Well, dear home sellers, we’ve come a long way—together! From the first coat of paint you used to freshen up your house’s trim to the stress of wrangling your way to a deal, we’ve been with you every step of the way. Now you’ve made it to the final hurdle of selling a home: moving on out!
Don’t worry, this is the easy part. But, as with the previous eight steps, you want to do it right—and that’s why we’re here to help. With this final installment of our Home-Selling Guide, we’ll get you through the last leg of your journey without a hitch.
Get your timeline in order
Once the paperwork is signed at closing, the buyers will officially own the house … and you won’t. That means that, technically, if you or your stuff is still there after the close, “the buyer could evict you,” says Joshua Jarvis, founder of Jarvis Team Realty in Duluth, GA. So make sure to have your exit strategy in place!
Still, most buyers will understand if you need a bit more time and have a legitimate reason—like if you can’t move until the weekend due to your work schedule. Just be sure to discuss these issues as soon as possible before the close, so your buyers can plan accordingly.
Decide what to leave behind
To make sure you’re leaving behind everything the buyer wanted—and that you agreed to—double-check the closing documents. There should be an itemized list of what comes with the house. And even if the buyers didn’t formally request them, it’s just good form to leave certain types of things behind.
Such as? “Generally speaking, you should leave anything that’s bolted to the wall,” says Jarvis. “Some homeowners want to take their fans and blinds to the next home, but generally if it’s screwed in, it stays.”
Also, if you and the buyers agreed to transfer any services—such as alarm monitoring or pest control—be sure to set that up before you go. Leave the buyers a detailed note in the house, or ask your agent to get in touch with theirs to make sure the transfer goes smoothly.
If you do inadvertently take an item that the buyers had requested, they have the right to ask for it back—and they could potentially sue you in civil court for the cost of a replacement. So, when in doubt, feel free to check with the buyers before you grab and go.
But don’t leave anything else behind
Just as important as what you leave behind is what you don’t. Your buyers have a right to move into a home that’s been cleared of furniture and other movable items they didn’t expressly request.
“Some folks leave all kinds of unwanted clothes, furniture, paint cans, and other items, thinking they are helping the buyers,” Jarvis says. If you truly think your buyers might love to have your old planting pots or kiddie equipment, go ahead and ask—but please don’t assume they’ll welcome your leftovers.
Even if you’re careful, you might forget something—at which point the buyers may contact their agent to get it back to you, but they also have the legal right to just keep or get rid of it. So double-check areas (e.g., the attic, garage, basement, storage shed, kitchen, and bathroom drawers) where people commonly overlook items.
It’s common courtesy to leave the place not only clear of your possessions, but also clean. However, that doesn’t mean you have to leave it immaculate. “Generally, you shouldn’t have to pay to have it deep cleaned,” Jarvis says.
In most cases, a simple broom-clean will do. That means wiping down the countertops, cleaning out drawers, sweeping or vacuuming all the floors, and giving the bathroom and kitchen appliances a once-over so the new owners aren’t grossed out when they arrive.
Wait! Are you forgetting anything?
Before you close the door for the last time, run through a quick checklist. Did you eyeball every room for stray items? Have you forwarded your mail and turned off the utilities? Is the water running in the pool? Have you left behind incriminating evidence of a capital crime? (We’re kidding on that last part … we think.)
We all get in a bit of a rush even in the best planned moves, but you won’t be able to get back in, so it can’t hurt to do a final run-through.
Once you’re ready, it’s time to leave. You can drop a line to your Realtor® to let her know you’re out, although it’s usually a courtesy more than a necessity. If you’re feeling truly gracious, feel free to leave a note, card, or bottle of bubbly congratulating the people who’ve inherited your former home. Given all the fond memories you’ve built between those walls, wouldn’t it be nice to start the home’s new owners off on the right foot?
And buy yourself some Champagne, too. Make it the good stuff—you’ve earned it.