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Your Guide to a Smooth Closing

Your home is officially for sale. What’s next? Getting offers! The road to your closing day can be long, but you can make it easier by being prepared. We’ve put together some of the best things you can do to ensure you’re ready to receive offers and, more importantly, ready to sign on the dotted line come closing day. Here you’ll find four guides on how to ensure a smooth and successful closing:

1. How to Be Prepared for Offers

2. Calculating Your Net Proceeds

3. What to Consider in an Offer

4. The Timeline to Closing

How to Be Prepared for Offers

Before any offers start rolling in, there are several steps you can take to make sure you’re as prepared as possible. From knowing what questions you’ll be asked to being ready for document requests, we’ve assembled a few helpful checklists so you know what you need to be ready. Then, you can focus on the fun part: receiving and accepting offers like you’re a homeselling champ. Here’s a quick guide on what you need to do in advance of receiving offers on your home:

Locate Your Old Documents

Time to sort through all the paperwork you discovered while decluttering the house! Having the documentation from when you originally purchased the property will be extremely valuable during the closing phase and can help you save time and money. Dig up what you can and keep the relics handy throughout the selling process. Some of the specific documents that might be helpful while you’re listed include:

Old Inspection Reports

You’ll need to disclose anything that’s on this report on your property’s Seller’s Disclosure Notice so keep this handy! If this report is less than four years old, you’ll need to make it available to interested purchasers.

Appraisal

If you’ve had an appraisal done when you purchased the property or refinanced it, the appraisal report can help justify your list price. If you’re on the MLS, this report can be uploaded so that other agents can access it.

Survey

When you purchased the property, you should have received a survey. In layman's terms, a survey is half blueprint, half map. Sometimes this document can be on a very large or long piece of paper. If you have this, hold on to it because this will be required for closing. Depending on your offer terms, having the survey could save you closing costs.

Loan Information

Keep documents on hand that state how much you owe, who services your loan(s), your loan numbers, etc. The title company will need all of your basic loan information (loan number, company, contact information, etc.) prior to closing. You may also want to request a payoff quote, so you can have an exact estimate of how much your net proceeds will be from the sale of your home.

Receipts from Past Upgrades

Keeping track of upgrades you did to your home by creating a detailed list will be immensely helpful for marketing your property; however, if you’ve kept receipts, that’s even better. Receipts are great to have for the appraisal and could be useful when agents are looking at comparable properties.

Past Utility Bills

Often times the purchasers of your property will be curious as to how much the utility costs are. Providing past statements, especially those with a graph showing the past 12 months, will be helpful for interested buyers.

HOA/Condominium Documents

If you live in a condo or a property with an HOA, there’s a good chance you have the documents on file from when you purchased it. These may answer potential buyers’ questions and are nice for you to have on hand when questions like “what does the HOA allow” are asked.

Gather and Sign Required Forms Promptly

There will be new forms that you’ll need to get through as well. It’s important that you complete each form in a timely manner when you’re listed or when an offer is received. Ideally, you’ll have completed all the required paperwork for an offer prior to listing. Not having all your required documents can give buyers an “out” even after you’ve signed a contract, so it’s important to get everything done as quickly as possible. Here are some “new” documents that you should be prepared for:

T-47 Form

This is a form that compliments the survey, which you should have on hand to be notarized. On the T-47, you’ll note any additions you’ve made to the property since the last survey was completed, such as decks, patios, sheds, garages, etc. You’ll need to make sure that you have a valid survey on file before you tackle this form though! This is the only form that needs to be notarized.

Seller’s Disclosure Notice

On this form, you’ll need to disclose everything you know about the property. In the state of Texas, this is required and can only be completed by the seller of the property–meaning you can’t ask your real estate agent to complete this for you. Anything that you’re unsure of needs to be marked as “unknown,” and you must be truthful in your answers. We won’t sugar coat it, this is probably one of the more grueling pieces of paperwork you’ll come across. But getting it done and out of the way (truthfully and completely) will save you from even more headaches further down the closing road.

List of Upgrades

We mentioned the receipts for your upgrades earlier, but now is a good time to sit down and come up with a list of all the things you did to enhance your home after you moved in. Even the smaller things like replacing the fixtures in the kitchen should be noted. More obvious things like patio and deck additions should be listed, but also be sure to denote how much money was spent on each upgrade. Again, this list is a must have come appraisal time but will be good to have put together upfront as well.

County Special Assessment Notices (If Necessary)

If your property is located in a special water district or any sort of Extraterritorial Jurisdiction, there will likely be some documents/disclosures that you need to sign. These will inform the buyer that they are about to own property in one of the said areas and will signify a “formal” notice to them. Ask your agent or any attorney if you’ll need to sign any of these documents.

HOA Special Assessment Notices (If Necessary)

If there is a Homeowner’s Association associated with your property, there may be special assessments that will need to be turned over to the new buyers. Assessments like this may be for things such as a sidewalk installation that the future owners will need to know about. Keep HOA documents like this handy so that when you sell, you won’t need to go digging for it.

