5 Things to Do Before Moving Out of Your House

A Checklist of Tips to Ensure a Smooth Closing

Empty room with mop and boxes
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No matter how organized you think you are, when you're moving out of your house, it's almost always a stressful time. Mix in the fact that most people who sell a home are also buying another home, and you've got double the stress, especially if both transactions are closing concurrently.

Your real estate agent can be a big help to you if you ask for advice. She has probably handled many closings just like yours, and can refer companies and individuals who can help to make your move go more smoothly. An experienced agent will most likely be able to spot potentially troublesome situations and prevent problems from happening in the first place, too.

Clean the House

A thorough house-cleaning is the first order of business. It's an easy task to overlook because you're so busy packing boxes and carting them around that you might not notice the dirt accumulating. And just wait until you move the refrigerator or washer and dryer from spots that have not seen the light of day since you moved in years ago (assuming you're taking these appliances with you).

Keep a few cleaning supplies handy for this purpose: a vacuum and a mop. It's not unusual for a seller to wonder how clean the house has to be after closing. Unless specific terms have been discussed in advance, "broom clean" is the usual standard: a thorough dusting, cleaning wipe-down, and vacuuming of floors, surfaces, shelves, and walls throughout the premises. In other words, clean the house like you have a security deposit at risk—even if the transaction was a short sale.

Be considerate. Other people are moving in, people probably much like you were when you originally bought the home.

Forward the Mail

Arrange to have your mail forwarded. Go to usps.com and change your address (much more convenient than going to the post office in person). Make sure you notify companies that mail monthly or bimonthly subscriptions, like magazines, that you are moving, because the post office only forwards these for 60 days. Sellers sometimes leave their mail carrier a goodbye gift, which also serves as a reminder that they will no longer live at their address.

Consider leaving your forwarding address for the new buyers, just in case any boxes or gifts are delivered to the house after you have moved out. Leave the mailbox key for the buyer, as well as the number of the mailbox and its location, if you live in a complex. Some centrally located mailboxes store keys at the post office.

Notify the Utilities Folk

Let the utility companies (gas, electric, water, sewer, trash, garbage, and cable) know of your move. Give each one the date to discontinue service and the address for forwarding your final bill. Generally, that date will be the day the sale of your home closes. Remember to cancel your daily newspaper, if you subscribe to your news in print, and discontinue/disconnect the security alarm service.

Cancel the Insurance

You probably have already taken out a new homeowner's insurance policy to begin coverage on your new home, but that doesn't mean your insurance agent automatically discontinues coverage on your existing home. You might also have more than one insurance agent or have changed insurance agents but left your homeowner's policy in place. Your lender will not cancel your homeowner's insurance; you need to do it yourself.

Organize the Moving Boxes

Moving your packed boxes around is easier before the movers arrive. Remember that the first box on the truck means it will be the last box off the truck. Arrange the order of your boxes by rooms, if you can. Label the bedrooms by color or number, and make labels for each of the bedroom doors in your new home. This step helps the movers identify the correct rooms for each of your boxes.

You might also consider numbering your boxes after counting each of them. Your first box would be #1 of #99 master suite, for example. The second box for that room would be #2 of #99 master suite. That gives you an easy way to determine whether any box was misplaced.

Bonus tip: Pack a separate overnight box for the household, containing personal items, clothing, dishes, pet medications, or anything you might need immediately upon moving into a new home and don't want to spend time digging through boxes to find.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, BRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California