A couple moves boxes into their new home

When you make an offer on a house, the real estate agent will ask you for two dates: a closing date and an occupancy date, which is the day that you move into your house.

Whatever you and the seller agree to in the contract terms will determine when you can move in after closing. Ideally, you will receive the keys and head straight to your new house immediately after the closing appointment. But, in some cases, the seller may need more time in the house after closing, perhaps to finalise the purchase of their own new home. As a result, sellers may sometimes request extra time after the sale before you can finally move in.

As the closing date approaches, keep the following in mind for a smoother transition:

Compromise is vital when determining your occupancy date

As a general rule, you might be expected to give the seller seven to ten days to vacate the house after the closing date. Sellers may want more time in the house, but they can compromise by securing a place to stay for a short term while they finalise their own purchase.

Your occupancy date cannot be changed once it is set

It is crucial that the moving date is established in the contract. Once both you and the seller have signed the purchase agreement, the moving date is final. Neither you nor the seller can come to the closing appointment expecting to change the date of your occupancy in the house.

A lease back occurs if the seller seeks to occupy the house for a specific period after the closing

When this situation occurs, the seller will often have to pay the buyer rent. From this moment on, you, as the new owner, will ultimately be responsible for the finances of the house, which is why rent is expected from the seller.

What else should you do after closing?

There are many tasks and responsibilities associated with homeownership, and many of those should be carried out right away after closing (and even before you move into your new house). Accomplishing these tasks will help you become more contented with your home purchase – regardless of when you move in.

Replace the locks

After getting your new house, changing the locks is the most urgent thing to do for security purposes. Doing so may cost you a few hundred dollars, but the peace of mind knowing that only you have the keys to your new house is far more valuable than any amount of money. If the house is equipped with smart home technology features such as keypad door locks, you should update the keypads and codes after closing. Check for the instruction guides of these keypad locks to find out how to change the codes.

Keep important documents in a safe place

Make sure you have copies of all documents and paperwork involved in your home purchase and the closing process, specifically your closing statement. You might need one of those documents in the future, especially when it is time for filing taxes. Store all those documents in a safe place, such as in a filing cabinet, so you can find them easily. Make sure to keep copies of the documents in secure cloud storage as well.

Inform important people and authorities about your move First and foremost, alert the Australia Post about your move so that important mails will be delivered to your new address once you move in. Make sure to inform also your relatives, friends and employer, as well as insurance and utility companies. Do not forget to update your address in your bank accounts and in wherever you have entered that information in the past.

Create a plan for home maintenance, future upgrades and emergencies

When preparing a home maintenance checklist, break down the tasks by seasons or months so you will not be easily overwhelmed. As for future upgrades, include in your checklist both short-term and long-term upgrades. If you received a home inspection report from a home inspector, you can use that to create a feasible home improvement plan. And for emergencies, have a copy of the numbers of local emergency services, know the trusted tradespeople or professional companies in the area, as well as some local healthcare providers.

The closing date is the most anticipated part of a real estate transaction as it involves the appointment where the sale is finalised. After the closing is complete, you will be the new owner of a house. As long as you have done your part, it doesn’t matter whether you are able to move into your new house immediately after closing or on a later date. After all, your new house is worth the wait.

What happens during the closing period?

Before taking ownership over a property, you have a chance to take a look around it and make sure everything is in order. It is called the pre-settlement/final inspection, and usually takes place during the week before the closing date.

Ideally, the property should be in the same condition (or better) as it was when you signed the contract of sale. The contract should specify which fittings and fixtures are included in the sale, as well as which ones the seller can remove.

As you conduct your inspection, make sure that:

  • there has been no significant damage to the property since contract signing
  • appliances, fittings and other functions are working
  • all chattels, rubbish or building materials have been removed
  • the house is in a reasonably clean state
  • the garden is in order (if applicable) and no plants have been removed * Your conveyancer/solicitor can provide more advice on what to look out for, as well as on what to do if you find any problems.

Aside from the final inspection, there are a few legal and administrative tasks that you will have to accomplish. Shortly before the closing date, your conveyancer/solicitor will provide you with a settlement adjustment statement, which includes pre-settlement adjustments such as stamp duty, any stamp duty concessions and the First Home Owner Grant (if applicable). Aside from these, there may also be adjustments to compensate the seller for council rates, water, and body corporate fees.

The seller must pay all the property’s bills right up until you take legal possession of it on the closing date. When this happens, the seller is compensated through an ‘adjustment’ to the purchase price upon closing. As for you, check the pre-settlement adjustment statement carefully before advising your conveyancer to proceed with the final settlement.

If you can, be sure to avoid these common closing pitfalls:

Missing the closing date
If you are unable to settle on the settlement date, you may be forced to pay interest on the amount you owe for the property. The general rule is that you will have to pay 10% a year – calculated daily. This is negotiable, as the payment date can be extended or the interest payments waived if the seller agrees.

Also read: What happens on Settlement Day?

Changing the closing date
Although the closing date is set and the contract of sale is signed, one party may still be able to change the closing date, but only if the other party agrees. If, for any reason, change in closing date becomes necessary, the party requesting for change should notify everyone involved as early as possible.

Bonus Tip: Make sure that you have home and contents insurance cover and that the policy begins on or before the closing date. This is one of the best things you can do to reduce the risk of things going wrong on your end.

What happens on the closing date itself?

Even if you cannot make it to the closing appointment due to certain reasons, your conveyancer/solicitor can manage everything, including liaising with your lender and the seller’s conveyancer/solicitor.

Once you give them the go-ahead, your conveyancer/solicitor will meet with the seller’s conveyancer/solicitor to finalise the closing. Your conveyancer/solicitor will hand over the cheque and the seller’s conveyancer/solicitor will provide the signed transfer documents. The transfer documents include everything needed for a clear title to be handed over, which means the rights of third parties have been removed or released. Examples of these third party rights are caveats (a type of legal restriction on the use of the property) and previous mortgages over the property.

Once the final payment is handed over to the seller and the transfer documents are signed, you can finally get the keys to the property. Your conveyancer/solicitor will also need to get the transfer of ownership registered with the relevant government agency in your state or territory.

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