Proof of Energy Audit (if located within Austin City Limits, a customer of Austin Energy, and owner of a property that is more than 10 years old)

When you meet the criteria listed above, you’ll need to present proof of an energy audit to the buyers of your home before the option period expires. While this is not a contractual obligation, it is required by the city of Austin. It’s best to get this done during the “pre-listing” phase, so that you don’t need to scramble to get this audit scheduled when it’s crunch time. This is one piece that can sometimes go overlooked so don’t forget about that ECAD audit!

Be Ready for Certain Questions

When you’re on the market, either you or the agent representing you will receive questions about your listing beyond how many bedrooms it has or what the square footage is. List price is often times something that gets questioned, and it’s up to you to be prepared to answer. Here are a few FAQs we recommend you be ready to answer while you’re on the market:

Why are you selling your home?

It’s time to spill the beans on why your property is on the market! Whether you’re on to the next chapter of your life or looking to ditch the investment property, be ready for this question to come your way. In the same breadth, take this opportunity to give all the details on what you loved about the property–telling potential buyers this could spark an emotion and bring about an offer.

How firm are you on the asking price?

Take into account how high or low you listed your home. Did you list low for a fast sale? High so that you can negotiate? Knowing how firm you are on the price is important and will help filter out offers that may be a waste of time.

How much do you owe on the property?

Remember when we said that you should know your loan information? We meant it. This question may come up from buyer’s agents and the potential buyers, though you are not required to disclose this information. However, knowing how much you owe is important because you’ll know how much room you have to negotiate, and what you’ll walk away with from the closing table.

Are payments current?

Keep in mind everything from HOA dues to taxes, and of course, those loan payments. Being current on payments will make for a smoother close but being honest if you’re not will help just as much. Once a property is under contract and the title is opened, any liens or clouds on the title will be revealed, so it’s important to be forthcoming about any liens or encumbrances on the property.

Make Sure Your Property is Ready Throughout the Entire Process

You’re not off the hook yet with property preparations. In fact, now through closing your home should remain spotless. It’s tough, we know, but here’s why:

  • Showings – Depending on the showing windows that you’ve indicated, you’ll want to make sure the home is ready for potential buyers to walk through at any moment. Scrambling to get things ready and decluttered is no fun, so keep things as neat and tidy as possible in case of last-minute showings.
  • Inspection – So you’re under contract, and maybe you just threw yourself a little celebration with some confetti in the kitchen. Time to sweep up that confetti and toss it because it’s time for your property inspection! This will occur during your option period. Not only should your home be neat and tidy for Mr. or Mrs. Inspector, but you’ll also need to ensure they have access to things such as the electrical breaker panel, attic entryways, any crawl spaces, etc. The inspector will be at the property for about 3 to 4 hours–not only will they need time, but they’ll also need space. Keep the property looking good and be absolutely sure there’s no more clutter. Also, keep in mind that the buyer will often be present for some or all of the inspection, and you want them to remember why they fell in love with your home in the first place as the inspector is pointing out all of its flaws.
  • Appraisal – Keep the property looking great for Mr. or Mrs. Appraiser too! While they won’t be going through the home as closely as the inspector, you’ll still want to keep things neat as this is an important part of the closing process. Think of them like Santa–a list and some cookies go a long way to give you either clearance for take off with Rudolph or some coal in your stocking.
  • Final Walk Through for the Buyers – Typically this happens the day before you’re closing, so it’s likely that everything will be out of the house. But if it’s not (we really hope this isn’t the case…), it is CRUNCH time. This is the final step for the buyers to be 100% sure that the house is move-in ready. All your stuff (ALL OF IT) needs to be removed from both the inside and the outside of the property. Again, we really hope that you did this way ahead of time and that the buyers will walk into a house they can start moving into immediately. So, not only should the property be amazingly clean at this point, but ALL of your items should be removed as well.

Calculating Your Net Proceeds

We bet you’re curious about how much cash you’ll be walking away with from the closing table. There are plenty of factors that go into the bottom line outside the sales price. You’ll need to calculate all of these costs to determine the total proceeds you’ll receive from selling your home:

Title and Closing Fees

Owner Title Policy

  • Sellers will typically pay for the owner’s title insurance policy–this fee is set by the State of Texas and varies based on the price of your home. You can calculate the fee by subtracting 100,000 from the sales price of your home and then multiplying that number by .554%. Then, add $875 to the sum, and there you have it–unless your home is over $1,000,000. Don’t feel like doing middle school math? Our handy dandy net proceeds calculator can SHOW YOU THE MONEY in no time.

Escrow Fee

  • This is the fee a title company charges to facilitate the holding and transfer of funds during the home sale transaction–typically this is split 50/50 between the buyer and seller.
  • The escrow fee is usually around $700 in Texas though different title companies have different fees.

Document Preparation “Doc Prep”

  • This fee covers the cost associated with gathering and preparing the documents required to close. This fee is typically paid to a Third Party Law Office that is not affiliated with the title company.
  • The Doc Prep fee usually ranges between $50 and $100 in Texas.  

