I just accepted an offer for my house. What comes next?

First of all, congratulations! Arguably, the biggest steps will come right at the end: packing and moving your belongings, cleaning the home, and vacating before the closing date and time (the day when the property changes ownership), but you will need to take several actions between now and then. Your real estate salesperson can answer specific questions about closing and provide some helpful tips, but here are a few basics.

This may sound like obvious advice, but make sure you leave your house in the same shape as it was when you accepted the offer. The buyer and their real estate salesperson will likely arrange for a pre-closing visit right before the moving date, so don’t break anything or attempt to remove items such as lighting fixtures or other items that were included in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale (APS). You may also have to initiate repairs or fulfill outstanding conditions in the offer that resulted from a home inspection, for example.

You will need a lawyer who understands real estate law to assist with closing the transaction. It’s always a good idea to hire a lawyer early on in the process, and you might have already consulted one to review your listing agreement and APS.

Your lawyer will request all relevant documents, including the deed to the property, mortgage papers, land survey and current property tax and utility bills. Real estate brokerage commissions and most other expenses are usually paid by the seller from the sale proceeds, so make sure you sit down with your lawyer to review all legal fees, brokerage commissions and other closing costs.

You’ll also have to sign the property transfer and mortgage discharge papers with your lawyer a few days prior to closing day and hand over a complete set of keys to the home. The documents and keys will be passed on to the buyer’s lawyer at closing.

I strongly recommend making sure you aren’t on the hook to pay for any future property-related expenses after you have moved out. You would be well-advised to ask your bank to cancel any postdated cheques, get your utility providers to read your home’s meters on closing day and close your accounts.

When you get in touch with your insurer to terminate your home insurance policy on the day your property changes ownership, you’ll need to tell them if the home will be vacant for more than 30 days, because that may require special coverage. Whatever you do, don’t allow the home to be uninsured before the day of closing, because you may be required to pay out-of-pocket for any damages that occur.

If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email askjoe@reco.on.ca.

Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.

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