In my 24 years in real estate, I have encountered many problems at closing (settlement) which could have been avoided. Some were my fault, especially as a new and inexperienced agent. Though I always had the best intentions, nothing can prepare you like experience. After encountering yet another crisis at a closing this past Friday, I am compelled to share with you some great advice on how to avoid your own closing crisis.
1. Keep your mortgage payments current. If you are not current, notify your agent of your dilemma so they can help you navigate to closing. Recently, a client had gone into foreclosure proceedings just 24 hours before closing, accruing yet another $2,700 of unnecessary penalties, which could have been easily avoided.
2. Price your home right from the onset. Avoid wasting your time and everyone elses. Unless you are so unique that your home has “it’s own market”, get very real with the asking price.
3. Get your C.O. in advance. Many towns allow this, so you won’t be scrambling on the day of closing asking everyone (Realtor, Buyer, Town, Contractors) for favors.
4. Do you have all permits pulled and satisfied? If not, get them done. Don’t try to think you’re going to get away with anything, or “pull a fast one” on your town. This could come back to haunt you after closing, or delay your closing significantly.
5. Get your mortgage payoffs 3-4 weeks in advance. Understand how much you really owe. Sometimes sellers forget to get this important documentation before closing, thus delaying closing by hours or more.
6. Get a home inspection before you have a buyer. There’s a 95% chance the buyer will have an inspection and make repair requests. Do you really want to wait until a few weeks before closing to run back and forth to Home Depot? Wouldn’t it be cool to tell and show the buyer that your home has been pre-inspected? Would this make your home stand out? The more work your home needs, the better off you are getting your own opinion, then knocking off the issues which a buyer is going to want a steep discount for in many cases anyway.
7. Communicate with all parties. Don’t assume anything. Some times, no news is a recipe for bad communication. Do what you said you were going to do.
8. Be ready for closing date. Some folks will be late to their own funeral. Don’t inconvenience the buyer by not being ready. None of this stuff seems too big until the moving truck is parked in front of your house with the buyer’s possessions.
9. Clean it out, empty it out. Your home must be in broom-clean condition. Don’t leave any “presents” behind for the buyer, like paint cans, lumber, etc., unless the buyer specifically requests them. A couple years ago, one of my clients thought it was ok if they came back a few days after closing to claim their cat, who was hiding somewhere inside the house. Obviously, the buyers were not pleased.
10. Get it in writing. If you agreed with the buyer on any issues which were not in the original sales contract, or changed, get it in writing. For example, a change in closing date, a credit for home repair, or an inclusion or exclusion of personal property.