Tax Certificate

  • A tax certificate indicates the current status of any taxes, interest, penalties, or other related amounts due on a property.
  • The cost to obtain a tax certificate is usually around $40 to $50 and will be requested by the title company and paid for at closing.

Recording Fee (ROL)

  • The purchase of your home will be recorded by the local government and become public record. This fee is generally charged by the county your property is located in.
  • The Recording Fee is typically $20 to $40 and is paid at closing. In Texas, the recording fee is customarily paid by the buyer.

T-3 Endorsement (Area & Boundary Exception)

  • It’s recommended to look into this if you are using an existing survey since surveyors are only required to defend their work for their original clients; instead of a property owner taking on the cost of any property line disputes, they can make a claim, and the title underwriter will handle it on their behalf.

Realtor Fees

Listing Agent Commission

  • When working with a listing agent, they will likely take a percentage of your final sales price–typically 1-3%.

Buyer Agent Commission

  • If your home was listed on the MLS, you need to offer a commission to the agent who brings the buyer–the Austin average is just under 3%.

Seller Costs or Deductions

Mortgage Payoff

  • If you have a loan on the property, you’ll need to pay this off; because of prorated interest, your payoff may be higher than your remaining balance.

Property Tax (Prorated)

  • You’ll need to pay off your property taxes, though these will be prorated.

Sales Contract Costs

Home Warranty Plan

  • This is a policy for home buyers that will cover items such as heating, AC, electrical, etc. This is not always required and can be negotiable.

Homeowner’s or Condominium Association Resale Certificate

  • When your property is part of an association, Texas Property Code Chapter 207 requires that the HOA provide a disclosure/information to the buyer in the form of a resale certificate–the HOA is allowed to charge a “reasonable fee” for this.

Homeowner’s or Condominium Association Transfer Fee

  • Similar to the Resale Certificate, the Transfer Fee will cover the cost of the HOA to prepare and distribute the rules and regulations to the new owner.

What to Consider in an Offer

Congrats! Your first offer has arrived! And if you’re lucky, maybe you even have multiple offers to choose from. While this is all wildly exciting for you, there’s a lot of analysis to be done. That might not sound like fun at all, but there’s A LOT to consider in each and every offer you receive. There’s more behind the sales price than you might think! Let’s walk through what the most important aspects to consider in an offer are.

Sales Price

Well, this is somewhat obvious, right? This will give you a pretty solid idea of what you’ll walk away with at the closing table, but as you’ll see, there’s much more that you should be taking into consideration.

Owner’s Policy

The owner’s policy or owner’s title insurance will be based on the final sales price of the property. This is an insurance policy to protect the buyer from any losses as a result of errors in the title. It is customary that the seller pays for the cost of this policy to be issued to the new owner.

Home Warranty

In the Texas purchase contract, you’ll find this under Residential Service Contracts. It is actually in the seller’s best interest to pay for this; it will protect you from having to deal with any issues on the property after the sale of the home. Costs for this can vary but are usually just a few hundred dollars. Your obligation to reimburse the buyer for a certain amount will be outlined in the purchase contract.

Seller-Paid Closing Costs

This cost is explicitly outlined in the purchase contract and, per the contract, can be applied to “in the following order: Buyer’s Expenses which Buyer is prohibited from paying by FHA, VA, Texas Veterans Land Board or other governmental loan programs, and then to other Buyer’s Expenses as allowed by the lender.” In other words, some loan programs prohibit the buyer from paying a certain amount of the closing costs, therefore the seller is responsible for the amount noted in the contract. This section also notes that the amount the Seller pays shall not exceed a specific amount.

HOA Fees

If your property has required membership in a property owners association, there will be fees associated with the acquisition of the resale certificate as well as the transfer fee. In an addendum, it will be outlined as to whether the buyer or the seller will assume these costs. While these fees likely will not exceed more than several hundred dollars, it’s important to pay attention to what the buyers are willing to contribute on this front as it will affect your bottom line.

Earnest Money

When formally defined, earnest money is described as a buyer’s evidence of good faith in purchasing a property. The earnest money will be put towards the buyer’s down payment at closing. It is often called good-faith money for this reason. Time is of the essence with the delivery of earnest money to title. When comparing earnest money among multiple offers, the highest earnest money amount may indicate a stronger offer all around.

Option Period Length

In Texas, purchase contracts will have option periods during which, per the contract terms, the “Seller grants Buyer the unrestricted right to terminate the contract by giving notice of termination to the Seller within X days after the Effective Date of the contract.” During the option period is when an inspection of the home will take place. The Buyer will come back from the inspection with possible repairs and updates to contract terms via an amendment. Bottom line, a shorter option period (or no option period) indicates that the Buyer is particularly serious about purchasing the home. If comparing multiple offers, the option period length is a big item to consider when selecting the best offer.

