Home Closing Checklist Tips for Sellers

How to ensure a smooth, efficient home closing

man closing curtains in empty home
••• paul mansfield photography/Moment Open/Getty Images

It doesn't matter whether you're selling your home as a short sale or as a traditional sale. Your checklist for getting the job done will be identical. 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 will come into play after all your personal belongings and furniture have been removed from your home. Not every seller is required by law to empty the property prior to or on the day of closing, but most people find that they can't begin to wrap up the process until everything is out of the house. 

Closing Checklist Tip No. 1: Gather Up All Those Documents 

Retain all executed 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 these things at closing, but don't rely on it. 

You might find some of these documents scattered about in your car or at your office. Gather them up and tuck them all together in a safe place. It's conceivable that you might need them again if a bill was left unpaid or if the buyer gets ticked off for some reason and hires a lawyer.

Closing Checklist Tip No. 2: Clean the House 

If you don't have time to personally clean the home before leaving it then at least hire a professional cleaning service to do so. How clean is 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 all the same. Wipe down the cabinets 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. 

Closing Checklist Tip No. 3: Shut Everything Off 

Turn off shut-off valves. If you've disconnected the washer, make sure the shut-off value is completely turned off because a small drip-drip-drip when nobody is around to notice can eventually flood the home.

Some sellers shut off the valves to all water sources, including sinks, toilets, and dishwashers. Just be sure to leave a note for the buyer so she won't call a plumber when the water won't turn on.

Closing Checklist Tip No. 4: The Final Walkthrough 

Attend the final walkthrough. There are so many quirks about a home that only the previous property owner would know. You can pass on these tips to the buyer during the final walk-through—things like which light switch operates the lights, whether a door sticks, or how to clean the swimming pool. 

Closing Checklist Tip No. 5: Cancel Your Insurance Policies

Wait until you know the deed has recorded or title transfer has formally occurred, then call your insurance agent. You should receive a refund of any prepaid premiums for your homeowner's insurance.

Closing Checklist Tip No. 6: Close Accounts 

Cancel the utilities and stop the newspaper. Make a list of phone numbers of each of your utility companies in advance. Keep in mind that not every utility is always paid monthly. Some are quarterly. You might have a refund coming or you might be able to transfer the balance to your next home. 

You might have to order your cancellation a week or more in advance to stop the newspapers from piling up in the front yard if you subscribe to any. 

Closing Checklist Tip No. 7: All Those Necessary Incidentals

Leave all house keys, remotes, gate keys, pool keys, and mailbox keys for the new owner. Yes, the buyers will probably change the locks but this won't happen the instant they move in. So find every house key, all the remotes for the garage or ceiling fans, and keys to the gate and mailbox. Put them in a kitchen drawer.

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. Hopefully, you set them aside. If you have receipts from contractors or warranties, put them into an envelope and leave them in a drawer as well along with the manuals and the code for the security alarm.

Closing Checklist Tip No. 8: 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 she's gone through every room with a fine-tooth comb, searching for anything you might have overlooked. You might find nothing more than a razor in the shower, but at least you'll be able to shave in the morning.

This step will give you peace of mind and your buyer will feel like he's moving into his own home, not one you vacated in a hurry. 

Closing Checklist Tip No. 9: Lock Up on Your Way Out 

Close window coverings, turn off the lights, and lock the door. You'd be amazed at how many people forget to close up the house. The odds of a break-in decline when no one can see inside. This is especially important if the home is going to be vacant for a while. Consider leaving an inexpensive lamp behind on a timer.

Closing Checklist Tip No. 10: 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. 

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