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What Happens After You Sell Your House? We Answer Your Biggest Questions

This Q&A style post answers home seller’s top questions on what happens after they sell their house. We cover everything from the escrow period and seller’s remorse, to what fixtures stay and how clean the house should be when you leave. —-

The process of selling your home can be utterly exhausting and stressful — between pricing, listing, cleaning, showing, and so much more. But now you’ve made it: you have a buyer, an accepted offer, and you’re starting to exhale with much of the hard work behind you at last. Alas, you’re not quite at the finish line (and plenty could still go wrong).

So what happens next as you navigate the closing process as a seller? We’ll walk you through it, with expert intel from Dave Zajdzinski, a top-selling agent who works with 71% more single-family homes than the average Phoenix agent.

Jump to index:

What happens during the escrow period?
What if I have seller’s remorse — can I cancel escrow if I change my mind?
How soon will I receive my home sale proceeds?
What condition does my house need to be in when I move out?
Do I take or leave my appliances?
What stays with the house? What counts as a fixture?
What taxes will I owe on my home sale?
What is the purpose of the final walkthrough?
When should I transfer my utilities?
When do I need to move out of my house?

Source: (Spacejoy / Unsplash )

What happens during the escrow period?

Escrow refers to a specific period of time between the offer and the close of sale in a real estate transaction. It starts after you sign the purchase agreement from a buyer, and it ends when you receive those funds at closing.

For most transactions, the sale is contingent on factors specified in the contract, such as inspection, appraisal, and title search. These contingencies will have to be met before closing and that takes time.

This holding pattern typically lasts between 30 and 60 days. During this time, a third-party escrow account holds the funds.

Escrow comes with service fees to cover the holding of funds and transfer of documents. These costs vary from state to state, and you and the buyer will likely split the costs.

What if I have seller’s remorse — can I cancel escrow if I change my mind?

The short answer is not really. ​​If you change your mind, you can try to use a  contingency or cancelation clause within the contract to back out of the sale. However, there might not be such language written into your contract to make this possible, in which case you’re bound to the agreement to sell — and could be liable legally and financially to the buyer.

“You can list your property and certainly not move forward, but you can’t get into escrow with somebody and just change your mind. You would be on the hook to the seller,” Zajdzinski explains. “The seller could sue for what’s called specific performance, where they take it to court to have you perform on the contract.”

Zajdzinski notes that a seller doesn’t have to make repairs or come down on price if the appraisal doesn’t match up, for instance. “But to tell a buyer you no longer want to move forward just because you don’t feel like it is not something the contract allows you to do,” he says. “So take it seriously.”

How soon will I receive my home sale proceeds?

It depends on where you live. Most home sales happen in so-called “wet funding” states, where sellers get paid on the same day of close. This is the process across 41 states.

The remaining nine states are so-called “dry funding” zones, where it could take as many as four days for the seller to get the funds after closing. Dry funding states include:

Alaska
Arizona
California
Hawaii
Idaho
Nevada
New Mexico
Oregon
Washington

If you choose to accept your payment by check, you may receive it in hand from your closing agent on closing day. If you get paid by wire transfer — the most common method — you will typically see that money hit your account within one to two days of closing.

“​​I always like to tell people that signing your paperwork and getting your escrow check are two different things,” Zajdzinski says. “We recommend a wire transfer. A wire would typically get it to you on the next business day. So if you close on a Thursday that wire will typically go out the next day after closing.”

Source: (Pickawood / Unsplash )

What condition does my house need to be in when I move out?

Technically, there isn’t a requirement to have your home professionally cleaned for the buyer (unless such a requirement is stipulated in the contract). But typically, the expectation is that the home will be so-called “broom clean” for its new inhabitant. That means leaving it in generally good condition.

You should patch any holes in the wall from wall hangings left behind, for instance, and remove any trash and clutter. More than just a courtesy, the home’s general condition is important to the close of the sale. Buyers will look for issues — such as oversized abandoned items — and it could cause an issue at the final walkthrough.

“There’s nothing in our contract that requires a professional cleaning but any [personal or garbage] items should be removed and the home should be broom swept,” Zajdzinski says. “Don’t leave any trash behind.”

Do I take or leave my appliances?

Major appliances typically stay with a home after the sale. These include the kitchen appliances such as the stove, refrigerator, and dishwasher.The washing machine and dryer more frequently go with the seller; that’s on a case-by-case basis.

Some lenders, such as those providing FHA loans, even require that operational appliances convey with the house, as a requirement for approving the loan.

These items must be present at the final walkthrough if they are promised with the house in the contract. If you want to keep an appliance  — and you might be extra inclined to try to do that right now amid the appliance shortage — you must pre-disclose that you intend to keep it so there is no expectation that it stays with the home.

What stays with the house? What counts as a fixture?