Option Fee

The Option Fee is the amount of money that the Buyer agrees to give the Seller for the option period. If the contract is terminated during the option period, the Seller keeps this fee. If the contract does not terminate, the option fee may be credited to the sales price at closing. A higher option fee will also signal a buyer’s goodwill in moving forward with the purchase of the property.

Closing Date

While you may be focused on the money side of things, remember–just like the option period length–it’s important to take a close look at the closing date noted in the contract. It’s likely that you’ll want to get to closing as quickly as possible, so take note of what’s been indicated in the purchase contract. Sometimes, financing will play a role in when you can close–details on this will be noted in a financing addendum to the purchase contract. Once again, a quicker close can suggest a buyer’s willingness to purchase.

Financing

Cash closes can be quicker while having a buyer who needs financing will result in a slightly slower closing process. There are also different types of closing options to be weighed out as well, as each may have its own approval process that plays a part in how quickly you can close. Take into account what financing option the buyer is presenting–especially if you’re in a multiple-offer situation. Be weary of glazing over the Third Party Financing addendum, and keep in mind the points, interest rate, and days for loan approval.

Offer Expiration

Sometimes a buyer will indicate when an offer needs to be accepted by before it expires. Do not overlook this. You should treat every offer with urgency to begin with. If an offer expiration is part of the contract terms, it’s especially important to either counter or accept the offer within the given timeframe, otherwise it will expire.

Non-Realty Items Included

In some offers, items that typically do not convey with a property can be included as part of the contract. In Texas, this may include things such as the refrigerator, washer, and dryer but can also include patio furniture, grills, items in the garage, etc. Certainly don’t overlook this as part of the contract and be prepared to know which items you’re willing to part with. Remember that selling your home is the main goal here. If there’s an item you want to keep, be upfront about it when you’re listing.  That way, when it comes to offer time, the item doesn’t become a deal breaker.

The Timeline to Closing

The property is under contract now that you’ve accepted an offer. These are very exciting times indeed! Did you know that the road to closing has just begun? Depending on your option period length, whatever financing the buyer needs to acquire (if any), and the closing date noted in the contract–your closing date is in sight, but there’s still a lot that needs to happen. We’ve put together a quick timeline so you have an idea of the road ahead…

Within 3 days of the purchase contract being executed:

  • You’ll receive the option fee (if your contract has an option period).
  • Title will receive the earnest money and put that in an escrow account until closing.
  • You’ll (likely) hear about the inspection of the property being scheduled during this time, though it could occur at any point during the option period.

Day 3 - 10:

  • This is typically your option period–although it could be shorter than 10 days. This is the period when the buyer has the unrestricted right to terminate the contract. It can be a little nerve wracking for sure, which is why shorter option periods are most desirable.
  • The inspection of your property will occur and negotiations will commence based on the results of the inspection. If you’re working with an agent, they will handle these negotiations on your behalf.
  • Based on the inspection of your property, repairs will be requested by the buyers. As the seller, we recommend not requesting the full inspection report because that will hold you liable to disclose anything found in this inspection should the deal fall through. Instead, it’s best to request certain portions of the report as necessary based on the repairs requested.
  • Any changes to the purchase contract will be done in writing and in the form of an amendment.

Day 10 - 25:

  • You’ve made it out of option, which is certainly worth a mini celebration–you can exhale now; the toughest part of the closing road is just about over.
  • If the buyer of your home will be financing, an appraiser will come out to the property to determine the home’s true value. This is the next big hurdle to get over!
  • During this time, loan approval will also be taking place. Approval should have been noted in the Third Party Financing Addendum, so refer to that to determine how long this should take.
  • This is the time period when you as a seller will need to take care of any repairs that you are contractually obligated to as noted in any amendment signed by both parties involved in the transaction.

Day 25 - 30ish:

  • You’re on the smooth road to closing! You’ll work with title to schedule your closing date and time. If you need a remote closing, you can get that scheduled through title as well. The title company you’re working with will be in close communication with you during this time, collecting any last documentation.
  • A few days before your closing day, you’ll want to review the list below to make sure you’re totally prepared:
  • Set up a change of address with the post office and update your address with any ongoing deliveries.
  • Cancel any service contracts or agreements for landscaping, water delivery, HVAC, pest treatment, etc.
  • Transfer the ownership of any smart home or security systems. Leave instructions for the new owners on how to set up and use these systems.
  • Place appliance manuals, warranties, and receipts in a kitchen drawer.
  • Transfer or cancel utilities.
  • Bring house keys, mailbox keys, garage remotes, etc. with you to your closing or leave them in the home for the buyers. You will turn over house keys to the buyer after the loan funds.
  • Once the deed is recorded and the title transfer is formally complete, cancel home insurance policies.
  • Keep your closing documents in a safe place for tax purposes.
  • For funding, bring a voided check, bring your account and routing information, OR plan to receive a paper check at closing.
  • Bring at least one form of ID with you to closing.
  • And last but not least, happy closing day. :) Title will inform you when you’ve been funded, and you can finally celebrate because the deed is done, and your property is sold. Congrats!

