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Are You Ready to Sell Your Home?

Selling your home can be a stressful time in your life. You're packing, making sure your new home is perfect, and finalizing all the needed paperwork. But one thing many people tend to forget about, is making sure your home is up to code.

General Inspection. Have you done a general inspection on the home you are selling? While you may think the house you've lived in all these years is perfect! But home inspections are about checking the structure and mechanics of your home. You can also request that the inspector checks for Radon gas and termites, and termite damage. You can check out the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) Standards of Practice to see what must be inspected as well as how far the professional home inspector needs to go to report their findings.

Permits. Have you closed all the permits on your house? That new sun room was a great addition to your home, but was it permitted by the city you live in? If not, there are three things you need to consider in order to close those existing permits: what was constructed, was a permit required, and is there a permit in place? All of these can be found through a little bit of research. You are required by law to disclose if your addition was done without a permit, so lets focus on getting the permits closed before you sell. Some cities will have a process for retroactive permitting, which can reduce the cost and length of time involved. What this means is obtaining a permit after the construction has been completed, without knocking down the entire structure and starting from scratch. The city will likely require you to open up certain parts, but not all, of the construction and show that it was completed according to current building code. This would be the most ideal way to go about things, but not every city will offer this. If your city does not provide for retroactive permitting, you will not necessarily need to tear the entire project down and start over. You will, however, need to work closely with the city to come up with a plan to permit your construction. The city may require extensive uncovering of past construction and strict adherence to the building and zoning codes. Without a written process in place, this may be a more difficult process. The best way to determine how much all this will cost you is to hire a contractor to evaluate your construction. A contractor may be able to determine whether your original construction was done in accordance with building code and how much work will go into bringing it up to code. A contractor may also give you guidance on how to best work with the city.

Closing. Your home permits are closed and you can breathe a sigh of relief! You even accepted an offer on your house, so what now? You must agree on a closing date with the purchaser as part of your sales contract. Between now and this date is when escrow is opened until the final paperwork is recorded at the county courthouse. This is usually four to six weeks later. Escrow will order the preliminary title report, the payoff balances from your lenders, the property tax balance due either to you or the county, and whatever other paperwork is essential for you to complete this deal. When all the terms of your sales contract are met and all the loan documents have been prepared, Escrow will prepare the HUD-1 settlement statement, which itemizes the money coming in and being paid out on your closing date. You and the buyer will have a chance to review the statement ahead of the meeting where you sign the final paperwork. You may or may not have to meet for a closing meeting depending on where you live. Your responsibilities as a seller are to:

Your tasks as seller during the closing period are to:

  • Maintain the house in good condition

  • Negotiate and perhaps repair something the buyer's inspector finds

  • Notify your utility companies of a final service date

  • Prepare to move

Seller's Tip: Don't cancel your homeowner's insurance policy until the transfer of ownership has been recorded.

Do you have a checklist for selling your home? Courtesy of Real Simple

  1. Make small fixes. Inspect your home with a buyer’s eyes, and correct the flaws that are most egregious (if affordable) or can be relatively easily fixed—from repairing cracks in the walkways to repainting dingy walls or oiling creaky hinges.

  2. Decide whether to work with an agent or self-sell. For a commission, an agent will take care of many details you may not want to be bothered with (placing ads, fielding calls, making signs, etc.) and bring experience to the table. To find a good one, ask friends and relatives, then interview several candidates. Have each one walk through your house to see how he or she would price it and how the two of you get along. Sign an agreement for the shortest commitment possible, usually three to six months. If you self-sell, help is available (for a fee) at

  3. Set a price. A real estate agent will give you a market analysis free of charge or commitment. Ask a few to get a broader picture of the market, then ask to see listings for properties similar to yours that have sold in the past six months. Check out comparable listings yourself in the real estate section of your newspaper or on websites. Or get an analysis from a certified appraiser ( Then decide whether you want a quick, easy sale or the highest possible price.

  4. Clean and declutter. Weed out excess furniture, knicknacks, and “stuff”—toss it, donate it, give it away, sell it at a yard sale, or put it into storage—so the house seems more spacious and buyers can imagine themselves in it.

  5. Decide whether to do a prelisting inspection. It may save you time, especially with older homes, to identify—and potentially solve—problems your buyer’s inspection will discover later.

  6. Stay vigilant about maintenance. From the moment you start showing your house, keep the lawn mowed, shrubs trimmed, gardens weeded, rooms spotless and clutter-free.

  7. Ready your home for show days. Hide pocketable valuables, display fresh flowers or bowls of fruit, bake a batch of cookies for the homey smell, open the drapes, keep pets out of sight, and stay quietly in the background (or leave, if an agent is showing your property).

  8. Consider consulting a lawyer. If you do hire one, make sure he or she has real estate experience.

  9. Start organizing for your move. Once the sale is final, use the Moving Checklist to help you hire movers, order supplies, and pack up your belongings.

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