What Sellers Need to Know About Closing/What Sellers Should Expect at Closing

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Selling a house can be a stressful experience. You probably just want to get your house sold quickly, with as few bumps in the road as possible. The closing process can seem overwhelming, but if you know what to expect, you can put your mind at ease and maybe even speed up the process.

What is closing?

The closing process, or settlement, refers to everything that happens between accepting an offer on your house and the actual transfer of your house to the buyer. According to Realtor.com, closing takes an average of 50 days. This process can vary slightly depending on your state and the individual circumstances of your sale, but mostly follows the same basic procedure: the title is transferred to the buyer, and the proceeds from the sale are transferred to the seller. The seller is also responsible for paying off any outstanding loans on the property and taking care of any contingencies outlined in the sales agreement.

How should I prepare for closing?

Before the closing date, make sure you have done any repairs that were agreed upon. If you’ve been asked to complete a home inspection, you may have to get these repairs finished before the inspection happens. Get all of your possessions moved out of the house, excluding any that were included in the home sale, such as major appliances. Right before closing, do one last thorough cleaning and ensure the house is at least broom-clean; empty any trash cans, remove any debris, vacuum the carpets, and sweep the floors. Fill out a change of address form for the post office, and don’t forget to notify your doctor’s offices, banks, subscriptions, and family and friends.
Although not usually necessary, it’s a nice gesture to gather up any user’s manuals and warranties for belongings left behind (such as major appliances or HVAC) and leave them on the kitchen counter for the new owners. You may also want to consider shutting off water valves, especially if you’re moving out some time before the actual closing takes place, to prevent any potential leaks before the buyers arrive.

What do I need to bring with me?

On the date of the closing meeting, make sure you’ve double-checked with your agent about the date, time, and location it’s taking place. It may be helpful to have these noted down in your phone or on a piece of paper, just in case! Make sure you’ve brought all keys, garage door openers, passcodes, and any devices that control systems in the home such as thermostats. If you’ve agreed with the buyer to move out on a different date, you can leave all these in the house, but make sure you give a key to your agent so they can provide it to the buyers.
Bring two forms of government-issued ID, and make sure at least one of them has a photo, such as a driver’s license or passport. You’ll most likely need to have a cashier’s check for covering closing costs and any repair credits, as personal checks aren’t usually accepted. However, it’s also a good idea to bring your checkbook, just in case there are any incidentals that need to be covered. Lastly, check with your agent to find out any additional documents you may need, like proof of any completed repairs that were requested.

What happens at the closing?

What the actual closing meeting looks like can vary, depending on what state you’re in or various conditions of the sale. Most likely, it will take place in the office of a neutral third party, like a title company or mortgage lender. The buyer and their agent will be there, and others who might attend can include a representative from the title company, a loan officer, and real estate attorneys. Depending on the circumstances, the seller may not even need to attend the actual closing meeting. This is often the case if the seller lives in a different state than the house being sold. Your agent will be able to tell you the best options for your situation.

The buyer will be responsible for filling out the majority of the paperwork involved. However, there are forms the seller is responsible for as well. These may include any of the following:

What now?

After the closing meeting, you are officially no longer the legal owner of the property. Depending on your agreement with the buyer, you may have to be moved out by closing day, or you may have as many as 30-60 days to move out. The buyer could have you evicted or sue you for damages if you haven’t moved out by the agreed-upon date.
Unless you’ve already paid off your mortgage before selling, you will have to pay the remainder. Contact your lender to find out the payoff amount. Once you’ve received the home sale proceeds, you can pay off the mortgage lender, or send the money to your new home escrow fund if you’re buying a new house right away.
Once your mortgage has been paid off, the lender will send you a release of mortgage. Make sure you keep a copy of this and any of the other closing documents, in case you need them when you’re filing taxes for that year.
Most importantly, you can finally relax – congratulations, you’ve sold your house!
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