Fixtures are considered part of the property and stay with the house after the sale. Anything that is physically attached to the house, or items that required modifications to the home on installation, should technically stay with the house after the sale. Think decorative and functional elements like kitchen faucets, doorknobs and handles, and floating shelves.

If you plan to take any of these items with you, you ideally have already removed them before listing the home. If you didn’t, you’ll need to generate a list so the buyer knows what to expect at the time of close. Items that should either go with the house or belong on this list include:

Flat-screen TVs and their mountings
Wall-mounted shelving
Fireplace mantels
Wall-installed air conditioning units
Built-in desks, display cases, and entertainment units
Kitchen and bathroom cabinet pulls

“If you don’t want your TV and the TV mount to stay then you need to exclude that,” Zajdzinski says. “Because once you screwed it in, it’s part of the house.”

Window treatments might be considered a bit of a gray area. A buyer might reasonably expect any wall-mounted hanging systems, but a seller might reasonably plan to take any drapery or curtains that hang from them.

“Your contract will have everything that is required to stay and it’s typically anything built-in or bolted down,” Zajdzinski says. “Anything that’s personal property is going to be negotiated upon, and that’s something that should be again covered prior to putting the home on the market. You don’t want to be a week out from closing and hearing from your Realtor® that no, you can’t take that family chandelier because we didn’t exclude it.”

Source: (Spacejoy / Unsplash )

What taxes will I owe on my home sale?

Taxes vary by location and property type. Here are some of the taxes you might owe as a seller:

Capital gains

Your home sale proceeds are considered a “capital gain.” To calculate the size of that gain, take the sale price of the home (minus selling expenses), a figure known as your amount realized. From that, subtract your adjusted cost basis (what you originally paid for the home, plus the cost of any major renovations).

But most homeowners won’t have to pay capital gains taxes when they sell their main house. That’s because the current tax code says that when a homeowner sells a primary residence, they’re eligible to exclude capital gains recognized on the sale for the first $250,000 if they are single and up to $500,000 if they are married. To qualify for this exemption, you need to own the house for at least two years and must have lived in the residence for at least two of the previous five years.

Outstanding property taxes

You owe property taxes from the beginning of the real estate tax year until the date of closing. (If you aren’t sure when the real estate year runs in your state, you can find it on the list of property tax calendars by state.) The buyer pays the taxes for the rest of the year after the closing date.

If you’ve already pre-paid the taxes for the entire year, the buyer should be contractually required to reimburse you for the prorated share. On the flip side, you should plan on paying the buyer prorated taxes if you haven’t yet paid up. These responsibilities should be spelled out in your home sale contract.

State and local transfer taxes

The real estate transfer tax, also known as a deed transfer tax, stamp tax, conveyance tax, or a documentary transfer tax, is a fee you pay to a state, county, or municipality for “the privilege of transferring real property within the jurisdiction,” according to Investopedia.

The specific fee — either a flat fee or an amount specified based on the cost of the home — will depend on where you live. For instance, Arizona charges a flat fee of $2 while West Virginia charges $50, according to MidPoint, a National Title Company based in Cedar Park, Texas.

Most fees range from under a dollar per $100 or $500 to roughly $1 to $3 per $1,000 of the transferred net value. California’s Revenue and Taxation Code charges $1.10 per $1,000 of the transferred net value or 55 cents per $500.

Municipalities can also assess additional taxes.In Los Angeles County, for instance, five cities charge an additional fee — as high as $4.50 per $1,000 in the city of Los Angeles.

Source: (Towfiqu Barbhuiya / Unsplash )

What is the purpose of the final walkthrough?

The final walkthrough is a buyer’s last chance to check out the home before it becomes theirs. Buyers will look for details like any major appliances that are contractually obligated to stay with the house, any damage that may have happened as a result of moving, and any abandoned junk left behind so there are no surprises. This usually happens within 24 hours, or up to a few days, before closing.

When should I transfer my utilities?

Don’t cancel any utilities until after your home has closed. Leaving your home without them isn’t just inconvenient, but it can also mess up the sale. So wait until a date after the closing to stipulate that the utilities be transferred out of your name so the buyer can take them over.

When do I need to move out of my house?

The date you must be out of the home depends on the agreement with the buyer. The purchase agreement specifies both the closing date and the date the buyers will be able to move in.

If your sale is set to close quickly — such as with an all-cash buyer in a hot market — you might consider negotiating an occupancy date that falls after your closing date so that you have more time to move.

In some cases, a buyer might ask for early occupancy or a move-in date before the title transfers. If you agree to the request, you’ll have fewer days to move out.

Whenever that official move-out day comes, you’ve now made it to the finish line at last and you’re ready for a smooth transition. Congratulations on selling your home!

Header Image Source: (Alex McCarthy/ Unsplash ) 

–Shared with love by the Valmy Team– your Texas realtor team. We would love to earn your trust and partnership, www.TheValmyTeam.com. All content copyright by the original authors.

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