If it’s time to sell your home, you may be confused as to where to start first. (And if you aren’t selling personally, but know someone who is, kindly forward this newsletter over to them.) You wouldn’t fix the brakes on your car if you had zero experience as a mechanic and trying to handle real estate transactions without the proper support can have you in for one anxious ride to the closing.
Call or email me, and in 15 minutes I can set you up for a successful sale.
Many people find a realtor first and think they will get an attorney once someone makes an offer on their house. I subscribe to a different point of view. I believe it is best to secure an attorney first to help guide you through the process. After that, hire your real estate agent.
When you meet with an attorney first, you can discuss what should be in the commission agreement you will sign with an agent. An attorney can provide you with realistic expectations as to timing, responsibility and more. You want a smooth process, so it is vital that you are educated on all things legal before pen hits paper. You can also save money and better negotiate when an attorney is in your corner.
After you have secured an attorney and an agent, start collecting the proper paperwork. You don’t have to wait until you get an accepted offer to know what you have to do next.
Get a copy of your Deed. If you have misplaced yours, you can get a copy from the County Clerk’s office. You need the deed to prepare a Contract of Sale. And just a tip, it DOES NOT need to be certified, so don’t get talked into an unnecessary expense. The attorney needs to know who actually owns the property so they can prepare the contract properly. What happens if you just guess who is on the deed? John and Jane own a home and they assume only John is on the deed. The contract is prepared under just John’s name. A title report comes in from the buyer’s attorney and lo and behold, Jane’s name is on the deed, as well. They will have to prepare an amendment to the contract and run additional searches to make sure there are no judgments or liens against Jane, which could delay things.
Get a copy of your Fee Policy. When you buy a property you own it outright and don’t want to deal with prior owner issues. The Title Insurance Policy is known as the Fee Policy. You should have received a copy of this when you closed on your home. This ensures your interest as an owner in the property. This is especially useful if you’ve owned your property for many years. If there’s a title issue, such as the prior owner’s mortgage still showing up in the records of the County Clerk, this policy can help clear that up.
Find the survey of your property. This is optional but really helpful, and you should have a copy from your closing. A survey is essentially a drawing of your property. It shows property lines, fence lines, reveals if you have made any additions, reveals out of possessions, etc. When a title company for the purchaser goes out to look at your property and sees something, not on the survey, it will hold things up, so having one in advance clears up any potential questions. Let’s say you find out your neighbor’s fence is actually more than a few inches on your property. You can do the right thing, work with your neighbor and get a Fence Affidavit so they can’t claim anything once the new owner moves in. No surprises come closing is the goal. Get copies of the Certificates of Occupancy. Houses/additions/decks/pools/finished basements, etc. need to be built to code. When you decide to build something, you need to get a permit from the municipality where you live and once the construction is complete, it will need to pass a final inspection. The municipality will then issue a certificate of occupancy or certificate of compliance. Many times, homeowners will build something, like a deck, “illegally” and they aren’t sure if it’s 100% up to code. If this was the case, get it reviewed and fix the problem before you go into contract. It is a simple procedure to go to your Town’s building department to check that any open permits are closed out and get copies of these certificates. This could even stem from a previous owner. I just had a woman call because she bought a house – all cash – but now the Town has come knocking on her door and fined her for an inground pool and other improvements that weren’t properly permitted. Her excuse? I bought it that way. Doesn’t matter! If your house was built before the Town Code was implemented, you can get a Letter of No Objection from the municipality, which is basically proof of a building’s legal use if no Certificate of Occupancy is available. The closing. The final chapter in the sale of your house. An exciting time, but also one that does NOT need to be riddled with last-minute issues. My closings typically last one hour (depending on the lender), because my motto is to find any potential problems BEFORE everyone sits down at that final table. An attorney friend of mine said to me years ago, if nothing happens before the closing, the closing will take forever. But if every issue has come up beforehand, the closing itself is easy. Makes total sense.
Once you receive an offer, the purchaser can, and most likely will, do an inspection. If you want to really prepare, get an inspection done yourself and fix any major issues you see as a deterrent to the sale. You can also present the inspection and show the potential purchasers you have done your due diligence.
If you are putting up your home ‘For Sale by Owner,’ securing an attorney is even more vital. They can almost act as a realtor. It’s a difficult process, so be prepared for higher fees.
The Closing date in the contract is generally an ‘on or about date.” When you see this, it means that you have a period of about 30 days when the parties can schedule the closing. It won’t be on the exact date that is in the contract.
I hope this gives you a nice checklist to get ready for one awesome sale and make sure to share with anyone that could benefit! Email me if you need to secure an attorney. This is what I do!