Prior to putting your home on the market you should anticipate things that may delay the sale to a prospective purchaser. This may become very important if your intent is to purchase another home, you are relocating out of state or have some other situation that requires you to be somewhere else.
· Bring in an engineer or home inspector: By having someone with a critical eye examine your property, you will be able to identify problems and fix them before they become a stumbling block to entering into a contract or closing. If are not predisposed to fixing certain conditions/problems (depending on your sales strategy), knowledge of the actual condition of your home to sell allows you to establish a price reflective of the condition as it currently is eliminating a lot of back and forth negotiation or provides you with a predetermined bottom line sales price of which to bargain down to with a prospective purchaser.
· Certificates of Occupancy: As an attorney, a major time delay on the sale of a property that I encounter is a missing certificate of occupancy or required permit. A majority of contracts of sale require the providing of certificates of occupancy, permits or proof of governing municipal compliance or proof that none is required for the building and all improvements existing on the property. Lenders also require this as a condition to closing. Existing improvements typically refers to things like garages, decks, pools, sheds and extensions to your home. By finding out what you need to legalize, you can take steps to correct them which will ensure that you close in a timely fashion. Even if you don’t finish it prior to putting your home on the market, it will give you a head start so you can finish prior to your anticipated closing date. Again, if you do not wish or cannot legalize the garage, deck, pool or shed existing on your property, as a condition of your sale, you can require a purchaser close title subject to you not having to obtain building department approval. This may reduce your pool of prospective purchasers but will ensure that a purchaser that you do enter into contract with will not have the contractual right to delay your closing because there is a missing certificate of occupancy or permit.
· Violations: Another delay in closing on a sale of a home is the existence of violations required to be cleared under a contract of sale. Most contracts of sale require their removal. Also, most lenders will require that a home to be purchased be free of all violations. An owner who anticipates selling can do the research themselves on line or have their attorney order searches run for violations through a title insurance company. Clearing them early in the process will reduce the chances of your closing being delayed. You can also make it the contractual responsibility of the Purchaser to take subject to the violation. This may reduce your pool of purchasers.
· Owner’s Policy of Title Insurance: When you purchased your home, it is very likely that you purchased title insurance at the closing. The title insurance company should have issued you a title insurance policy as the owner. The attorney representing you may have included it in your closing statement or sent it to you later on. Usually they are not produced when you close. Your attorney was probably presented with a “marked up” title report as proof of title insurance pending receipt of the policy after closing. The policy will show any known uninsured title issues that existed at the time of closing. You should provide the attorney representing you on the sale with a copy of the policy so that appropriate language can be inserted into a contract or that the attorney can take appropriate steps to clear the title problems. If you do not have a copy, your attorney can look up a deed or mortgage of record and possibly find an identifying title number on the recorded document and order a copy of the owner’s policy from the title insurance company. This may take time so do it early in the process.
· Estate and Probate Documents: If you acquired your property through inheritance, you should collect copies of the documents you have from the Executor/Executrix of the estate or the probate attorney. This may include a copy of the will. Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration. Your attorney may have to get federal or state estate tax waivers or a letter from the accountant from the estate stating that no tax is due.
· Other documents: Collect copies of other documents that you feel may need to be looked at by your attorney. If you have been served with any legal documents or notice of a mechanic’s lien show them to your attorney as soon as possible. These may have to be resolved prior to selling your home and may take time to do so. By doing a little bit of homework and preparation you increase the likelihood of a smooth and timely closing.