After a bit of sweat, sore knees, 30-degree temps (in September!), hat and goggles, and a heaping helping of sunshine, I proudly stood atop the summit of Mount Shavano at 14,229 feet. I was pretty excited and the views were, not surprisingly, breath-taking (as was the lack of oxygen!).
Hiking any summit and, going along with our topic today, doing anything worth doing, takes a bit of preparation, planning and perseverance. Having been through the purchase and sale of a couple homes in my past, I’d like to offer a few items to keep on your checklist as you head down the road towards the closing table.
I’ve told you before that I’m not a huge fan of paperwork. That said, you really need to keep your ducks in a row with your deal and keep those documents handy. The seller disclosures, contracts, addendums and especially any contingencies are all important to have available for reference. The dates associated and any “tasks” you might have on your list are great to have handy and “front-of-mind.”
Every real estate agent in the business has multiple stories about people showing up to the closing table with tasks left undone and mad scrambling efforts beforehand. Don’t be one of those stories.
If you are selling your home and it’s time to head to the bank to “do the deal,” make sure your home is clean. The default P&S agreement requires a “broom-swept” clean home and your deal is likely no different. Putting yourself in the shoes of the buyer, wouldn’t it be great to walk into your “new” home to find it smelling clean and fresh and be able to move right in? While it is not necessary to shampoo the carpets (though that would be nice), wiping out the cabinets and cleaning the sink and tub simply leaves a great impression on the new owners.
Don’t be afraid to shut off the water and gas lines to the home before you leave. While this might seem a little excessive to some, if the buyers are not moving in right away, this can save a significant headache should those “what-ifs” come true. Even a small drip or leak can do serious damage if left unfixed for a decent amount of time. If you close those connections to the home, it could mitigate any potential for disaster.
Obviously, you need to exercise some discretion in the colder months, with regard to heat and water, but in general this is a good idea. Just leave a note for the new owners so they don’t get stuck calling a plumber when the faucet won’t work.
Attending the final walk-through is nearly always a good idea. In my case, I joined the new owners at the house after the closing was done, but either way is fine. This is a great opportunity to explain any quirks the home may have and to answer any further questions the buyers might have about electrical locations, etc.
“I typically enjoy having the sellers present for the final walk-through,” said Badger Realty agent, Diane McGregor. She continued, “It gives the buyers some peace of mind and allows the sellers to go over any funky light switches or hidden treasures that the buyers might otherwise have overlooked.”
My house lot had an auxiliary septic line under the driveway. It was great to be able to show them exactly where the end of the pipe was and direct them to the coordinates I had scribbled on the basement wall. Without that quick conversation, the notes (and the septic line) would have been long forgotten (or painted over).
Now is the time to sever ties with the home and this address. Make sure your insurance policy is updated with your new home and remove your name from all of the utilities. Most of these organizations will prorate your bill to the day you call, so get this done sooner rather than later. Ideally, you should have a PO box or some new address to provide so they know where to send the refund check or (more likely) your next bill. You may even find that your insurance bill will go down with the new home or new address.
Leave all the keys, codes, and remotes. Granted, most buyers will change the locks and codes for their new home, but providing these items is just good policy. You can also use the final walk-through, mentioned above, to show them the remotes for ceiling fans or garage doors. If you don’t have the chance to join the buyers for a walk-through, leave all of these pertinent items in a kitchen drawer. With enough pointing and clicking (and possibly new batteries), they will figure out the remotes soon enough.
Because I had built my home and was moving in from a tiny cabin, I was able to get (mostly) new appliances. (Thank God for scratch-n-dent sales!) Make sure you leave behind all of the manuals (and receipts if applicable) for these items. Granted, most of us can figure out how to cook popcorn in a microwave, but having the manual available is still nice. This is even more critical if you have a security system or central heating/air conditioning.
Lastly, on your way out the door, check all the drawers and cabinets, close the blinds, shut off the lights and lock the door. This is especially important if the new owners won’t be coming to the home for a long time (quite common with vacation homes). That one last check of the home inevitably turns up something that you really don’t want to leave behind. Even something as simple as a toothbrush or razor will make your morning more pleasant and continue that “new home feeling” for the buyers.
Selling a home can, and usually is, a fairly stressful process. Taking a little extra time here and there to ensure that you are leaving the home just how you would want to find it will help alleviate some of that angst. When you lock that door the final time and walk away from the home, you can rest assured that you have done all you can to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Let’s hope your sellers read this article as well!