Understanding the Road to Closing

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Congratulations – you accepted an offer on your home! Now what? Before you do anything, take a moment to savor that signed purchase agreement. It’s a major milestone! But it also means you have a new set of tasks ahead of you. Read on to learn about the final steps to get you to a successful home sale.

Prepare For The Appraisal And Inspection  

Two of the biggest steps to closing on a house are the appraisal and the inspection. An appraisal is an estimate of the fair market value of a home, typically ordered by a buyer’s lender during the mortgage loan process. This means a licensed appraiser will evaluate your home’s value based on things like age, condition, upgrades, location and the surrounding housing market. The purpose is to let a lender know the proper loan amount to provide. If an appraisal comes in below the sale price, a buyer and seller may need to renegotiate to cover the difference.  

 

Similar to an appraisal, a home inspection is ordered by the home buyer to evaluate the structure and systems of a home, from the roof to the foundation. It covers things like the home’s heating system, air conditioning, plumbing, electrical systems, windows, doors, ceilings and floors. The main purpose is to find out if any major repairs are needed, in which case you may need to cover the cost. Sometimes listing agents will recommend having a pre-inspection completed before putting the home on the market. This allows the seller to identify and address any potential issues prior to putting the home on the market.

So, how do you prepare for these home evaluations?

 

  • Ensure that there’s easy access to all areas of your home (basement, crawlspaces, attics and utility rooms) and take care of the little things that could raise bigger questions.

  • Replace burnt-out light bulbs, which could point to potential electrical problems.

  • Eliminate slow drains with any of your sinks to remove doubts about the plumbing.  

  • Change your furnace air filter and be sure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working.   

Negotiate Repairs  

The purpose of a home inspection is to identify major defects in your home that would require a major investment of time or money. If there’s an inspection contingency in your purchase agreement, that means the buyer can sometimes negotiate repairs based on the findings of their home inspector or potentially cancel the contract. Keep that in mind if the home buyer comes to you with their list of issues.  

 

Your agent will need to do some negotiating here. Resist agreeing to fix all cosmetic issues like cracked tiles or loose doorknobs, as these are minor inconveniences that a buyer could have easily seen when touring the home. Major defects you should address include mold, electrical issues, lead paint or leaking roofs – the types of issues that will require major investments of time or money.

 

Get Your Paperwork In Order  

You’ve already filled out two of the most important forms to sell your home – the listing agreement and purchase agreement. As you move through the closing process, your agent and title company will work with you to provide additional paperwork to reach the finish line. Here are some of the most common documents you’ll need.  

  • Title Work. This when the title company or attorneys review title work to confirm no additional liens or encumbrances, confirm taxes and assessments are paid and prepare the deed and documents for closing.

  • Property taxes. Have your most recent tax statement ready, which will give the buyer an idea of what they’ll need to pay after purchasing your home.  

  • Loan documents. Gather paperwork on your first mortgage – and second mortgage or home equity lines of credit if applicable.  

  • Property survey. This is usually ordered by the buyer. It shows the boundaries of your property and where fences, driveways and other structures are located. You probably received this when you bought your home. If not, try checking with your lender or title company who may have a copy. If all else fails, you might need to contact a local engineering firm to produce a new one.  

  • Plans and permits. If you’ve done any work on your home like additions or upgrades, you’ll probably need to show documentation that proves everything was above board.  

  • Homeowners insurance information. Make sure you have the documents that detail your current policy for the home – and be sure not to cancel your policy until after closing.

 

After the terms of your purchase agreement have been met and all the loan paperwork is ready, your escrow agent will fill out and deliver a settlement statement. This form details all transfers of money. It’s important for you and your agent to review this statement before your closing day when you’ll sign all the final documents.  

Close With Confidence 

On the day of your closing, make sure you bring your photo ID. When you meet with the buyer and their real estate agent, you’ll sign all the paperwork required to transfer ownership of your home. (These items below are typically included and reflected on the seller’s settlement statement.)   

If you’re making a profit after all expenses are paid off, you should receive proceeds at closing. If not, you should have a cashier’s check ready to square your end of the bargain.

Next Steps After Closing

After you get through the closing, you’re almost home free. You might feel like you’ve been tying up loose ends for a month by now, but chances are there a few more details to go. Here are some common to-dos to get through before you exit your home for the final time.  

  • Submit a change of address form to the post office.
     

  • Call your homeowners insurance agent to cancel your policy, as you may receive a refund for any prepaid premiums.
     

  • Close accounts for things like utilities and newspaper subscriptions.
     

  • Stack up appliance manuals, receipts, warranties, security alarm codes, etc. on the counter.
     

  • Close all the curtains and blinds, turn off all the lights and lock all the doors on your way out.
     

  • Once you lock up and head out, your home closing to-do list should be complete. And that means you’re ready to start the next chapter of your life – free and clear!  

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