Your Guide to a Smooth Closing

Your home is officially for sale. What’s next? Getting offers! The road to your closing day can be long, but you can make it easier by being prepared. We’ve put together some of the best things you can do to ensure you’re ready to receive offers and, more importantly, ready to sign on the dotted line come closing day. Here you’ll find four guides on how to ensure a smooth and successful closing:

1. How to Be Prepared for Offers

2. Calculating Your Net Proceeds

3. What to Consider in an Offer

4. The Timeline to Closing

How to Be Prepared for Offers

Before any offers start rolling in, there are several steps you can take to make sure you’re as prepared as possible. From knowing what questions you’ll be asked to being ready for document requests, we’ve assembled a few helpful checklists so you know what you need to be ready. Then, you can focus on the fun part: receiving and accepting offers like you’re a homeselling champ. Here’s a quick guide on what you need to do in advance of receiving offers on your home:

Locate Your Old Documents

Time to sort through all the paperwork you discovered while decluttering the house! Having the documentation from when you originally purchased the property will be extremely valuable during the closing phase and can help you save time and money. Dig up what you can and keep the relics handy throughout the selling process. Some of the specific documents that might be helpful while you’re listed include:

Old Inspection Reports

You’ll need to disclose anything that’s on this report on your property’s Seller’s Disclosure Notice so keep this handy! If this report is less than four years old, you’ll need to make it available to interested purchasers.

Appraisal

If you’ve had an appraisal done when you purchased the property or refinanced it, the appraisal report can help justify your list price. If you’re on the MLS, this report can be uploaded so that other agents can access it.

Survey

When you purchased the property, you should have received a survey. In layman's terms, a survey is half blueprint, half map. Sometimes this document can be on a very large or long piece of paper. If you have this, hold on to it because this will be required for closing. Depending on your offer terms, having the survey could save you closing costs.

Loan Information

Keep documents on hand that state how much you owe, who services your loan(s), your loan numbers, etc. The title company will need all of your basic loan information (loan number, company, contact information, etc.) prior to closing. You may also want to request a payoff quote, so you can have an exact estimate of how much your net proceeds will be from the sale of your home.

Receipts from Past Upgrades

Keeping track of upgrades you did to your home by creating a detailed list will be immensely helpful for marketing your property; however, if you’ve kept receipts, that’s even better. Receipts are great to have for the appraisal and could be useful when agents are looking at comparable properties.

Past Utility Bills

Often times the purchasers of your property will be curious as to how much the utility costs are. Providing past statements, especially those with a graph showing the past 12 months, will be helpful for interested buyers.

HOA/Condominium Documents

If you live in a condo or a property with an HOA, there’s a good chance you have the documents on file from when you purchased it. These may answer potential buyers’ questions and are nice for you to have on hand when questions like “what does the HOA allow” are asked.

Gather and Sign Required Forms Promptly

There will be new forms that you’ll need to get through as well. It’s important that you complete each form in a timely manner when you’re listed or when an offer is received. Ideally, you’ll have completed all the required paperwork for an offer prior to listing. Not having all your required documents can give buyers an “out” even after you’ve signed a contract, so it’s important to get everything done as quickly as possible. Here are some “new” documents that you should be prepared for:

T-47 Form

This is a form that compliments the survey, which you should have on hand to be notarized. On the T-47, you’ll note any additions you’ve made to the property since the last survey was completed, such as decks, patios, sheds, garages, etc. You’ll need to make sure that you have a valid survey on file before you tackle this form though! This is the only form that needs to be notarized.

Seller’s Disclosure Notice

On this form, you’ll need to disclose everything you know about the property. In the state of Texas, this is required and can only be completed by the seller of the property–meaning you can’t ask your real estate agent to complete this for you. Anything that you’re unsure of needs to be marked as “unknown,” and you must be truthful in your answers. We won’t sugar coat it, this is probably one of the more grueling pieces of paperwork you’ll come across. But getting it done and out of the way (truthfully and completely) will save you from even more headaches further down the closing road.

List of Upgrades

We mentioned the receipts for your upgrades earlier, but now is a good time to sit down and come up with a list of all the things you did to enhance your home after you moved in. Even the smaller things like replacing the fixtures in the kitchen should be noted. More obvious things like patio and deck additions should be listed, but also be sure to denote how much money was spent on each upgrade. Again, this list is a must have come appraisal time but will be good to have put together upfront as well.

County Special Assessment Notices (If Necessary)

If your property is located in a special water district or any sort of Extraterritorial Jurisdiction, there will likely be some documents/disclosures that you need to sign. These will inform the buyer that they are about to own property in one of the said areas and will signify a “formal” notice to them. Ask your agent or any attorney if you’ll need to sign any of these documents.

HOA Special Assessment Notices (If Necessary)

If there is a Homeowner’s Association associated with your property, there may be special assessments that will need to be turned over to the new buyers. Assessments like this may be for things such as a sidewalk installation that the future owners will need to know about. Keep HOA documents like this handy so that when you sell, you won’t need to go digging for it.

