The is part three in a 3-part series about selling your home when you’re not there—whether it’s a property you inherited, you moved for work, or an investment property you absentee-own. Part One talks about the property itself, Part Two focuses on the mechanics of being on the market, inspections, etc., and Part Three focuses on the actual closing process.
By Deborah Rutter
It’s easy to get stressed out about a closing in general, much less when you can’t be in town, for whatever reason. After all, it’s how you go from owner to not-owner! Let’s break down the steps of the process that apply to most transactions:
1. Be sure your house is in order! If you needed to do repairs or clean up of junk inside or out, be sure that is done. A good listing agent can help you find local repair professionals to help you meet your contract obligations, as well as help arrange for the disposal of trash or unwanted items. Whether you are selling a condo, home, or large estate from afar, you want to minimize the roadblocks to an on-time, no-drama closing and that starts with the overall house condition. If it will be several weeks or months? Be sure not to neglect regular yard and home maintenance. It will inspire confidence in the buyer that you are committed to keeping the property buy-ready and help you fend off unexpected delayed-maintenance expenses.
2. Secure a closing agent who is confident with remote closings: In our area, we have a lot of second and third homes and a lot of military personnel. Our local Nest closing agents are familiar with the challenges of closings when the sellers aren’t around. Everything from making sure documents are drawn up early and delivered in plenty of time to allow for a timely return, to helping sellers understand obligations like looking for a notary. Your listing agent should know who these are in your area! Your agent will be able to look at the calendar, your location, the property, and the process and work backwards to be sure you are timely in your duties, and know which questions to ask and when.
3. Decide who will sign! You can have a power of attorney drawn up in advance to let a local, trusted relative or friend sign on your behalf. You can also have your closing agent sign for you. If you want to sign yourself? Be sure your closing agent knows far in advance so the documentation has plenty of time to be drawn up, mailed, and and sent back.
4. Begin to close down services: Lawn service, pest control, regular deliveries, house cleaning, snow removal contracts, utilities, trash pick-up, on-call emergency providers, mail…go through your list of service providers for the property and let each of them know when the closing date is, when you expect service to stop, and ask for your final bills.
5. Be final walk-through ready: Most states and/or contracts allow the purchaser to have a final look-see of the property before going to closing. Removal of personal property (and leaving items promised in the contract negotiations!), having the property cleaned, and all the contractual repair obligations completed are key to purchasers going to closing without delay or complaints that might hold up the process. Be sure that keys, remotes, padlock combinations, user manuals, transferable warranty documents and the like are all left at the property. You can send any of these in your possession to your listing agent who can arrange to get them to the house. And please, leave toilet paper behind…it means nothing when it’s left and everything when it’s not!
6. Having someone on stand-by for closing day! Your listing agent or a proxy should be physically around a day or two before and on closing day to be eyes, ears, and a resource for any last-minute issues. This is especially key if you have renters that need to be out by closing day. Things inevitably come up that need attention, and the key is attending to issues quickly to keep the process flowing.
The best thing you can do to facilitate an on-time closing is to do most of the work earlier than you think is needed. When you are not around, everything needs to be coordinated through a third-party so unless you have personal staff, that means hiring the work out to help you get through the closing steps.
Your listing agent is a great, central resource for a lot of these items, but they need time to plan and coordinate as well. Don’t convince yourself you’ll come into town for closing day then change your mind a few days beforehand. It won’t be enough time to do everything without spending a lot of extra money to get things done at the last minute!
Being at the closing office used to be sort of mandatory, or at least presumed and expected. These days with busy lives, modern technology, and the pace of the closing process, that’s no longer crucial. A little bit of planning up front and you can say goodbye to your place from afar and get paid on time!
Deborah Rutter is an Associate Broker at Nest Realty with passion for teaching. She knows buyers and sellers make the smartest decisions for themselves when they are armed with data and insight. She has taught first-time homebuyer education classes, and is a featured contributor on our blog.