Details, details, details. That’s all that’s left once you and the buyer sign an offer to purchase your home. But if you don’t stay on top of them, you could wind up making your closing that much more difficult.
Here’s a quick list of items sellers should stay on top of:
The buyer. It’s likely that the offer to purchase contained one or more contingencies, such as a financing or inspection contingencies. If that’s the case, you need to stay in touch with your buyer (or your buyer’s broker), until these contingencies are satisfied. If you don’t press the brokers to keep you informed on the buyer’s quest for a mortgage, and the buyer ends up not qualifying for a loan, it could be several months before you can put your home back on the market.
Municipal inspections. In some states, counties and cities, the local government requires owners to have their homes inspected before the sale closes. You may have to schedule an inspection with the local fire chief or building inspector, who will then issue you a certificate you’ll need at the closing. For more information, contact your local city or village hall.
Transfer taxes. These are fees you pay (they’re usually tied to the sales price of your home) to the state, county, or municipality you live in to transfer ownership to your buyer. Depending on where you live, you may be responsible for paying some or all of the transfer taxes due on your sale. Contact your local city or village hall for more information, or ask your real estate attorney.
Survey (for single-family houses and townhouses only). Local custom decrees who is responsible for paying for an up-to-date survey of the property. If you recently bought your home (within the last two to three years) you may be able to update your survey and save money.
Title insurance. In most states, a seller can prove he or she has good title to the property by providing the buyer with a title insurance commitment. The commitment lists all matters that affect the title to your home. Sometimes the seller is responsible for paying for title insurance, sometimes the buyer picks up the tab, and sometimes the cost is shared. The cost of title insurance is usually pegged to the sales price of the home. If you’re working with a real estate attorney, he or she can advise you and may even be able to get you a discount.
Pest inspections. Some states, municipalities, or neighborhoods require the seller to have his or her home inspected for pests before closing. Your real estate agent or attorney should be able to advise you whether you or the buyer should pay for these inspections.
Paid assessment letter. If you live in a condominium or co-op, or are part of a homeowners’ association, you will have to get a letter from the board of directors for the association stating that you have paid all of your assessments to the association through the closing date.
Waiver of first refusal. Some condo and co-op associations maintain the right to purchase your home before someone else buys it. This "right of first refusal" means the association must issue you a letter stating they have waived this right. Check with your association for more information.
Insurance certificate. Condo and co-op dwellers will need to get a certificate of insurance from the company that insures your building. This certificate names your buyer and his or her lender as insured under the policy.
Municipal certificates. In many communities, the seller must provide the buyer with certificates from the local municipality indicating that water, sewer, and other services have been paid.
Loan payoff letter. If you have a mortgage or home equity loan, your lender will issue you a payoff letter spelling out how much you owe on your loan through the closing date.
Utilities. You’ll need to call all of your utilities and arrange to cut off service and close your account as of the date of closing. If you’re moving within the utilities billing area, you may be able to move your accounts.
Movers. Be sure to arrange for movers will in advance of your closing, particularly if you’re moving around the first of a month.
Mail. It can take the U.S. Post Office anywhere from 2 weeks to months to correctly process a change of address. Be sure to leave yourself enough time so you don’t miss an important bill. And, don’t forget to change your magazine subscriptions at least six weeks ahead of time.