Proof of Energy Audit (if located within Austin City Limits, a customer of Austin Energy, and owner of a property that is more than 10 years old)

When you meet the criteria listed above, you’ll need to present proof of an energy audit to the buyers of your home before the option period expires. While this is not a contractual obligation, it is required by the city of Austin. It’s best to get this done during the “pre-listing” phase, so that you don’t need to scramble to get this audit scheduled when it’s crunch time. This is one piece that can sometimes go overlooked so don’t forget about that ECAD audit!

Be Ready for Certain Questions

When you’re on the market, either you or the agent representing you will receive questions about your listing beyond how many bedrooms it has or what the square footage is. List price is often times something that gets questioned, and it’s up to you to be prepared to answer. Here are a few FAQs we recommend you be ready to answer while you’re on the market:

Why are you selling your home?

It’s time to spill the beans on why your property is on the market! Whether you’re on to the next chapter of your life or looking to ditch the investment property, be ready for this question to come your way. In the same breadth, take this opportunity to give all the details on what you loved about the property–telling potential buyers this could spark an emotion and bring about an offer.

How firm are you on the asking price?

Take into account how high or low you listed your home. Did you list low for a fast sale? High so that you can negotiate? Knowing how firm you are on the price is important and will help filter out offers that may be a waste of time.

How much do you owe on the property?

Remember when we said that you should know your loan information? We meant it. This question may come up from buyer’s agents and the potential buyers, though you are not required to disclose this information. However, knowing how much you owe is important because you’ll know how much room you have to negotiate, and what you’ll walk away with from the closing table.

Are payments current?

Keep in mind everything from HOA dues to taxes, and of course, those loan payments. Being current on payments will make for a smoother close but being honest if you’re not will help just as much. Once a property is under contract and the title is opened, any liens or clouds on the title will be revealed, so it’s important to be forthcoming about any liens or encumbrances on the property.

Make Sure Your Property is Ready Throughout the Entire Process

You’re not off the hook yet with property preparations. In fact, now through closing your home should remain spotless. It’s tough, we know, but here’s why:

  • Showings – Depending on the showing windows that you’ve indicated, you’ll want to make sure the home is ready for potential buyers to walk through at any moment. Scrambling to get things ready and decluttered is no fun, so keep things as neat and tidy as possible in case of last-minute showings.
  • Inspection – So you’re under contract, and maybe you just threw yourself a little celebration with some confetti in the kitchen. Time to sweep up that confetti and toss it because it’s time for your property inspection! This will occur during your option period. Not only should your home be neat and tidy for Mr. or Mrs. Inspector, but you’ll also need to ensure they have access to things such as the electrical breaker panel, attic entryways, any crawl spaces, etc. The inspector will be at the property for about 3 to 4 hours–not only will they need time, but they’ll also need space. Keep the property looking good and be absolutely sure there’s no more clutter. Also, keep in mind that the buyer will often be present for some or all of the inspection, and you want them to remember why they fell in love with your home in the first place as the inspector is pointing out all of its flaws.
  • Appraisal – Keep the property looking great for Mr. or Mrs. Appraiser too! While they won’t be going through the home as closely as the inspector, you’ll still want to keep things neat as this is an important part of the closing process. Think of them like Santa–a list and some cookies go a long way to give you either clearance for take off with Rudolph or some coal in your stocking.
  • Final Walk Through for the Buyers – Typically this happens the day before you’re closing, so it’s likely that everything will be out of the house. But if it’s not (we really hope this isn’t the case…), it is CRUNCH time. This is the final step for the buyers to be 100% sure that the house is move-in ready. All your stuff (ALL OF IT) needs to be removed from both the inside and the outside of the property. Again, we really hope that you did this way ahead of time and that the buyers will walk into a house they can start moving into immediately. So, not only should the property be amazingly clean at this point, but ALL of your items should be removed as well.

Calculating Your Net Proceeds

We bet you’re curious about how much cash you’ll be walking away with from the closing table. There are plenty of factors that go into the bottom line outside the sales price. You’ll need to calculate all of these costs to determine the total proceeds you’ll receive from selling your home:

Title and Closing Fees

Owner Title Policy

  • Sellers will typically pay for the owner’s title insurance policy–this fee is set by the State of Texas and varies based on the price of your home. You can calculate the fee by subtracting 100,000 from the sales price of your home and then multiplying that number by .554%. Then, add $875 to the sum, and there you have it–unless your home is over $1,000,000. Don’t feel like doing middle school math? Our handy dandy net proceeds calculator can SHOW YOU THE MONEY in no time.

Escrow Fee

  • This is the fee a title company charges to facilitate the holding and transfer of funds during the home sale transaction–typically this is split 50/50 between the buyer and seller.
  • The escrow fee is usually around $700 in Texas though different title companies have different fees.

Document Preparation “Doc Prep”

  • This fee covers the cost associated with gathering and preparing the documents required to close. This fee is typically paid to a Third Party Law Office that is not affiliated with the title company.
  • The Doc Prep fee usually ranges between $50 and $100 in Texas.  

