Follow this checklist of things to do before closing on a house to ensure a smooth experience.
Let’s be honest: The home-buying process is an enormous time-suck. Between the negotiations, the mortgage paperwork, the home inspections, and the number crunching (and recrunching), it’s easy to get bogged down by the weightiness of it all.
But for a buyer, it’s important not to let the little things slide ahead of closing day. Tick these things to do before closing on a house off your to-do list, and your move-in might prove a (more) seamless affair.
1. Book the movers
Once you have that closing date in hand, nail down movers ASAP. If you’re changing addresses during a busy moving month (e.g., June or September), the choice companies tend to book up quickly; if you’re planning on doing the transport yourself, you still need to book a rental truck and any additional equipment. You definitely don’t want to find yourself bereft of help on moving day itself, begging that friend with a pickup truck to bail you out.
2. Call the locksmith
Nothing more exciting than getting the keys to your new place! Too bad those keys are about to become obsolete. No matter how trustworthy the previous owners may seem, you certainly don’t want them holding on to some spare master key that can access your new home. Book the locksmith as close to your move-in date as possible so it’s one less thing you’re stressing about the first night in your new place.
3. Research security systems
Start sleuthing online about various burglary/security systems, keeping in mind that some systems are better suited to condo life than to single-family-home living. If the previous owners already had a security system and you want to continue the service, you’ll still need to call the company and have the account switched over — and you’ll probably have to spring for new sensors, motion detectors, and a keypad. (If the security serviceperson is nice, he might leave you all of the old stuff, just because.)
4. Switch the utilities over
This one is easy to forget about, but gas, electric, and cable all need to be switched over (and phone if you’re still among the landline living). Make the calls at least two weeks ahead of time to play it safe.
5. Book the contractor
Planning on ripping out that avocado-green kitchen as soon as you sign the closing docs? Start interviewing general contractors now. Good GCs are the unicorns of the home-repair world; don’t spend months after move-in trying to find that single reliable contractor. Get references from friends, make your calls, look up previous work online, and if possible, try to get general time and money estimates based on the photos and dimensions of your future home.
6. Book the floor and paint companies
Maybe you’re not doing any major work on the place, but it’s still likely you’re repainting walls and buffing a few floors. Book those workers several weeks in advance, ideally for a time after you close but before you move, so that you’re not in permanent purgatory in your new place. It’s a lot easier to paint the walls and redo the floors when there’s no furniture in there to begin with.
7. Order the furniture early
Don’t want to wait 12 weeks for that living room couch you’ve had your eye on for years? If the measurements and color reallytruly work in your new space, put in the order now so you’re not spending months sitting in lawn chairs to read the Sunday paper.
This one comes with a HUGE caveat: Generally speaking, you should institute a spending freeze during the escrow period. Assuming you can pay for new furniture in full immediately, one well-priced couch shouldn’t put your mortgage at risk, but resist buying a five-figure living room set until after closing.
8. Transfer all your home services
Do you hire out for a monthly housecleaning? Weekly lawn mowing? Periodic snow shoveling? The last thing you want is for your go-to home maintenance lifesavers to show up at your old place only to find that you’ve flown the coop, wasting their precious work hours in the process. Make a personal call to each one to make sure they have your new address.
9. Hire a babysitter/pet sitter
You know what else you don’t want to deal with on closing day? A screaming child or a wandering dog. Leave the kids with a babysitter (ideally, tack on a day or two for the actual move as well) and find a friend or relative who can watch the pets for a few days so they’re not frazzled by an empty apartment and the chaos of the transition. If the kids and pets can arrive at a somewhat unpacked new place with their new sleeping areas already set up, so much the better.
10. Start hoarding takeout menus
The very last thing you want to do on your first night in a new place is cook. Drive through your pending new neighborhood and collect menus for pizza, Chinese, and any other delicious-looking takeout spots (online menus are frequently incomplete and outdated).
11. Clear your calendar
Closing day is not something to take lightly. For every story about a quick and painless experience, there are the tales of undiscovered liens and lawsuits, never mind regretful, histrionic sellers.
Wipe the day free of meetings, let your co-workers know that you might not be easily available, and make sure your phone is fully charged in case the proceedings last for hours. And if it’s a quick and painless closing, you’ll be glad your phone is powered up to snap a triumphant “Got the keys!” pic for Instagram.