Sold our home – What are the next steps?
Congratulations, your place is sold. In can be said that that two happiest days in a home owners life are
- The day he/she buys a new home
- The day he/she sell their place
Hopefully the sale went smooth, and the final buyer conditions have been removed. Once the SOLD sign is hung in front of the house, you may be asking: What are the next steps?
The following steps are true in most of the Canadian real estate markets, and will probably be slightly different in the U.S. (For example, in the U.S. they have another walk-thru inspection by the buyers, just before possession.) Let’s assume, for this article, that possession date is 4 weeks away, for example, on August 15th, 08:00 AM.
When the SOLD sign goes up – Step 1
If you’ve hired a real estate professional, your REALTOR® will probably transmit all the relevant documents to the real estate lawyer of your choice. Don’t know who to use? Well established real estate agents should have a handy list of trusted professionals, including
- Real Estate Lawyers
- Home Insurance Agents
- Moving Companies
If your agent does not know a good lawyer to use, ask around your friends. You’re not looking for ANY lawyer, but one who specializes in the field of residential real estate. Contact him/her and get the signed offer to them so they can start a file.
Step 2 – Make notifications
You will need to make notifications for all your current service providers, including for example
Electricity, Gas, Water & Sewer
If you know your new address, you can advise your local Electric and Gas Co. as well as the Water & Sewer providers, of the pending change.
Telephone & TV
The same goes for the TV, Internet and Telephone providers. They may tell you to bring in any rented equipment, and you can arrange for a hook-up service to your next place.
In many places, alarm contracts remain WITH THE HOUSE. In other words, your buyer will be stuck with the contracts, so hopefully your agent has worked this into the offer. You will just need to contact the alarm company and let them know they will be dealing with a new owner from possession date onward.
Attend your local post office and get a stack of ‘Change of Address’ cards, which are usually free. Send these to all your friends, advising them of your new address. Tell the Post Office of your pending move. In cases where a ‘super mailbox’ is involved, the P.O. will advise you as to how to handle the keys.
Hire a Moving Company (optional)
Call your moving company as soon as your current place is sold, and you know where you’re moving next. Hopefully your agent has worked a few days overlap, where you are still in your current home AND already have access to your next home.
If the new owners of your current home take possession on Aug. 15th at 08:00 AM (as an example), you will literally need to be completely out of the home, with all your possessions removed, by 7:59 AM.
‘Time is of the essence’ is usually part of the purchase agreement, and it means that time is an important factor in the agreement. If the new owners pull up and see you’re still in the process of moving, they COULD back out of the deal, as you did not live up to the agreement.
Notify Your Home Insurance Co.
Call your home insurance company and let them know you’ll be moving out by August 15th. HOWEVER, CAUTION: Do NOT order the insurance to be cancelled on that date. You are well advised to keep the home insured for 7-10 days BEYOND the possession date. This is an extra precaution against the (slim) possibility that the buyer renegs on the deal, walks away, doesn’t take possession etc.
Home insurance is commonly a few dollars per day, so leaving it in place for an extra week wont break the bank. In my 15 yrs of selling homes (over 500 houses and condos) I can recall just 2 times where a buyer did not show up on possession day. Unfortunately in each incident, the lawyers involved did NOT notify anyone, so the place just sat empty for a few days.
Imagine what would happen if a fire started, and you (the seller) had taken off the insurance? While it is RARE, it is not unheard of, or impossible.
Keep up with regular maintenance
In our local purchase agreements, there is a clause which reads:
“The Property, and all included items, will be in substantially the same condition
they were in at the time of this offer”
What does this mean? Under our laws, the seller becomes the caretaker of the property on the day when the sale finalizes. As such, the seller has to maintain the property in the same condition as when it was sold. This means that the seller should continue with lawn care (grass cutting and watering), and maintaining any items which are included in the sale.
Generally this would mean that the seller should fix anything that breaks down before possession. For example
- Hot water tanks (these usually fail either a week BEFORE possession or a week AFTER…lol)
- Appliances included in the sale
- Keep the heat on in the home during winter times
- Keep the yard and property in same condition as it was on offers date
It is generally accepted procedure that if the hot water tank blows, the seller will replace it before the possession date. If it fails the day after the buyer takes possession, it falls on the buyer to fix that.
7 Days Before Possession
Around a week before the new buyer takes possession, you (seller) should be meeting with your lawyer to sign the necessary papers. This meeting is usually very quick, under 30 minutes. Lawyers would like you to bring 1 set of keys to the house, just enough to let the new owner into the home on possession date.
Don’t bring garage door openers, all your shed keys and extra spare keys. Leave all of that on the kitchen counter when you vacate the home. Your lawyer just needs one set of keys so he can courier them to the buyers lawyer, in trust.
Moving Out Day
Hopefully you will have a few days of overlap, so lets say that your moving van arrives on August 12th. Make sure that everything which is NOT included in the sale, is removed from the home.
Do not leave:
- Unwanted furniture which is not included in the purchase
- Bags of garbage in the home or on the property
- Unwanted tools in the shed
if you have items that are useful, such as garden tools (if you’re moving to a condo, for example) you should ask the buyer, via his agent, if it’s ok to leave some of these items behind.
Possession Day (or just before)
At the last possible moment, read all your meters. Electricity, Gas and Water, and call the readings in to the respective agencies.
In Winnipeg, your lawyer will actually want you to phone him with the water-meter reading, as this is now attached to the title of the home.
The buyer will be advised to record all the same meter readings as soon as he/she enter the home. This way, the utility companies know the readings are accurate.
Just prior to locking the door for the last time, make sure you’ve left all the garage door openers, shed and garage keys etc on the kitchen counter or elsewhere in plain sight.
You could leave behind any relevant warranties for appliances, furnace installs, etc.
Unless you’ve notified the buyer of the alarm code, please leave the alarm OFF, so that the new owners don’t stress out in the first 30 seconds of walking into their new home.
Frequent Questions By Home Sellers
Q: When moving out of my home, can I dig up my prized rosebushes and take them with me?
A: Not without permission from the new owner. The buyer purchased your home and any perennials, shrubs and trees were part of the sale. The simplest way is to ask the buyer, via his/her real estate agent, if you can take a small part of each perennial, roses etc, so that you can transplant them into your next place.
Q: We just sold our home, how will I get paid?
A: The buyer will have met with their lawyer a few days before the possession date and turned over the required cash and mortgage instructions (from the bank/lender). The seller will meet with their own lawyer and turn over one set of keys to the house.
On (or just prior to) possession date, the two lawyers exchange the keys for the money, all in trust, and the buyer receives their key that way.
The sellers lawyer will then take all the money, pay out the sellers mortgage (if any) pay any liens against the home, pay the real estate agents and also pay him/herself (legal fees). The remaining money will be sent to the seller according to their instructions (direct deposit, cheque in the mail, etc).
Q: Sold our home, and just found that my bedroom curtains will fit into my new place perfectly. Can I take them?
A: Check the purchase offer. If the offer includes all window-coverings and blinds, then you must leave them behind. If the offer does NOT include those items, you may be able to take the curtains, BUT must deal with the curtain rods which are attached to the walls.
In most areas you could take these, so long as you patch the holes in the walls and paint the patches, making them invisible to the casual eye. Best to check with your real estate agent or lawyer if you are unsure.
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