Tax Certificate

  • A tax certificate indicates the current status of any taxes, interest, penalties, or other related amounts due on a property.
  • The cost to obtain a tax certificate is usually around $40 to $50 and will be requested by the title company and paid for at closing.

Recording Fee (ROL)

  • The purchase of your home will be recorded by the local government and become public record. This fee is generally charged by the county your property is located in.
  • The Recording Fee is typically $20 to $40 and is paid at closing. In Texas, the recording fee is customarily paid by the buyer.

T-3 Endorsement (Area & Boundary Exception)

  • It’s recommended to look into this if you are using an existing survey since surveyors are only required to defend their work for their original clients; instead of a property owner taking on the cost of any property line disputes, they can make a claim, and the title underwriter will handle it on their behalf.

Realtor Fees

Listing Agent Commission

  • When working with a listing agent, they will likely take a percentage of your final sales price–typically 1-3%.

Buyer Agent Commission

  • If your home was listed on the MLS, you need to offer a commission to the agent who brings the buyer–the Austin average is just under 3%.

Seller Costs or Deductions

Mortgage Payoff

  • If you have a loan on the property, you’ll need to pay this off; because of prorated interest, your payoff may be higher than your remaining balance.

Property Tax (Prorated)

  • You’ll need to pay off your property taxes, though these will be prorated.

Sales Contract Costs

Home Warranty Plan

  • This is a policy for home buyers that will cover items such as heating, AC, electrical, etc. This is not always required and can be negotiable.

Homeowner’s or Condominium Association Resale Certificate

  • When your property is part of an association, Texas Property Code Chapter 207 requires that the HOA provide a disclosure/information to the buyer in the form of a resale certificate–the HOA is allowed to charge a “reasonable fee” for this.

Homeowner’s or Condominium Association Transfer Fee

  • Similar to the Resale Certificate, the Transfer Fee will cover the cost of the HOA to prepare and distribute the rules and regulations to the new owner.

What to Consider in an Offer

Congrats! Your first offer has arrived! And if you’re lucky, maybe you even have multiple offers to choose from. While this is all wildly exciting for you, there’s a lot of analysis to be done. That might not sound like fun at all, but there’s A LOT to consider in each and every offer you receive. There’s more behind the sales price than you might think! Let’s walk through what the most important aspects to consider in an offer are.

Sales Price

Well, this is somewhat obvious, right? This will give you a pretty solid idea of what you’ll walk away with at the closing table, but as you’ll see, there’s much more that you should be taking into consideration.

Owner’s Policy

The owner’s policy or owner’s title insurance will be based on the final sales price of the property. This is an insurance policy to protect the buyer from any losses as a result of errors in the title. It is customary that the seller pays for the cost of this policy to be issued to the new owner.

Home Warranty

In the Texas purchase contract, you’ll find this under Residential Service Contracts. It is actually in the seller’s best interest to pay for this; it will protect you from having to deal with any issues on the property after the sale of the home. Costs for this can vary but are usually just a few hundred dollars. Your obligation to reimburse the buyer for a certain amount will be outlined in the purchase contract.

Seller-Paid Closing Costs

This cost is explicitly outlined in the purchase contract and, per the contract, can be applied to “in the following order: Buyer’s Expenses which Buyer is prohibited from paying by FHA, VA, Texas Veterans Land Board or other governmental loan programs, and then to other Buyer’s Expenses as allowed by the lender.” In other words, some loan programs prohibit the buyer from paying a certain amount of the closing costs, therefore the seller is responsible for the amount noted in the contract. This section also notes that the amount the Seller pays shall not exceed a specific amount.

HOA Fees

If your property has required membership in a property owners association, there will be fees associated with the acquisition of the resale certificate as well as the transfer fee. In an addendum, it will be outlined as to whether the buyer or the seller will assume these costs. While these fees likely will not exceed more than several hundred dollars, it’s important to pay attention to what the buyers are willing to contribute on this front as it will affect your bottom line.

Earnest Money

When formally defined, earnest money is described as a buyer’s evidence of good faith in purchasing a property. The earnest money will be put towards the buyer’s down payment at closing. It is often called good-faith money for this reason. Time is of the essence with the delivery of earnest money to title. When comparing earnest money among multiple offers, the highest earnest money amount may indicate a stronger offer all around.

Option Period Length

In Texas, purchase contracts will have option periods during which, per the contract terms, the “Seller grants Buyer the unrestricted right to terminate the contract by giving notice of termination to the Seller within X days after the Effective Date of the contract.” During the option period is when an inspection of the home will take place. The Buyer will come back from the inspection with possible repairs and updates to contract terms via an amendment. Bottom line, a shorter option period (or no option period) indicates that the Buyer is particularly serious about purchasing the home. If comparing multiple offers, the option period length is a big item to consider when selecting the best offer.

