Handle Closing Like a Pro: The Ultimate Closing Checklist for Sellers

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If you watch shows like HGTV’s Flip or Flop or Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing, you might envision your home’s closing as an exciting affair. Unfortunately, selling your home requires a lot more “work” than reality shows can portray.

Before you can hand in your keys and potentially get a check, you must get through the final stage of the selling process – closing. Where each step up to this point has been professionally handled and important, the closing of your home represents the legal transfer of your property’s title.

What’s next? This closing checklist outlines exactly what you need to do before, during, and after the closing process.

What to Do Before Closing

Your pre-closing responsibilities depend a lot on “where you’re at” in the process. If you’ve just accepted an offer on your home, for example, you’ll have a few hoops to jump through before you can sit at the closing table.

“Getting the offer is only one step of the process,” says Michael Schaffer, Denver area Real Estate Broker. Beyond the offer, you’ll need to make sure your home can appraise for at least the agreed sales price, and that you can fulfill your end of the bargain as the seller. “Make sure you are aware of all the deadlines in the contract and are able to meet them,” says Schaffer.

Before you can close, your buyer will likely pay for a home inspection. The home inspection re-opens negotiations, and as the seller you want to have the best possible leverage.

That’s why Trina Larson, CPA and Realtor from Berkshire Hathaway Home Services/PenFed Realty says some sellers – and especially those with older homes – could benefit from conducting their own inspection.

For about $500, you can uncover potential problems and fix them before listing your home, or at least before your buyer conducts their own inspection, says Larson. “This can also be used to negotiate if the buyers home inspector brings up an issue,” she says. “You already have a second opinion.”

If your buyer asks for repairs based on the results of their home inspection, you’ll sit down with your realtor to negotiate these repairs. Depending on the situation, you might agree to the repair requests and complete them quickly, agree to part of the requests, or deny the repairs altogether. Make sure to speak with your realtor to determine what’s fair – and best – for your situation.

Once the nitty gritty details are negotiated for your home sale, you’ll want to prepare for closing. Here’s how:

  • Clean your home one final time, taking special care to check drawers and closets for items left behind.
  • Turn off shut-off valves that could flood and damage your home.
  • Leave all “extra” keys and garage door openers on your kitchen counter or out in the open where your new buyers can find them.
  • Forward your mail, and formally change your address with the post office.
  • Begin notifying creditors, subscription services, family, and friends of your change of address.
  • Gather appliance manuals, receipts, and warranty information for your new buyers.
a man is sitting on the couch scrolling through his house closing checklist next to a pile of papers
Source: (Maresa Smith / Death to the Stock Photo)

Pro Tip: At the very least, you should prepare for your home inspection, says Schaffer. “Make sure all your outlets, light switches, and light bulbs are working correctly. Get your furnace cleaned.” Appearances matter, and home inspectors may be more generous if your home is spotless and in good working order.

Seller’s Closing Checklist

Once the terms of your sale have been fully negotiated, you and your buyer will agree on a closing date and location. Before your closing date, escrow will order the preliminary title report, including the payoff balances from your lender (if applicable), and property tax information.

Behind the scenes, your buyer and their agent will be working to resolve all aspects of the home sale on their end – ironing out financing, for example, and removing inspection contingencies once both parties agree to settle.

The day before closing, you should receive the HUD 1 Settlement Agreement that outlines the intricate details of your home’s sale. Make sure to read through each line item of the statement, taking special care to check for accuracy. If you find mistakes, contact your realtor right away.

The day of closing, you and your hired professionals are responsible for bringing all appropriate paperwork and information to the table.

What You Bring to Closing:

  • Photo identification of all sellers on the home contract
  • Any questions you have regarding your closing statement (Does everything make sense?)
  • Pen
  • The deed of your home if you own it outright
  • Main keys and security codes for your home
  • Documentation of repairs you’ve made per the home inspection

What Your Realtor, Escrow, and Closing Agent Bring to Closing:

  • Your mortgage and loan payoff information
  • Escrow account information
  • HUD 1 Settlement Agreement
  • Inspection Agreements
  • Termite inspections and property tax information

Once at closing, you’ll sit down with the buyer and their agent to sign all paperwork required to the closing of your home. All outstanding balances regarding your home loan will be paid, including the remaining balance of your home loan (if applicable), agent commissions, prorated mortgage insurance, prorated property taxes, etc.

If you net a profit after your loan and all agent commissions are paid, you’ll receive a check at closing for the balance. If not, you may need to bring a check to closing. If that’s the case, make sure to check with your realtor for an exact total so you can bring a cashier’s check in that amount to closing.

a photo of real estate closing paperwork at the closing table
Source: (Matthew Addington / Death to the Stock Photo)

Typical Seller Expenses Paid at Closing:

  • Your remaining mortgage balance (if applicable)
  • Agent commissions (typically around 3-6%)
  • Property taxes, utility bills, HOA dues, homeowner’s insurance, and other bills related to your home
  • Title Fees
  • Escrow/Attorney Fees

Pro Tip: Don’t cancel your homeowner’s insurance or utilities until after your home has closed. Leaving your home without heat, air conditioning, or proper insurance is more than a bad idea; in many cases, it can be a deal-breaker.

Remember, the expenses listed above are typical but may not be all-inclusive. Depending on the details of your home sale, you may have additional paperwork to sign or fees to pay. Fortunately, this is one area where your realtor will take the reins and let you know what’s required.

What to Do After Closing

Once your home’s closing is complete, it’s time to wrap things up. You should have received a package of closing-related paperwork to pack away, along with a check for the proceeds of the sale (if applicable). What’s next? Check out this list of after-closing responsibilities and to do’s.

After-Closing Checklist:

  • Make sure all utilities are transferred out of your name and to the new owner.
  • Cancel your homeowner’s insurance policy once the title of your home has been formally transferred. You may receive a refund for part of your prepaid homeowner’s insurance policy.
  • File your closing paperwork in a safe place so you can access it if needed.

Relax! You’ve made it.