already initiated the relationship with us, but you could also recommend us as the title company for this transaction if you’ve had a relationship with us in the past. We will handle two specific aspects of the real estate closing process:
We examine the legal history of the title to your home to ensure that there are no counter-claims to the property that could halt the sale.
You purchase this to protect against the legal repercussions and costs that could be incurred if there is a competing claim to the property.
In essence, our job as the title company is to make sure the sale happens by detecting and removing any obstacles in the closing process.
4. Complete Home Repairs
Over on the buyer’s side, they had a professional come out to your house to conduct formal home and pest repairs. If you’re lucky, they didn’t detect anything you needed to fix. You could have agreed to adjust the selling price of the house to compensate the buyer for future repairs. But in some cases, the buyer could ask you as the seller to fix some specific issues as part of the sale of your home.
It is up to you to complete whatever repairs you negotiate with the buyer. Failure to do so could result in a total loss of the sale. However, you can also choose to back out of the sale in hopes you can find another buyer who won’t make the repairs a condition of the sale.
5. Pack Up Your Possessions
This might be the most taxing and involved part of the closing process for the seller. It’s the one that has nothing to do with the details of the actual sale, but you also can’t hand over ownership of the house to the buyer with your stuff still inside.
Along with packing up your belonging to move to your new home, you should also complete the following tasks:
- Clean the space
- Cancel your utilities (or transfer them to your new home)
- File for change of address with United States Postal Service
We realize this part can cause the most stress for many sellers, especially if you can’t purchase your new home until you finish the sale of your current one. Short-term storage facilities often provide the best-case scenario for keeping your possessions safe and secure until you can move into your new home.
6. Go to Closing Day
The day has finally arrived. You’re about to receive a large check for the sale of your home, and the buyer is about to buy their new home. In many situations, you don’t even have to show up at the same time as the buyer to complete the transaction — especially since they will spend nearly an hour signing documents.
Your basic closing day responsibilities can be wrapped up in three categories:
This is the stack of seller paperwork we discussed in step #2. Much of this can be dealt with before closing day, but some of it needs to be handled day-of. Your real estate agent and the closing agent of the title company will advise on what you need to do.
These are often the main reason you might need to be present on closing day at the same time as the buyer. We’ve discussed the closing costs for buyers before, but in some arrangements, the seller pays the closing costs for the entire transaction. This total cost can often be up to 10 or 15% of the entire selling price of your home, and you’d have to pay it on closing day. Hence, we recommend bringing a cashier’s check from the bank in this amount, as many financial institutions can delay personal checks for over $10,000.
By keys, we mean any and all devices used to enter and exit the home. This includes door keys, security system codes, gate codes, garage door openers, mailbox keys, and more. Obviously, the buyer will eventually change all of those locks and codes upon taking possession of the home, but they still need your information for the short-term future.
7. Final Steps
Technically, this step lies past the formal closing day, but it’s still part of your personal real estate closing process. You can’t move forward in life without taking care of these two items.
Pay Off Your Mortgage
Unless you owned your home outright (and many people do), the check you received from the buyer of your now-old home must be applied to the remainder of your mortgage on that home. This is then how you’ll be able to secure a new mortgage for the new home you’re buying.
Move Into Your New Home
It’s time to get everything out of storage from step #5. Yes, this can be a tiring procedure, but it’s also crucial that you make your new house a home just like your old one.
Essential Information for Any Real Estate Closing
Selling a home might seem to be a less stressful exercise than buying a new home, but many people are doing both at the same time. Thus, it’s important that you keep all of your ducks in a row, which typically means keeping your records for buying and selling separated. We also recommend that you partner with a fantastic real estate expert for this entire closing process, as they’ll guide you through the house-buying process on the other side of the equation.
Depending upon your means, you can also speak with an attorney specifically versed in either real estate or the tax code. This helps protect you during contract negotiations now and from potential chicanery during tax season in the future.
Ultimately, closing on a house as the seller represents the end of an era — and the start of something brand new! Hopefully, our checklist and walkthrough will help your real estate transaction be as seamless as possible.