Option Fee

The Option Fee is the amount of money that the Buyer agrees to give the Seller for the option period. If the contract is terminated during the option period, the Seller keeps this fee. If the contract does not terminate, the option fee may be credited to the sales price at closing. A higher option fee will also signal a buyer’s goodwill in moving forward with the purchase of the property.

Closing Date

While you may be focused on the money side of things, remember–just like the option period length–it’s important to take a close look at the closing date noted in the contract. It’s likely that you’ll want to get to closing as quickly as possible, so take note of what’s been indicated in the purchase contract. Sometimes, financing will play a role in when you can close–details on this will be noted in a financing addendum to the purchase contract. Once again, a quicker close can suggest a buyer’s willingness to purchase.

Financing

Cash closes can be quicker while having a buyer who needs financing will result in a slightly slower closing process. There are also different types of closing options to be weighed out as well, as each may have its own approval process that plays a part in how quickly you can close. Take into account what financing option the buyer is presenting–especially if you’re in a multiple-offer situation. Be weary of glazing over the Third Party Financing addendum, and keep in mind the points, interest rate, and days for loan approval.

Offer Expiration

Sometimes a buyer will indicate when an offer needs to be accepted by before it expires. Do not overlook this. You should treat every offer with urgency to begin with. If an offer expiration is part of the contract terms, it’s especially important to either counter or accept the offer within the given timeframe, otherwise it will expire.

Non-Realty Items Included

In some offers, items that typically do not convey with a property can be included as part of the contract. In Texas, this may include things such as the refrigerator, washer, and dryer but can also include patio furniture, grills, items in the garage, etc. Certainly don’t overlook this as part of the contract and be prepared to know which items you’re willing to part with. Remember that selling your home is the main goal here. If there’s an item you want to keep, be upfront about it when you’re listing.  That way, when it comes to offer time, the item doesn’t become a deal breaker.

The Timeline to Closing

The property is under contract now that you’ve accepted an offer. These are very exciting times indeed! Did you know that the road to closing has just begun? Depending on your option period length, whatever financing the buyer needs to acquire (if any), and the closing date noted in the contract–your closing date is in sight, but there’s still a lot that needs to happen. We’ve put together a quick timeline so you have an idea of the road ahead…

Within 3 days of the purchase contract being executed:

  • You’ll receive the option fee (if your contract has an option period).
  • Title will receive the earnest money and put that in an escrow account until closing.
  • You’ll (likely) hear about the inspection of the property being scheduled during this time, though it could occur at any point during the option period.

Day 3 - 10:

  • This is typically your option period–although it could be shorter than 10 days. This is the period when the buyer has the unrestricted right to terminate the contract. It can be a little nerve wracking for sure, which is why shorter option periods are most desirable.
  • The inspection of your property will occur and negotiations will commence based on the results of the inspection. If you’re working with an agent, they will handle these negotiations on your behalf.
  • Based on the inspection of your property, repairs will be requested by the buyers. As the seller, we recommend not requesting the full inspection report because that will hold you liable to disclose anything found in this inspection should the deal fall through. Instead, it’s best to request certain portions of the report as necessary based on the repairs requested.
  • Any changes to the purchase contract will be done in writing and in the form of an amendment.

Day 10 - 25:

  • You’ve made it out of option, which is certainly worth a mini celebration–you can exhale now; the toughest part of the closing road is just about over.
  • If the buyer of your home will be financing, an appraiser will come out to the property to determine the home’s true value. This is the next big hurdle to get over!
  • During this time, loan approval will also be taking place. Approval should have been noted in the Third Party Financing Addendum, so refer to that to determine how long this should take.
  • This is the time period when you as a seller will need to take care of any repairs that you are contractually obligated to as noted in any amendment signed by both parties involved in the transaction.

Day 25 - 30ish:

  • You’re on the smooth road to closing! You’ll work with title to schedule your closing date and time. If you need a remote closing, you can get that scheduled through title as well. The title company you’re working with will be in close communication with you during this time, collecting any last documentation.
  • A few days before your closing day, you’ll want to review the list below to make sure you’re totally prepared:
  • Set up a change of address with the post office and update your address with any ongoing deliveries.
  • Cancel any service contracts or agreements for landscaping, water delivery, HVAC, pest treatment, etc.
  • Transfer the ownership of any smart home or security systems. Leave instructions for the new owners on how to set up and use these systems.
  • Place appliance manuals, warranties, and receipts in a kitchen drawer.
  • Transfer or cancel utilities.
  • Bring house keys, mailbox keys, garage remotes, etc. with you to your closing or leave them in the home for the buyers. You will turn over house keys to the buyer after the loan funds.
  • Once the deed is recorded and the title transfer is formally complete, cancel home insurance policies.
  • Keep your closing documents in a safe place for tax purposes.
  • For funding, bring a voided check, bring your account and routing information, OR plan to receive a paper check at closing.
  • Bring at least one form of ID with you to closing.
  • And last but not least, happy closing day. :) Title will inform you when you’ve been funded, and you can finally celebrate because the deed is done, and your property is sold. Congrats!

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