When you finalize with a buyer on your home or vacate it to move, you'll need to ensure you have completed everything you are supposed to—from negotiated terms to good seller etiquette. There are certain things that every responsible seller should do, and you can make sure you accomplish them all if you make a home-selling checklist.
Your closing checklist is a guide for your actions after all of your personal belongings and furniture have been removed from your home. While you may already be moved out, you are not always required by law to empty the property immediately upon closing.
- When closing as a seller, keep your seller disclosures, purchase contract, closing statement, and any other documents your closing agent gives you.
- Clean the house, turn off plumbing valves and switches, and leave any keys, remotes, or warranties for the new owner.
- Be present for the final walk-through to share any necessary information with the buyer and check that you haven't left anything behind.
- Be sure to close any utility accounts and change your address with the post office.
Secure Your Documents
Retain all seller disclosures as well as the purchase contract and the closing statement. Ideally, your escrow officer or closing agent will hand you a complete package containing all of these things at closing. Sometimes, these documents get scattered. Do your best to keep them in one location, as you might need them again in case something happens.
Clean the House
If you don't have time to personally clean the home before leaving it, hire a professional cleaning service to do so. What makes a house clean enough is often a matter of opinion and personal preference. It's not always necessary to shampoo the carpets, but it's a nice touch. Clean the cabinets, refrigerators, and other appliances inside and out.
It doesn't hurt to make your last impression on the buyer a good one with little touches like polishing sink fixtures. Leave your home the way you would like to find it if you were the buyer.
Close All Valves and Turn Off All Switches
Turn off shut-off valves to sinks, toilets, dishwashers, the water heater, refrigerator and washing machine. Leave a note for the buyers so they won't call a plumber. Turn off all switches for lights and fans. Some sellers flip all of the circuit breakers to off. This might be overdoing it, but it keeps them from paying for any electricity until the account is switched.
Don't Skip the Final Walk-Through
Attend the final walk-through. There are many quirks about a home that only the previous property owner would know. You can pass on these tips to the buyer or agent during the final walk-through—things like which switch operates the lights, whether a door sticks, or how to change the swimming pool filter.
Cancel Your Insurance Policies
Wait until you know that the deed has been recorded, or the title transfer has formally occurred, to call your insurance agent. You should receive a refund of any prepaid premiums for your homeowner's insurance.
Cancel the utilities, and stop the newspaper. Make a list of phone numbers for each of your utility and entertainment companies in advance. Keep in mind that not every utility is always paid monthly. You might have a refund coming, have to pay a balance, or be able to transfer the balance to your next home.
Leave all house keys, remotes, gate keys, pool keys, and mailbox keys for the new owner. The buyers will probably change the locks, but that won't happen the instant they move in. Put them in a kitchen drawer or other location that is easily found.
Assemble a packet of appliance manuals, receipts, and any warranties as well. You might have come across manuals for the HVAC, security system, sprinkler system, or appliances as you were packing. If you have receipts from contractors, warranties, and termite inspections, put them into an envelope, and leave them in a drawer as well, along with the manuals and the code for the security alarm.
Don't Leave Anything Behind
Check cabinets, drawers, and storage areas for any forgotten items. Run one more check, even if your spouse or friend says they've gone through every room with a fine-tooth comb, searching for anything you might have overlooked.
Lock Up on Your Way Out
Close the blinds and lock the windows and doors. You'd be amazed at how many people forget to close up the house. It is especially important to lock up if the home is going to be vacant for a while. Consider leaving an inexpensive lamp behind on a timer.
Change Your Address
Don't forget to let everyone know where you've gone. Submit a change-of-address form to the post office, but remember that not all mail can be forwarded. You might have to reach out directly to some entities to give them your new address.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
When should I cancel utilities when selling a home?
You can call in advance to set up a cancellation for your utilities, but be sure not to have your utilities turned off until after you officially close on the sale. You will need your utilities on throughout the selling process, and an early shutoff could cause problems.
How does escrow work when selling a home?
Escrow is the term for the period between when you first sign the buyer's offer and when the loan finally closes. The buyer's lender or another party involved will typically open a separate escrow account to house important funds like the buyer's earnest money. This account will remain open until the sale closes, at which point the funds from the escrow account will be disbursed to you. If for any reason the sale falls through, the money is returned to the buyer. In this way, the escrow account protects both buyer and seller.
What documents should I keep after selling a home?
It's important to keep copies of any documents related to your sales transaction, as you may need them for tax reporting purposes. You might also need evidence of any improvements that increased your cost basis in the home, as they could reduce or mitigate or eliminate any potential capital gains taxes. Be sure you also retain proof that your mortgage was paid off in the process.