I'm Under Contract on the Sale of My Home - Now What?

It's been weeks. You've fretted about pricing your home correctly and researched your neighborhood market extensively. You've sprung for staging and high-quality photography. But now, your seller's journey is finally approaching its amazing end. Your listing agent has helped you secure the perfect buyer for your Chicago home, and now it's time to seal the deal.

You are under contract on the sale of your home.

So, that leaves you with just one loaded question: what comes next?

Once you're under contract, what are the responsibilities for sellers and their team? From contract to closing, here's what sellers need to do to get ready to turn over their old home to a new buyer:

1.) Get in Contact with Your Real Estate Attorney

In Illinois, your real estate attorney will be one of your most important partners once your home is under contract. (Don't have one? Here are some attorneys that have taken great care of our clients in the past.)

As a seller, your attorney will be responsible in helping with a title search (which verifies that you, the seller, have a clear title on the home). The real estate attorney will also order title insurance, order a plat of survey in the case of single family homes or fee simple townhomes (i.e., in cases where the property is not a condo), calculate a closing statement, schedule the closing meetings, and help with negotiation of inspection findings and proration of taxes. These are all vital responsibilities, and you'll want a sure, steady hand at the helm to make sure that they get done the right way.

In short, your experienced real estate attorney is a vital part of your team when it comes to closing on a home in Chicago. And, to head off a question that comes up all too often: Even if you are an attorney, you should have an experienced real estate attorney on your side. Not all law is the same, after all; would you hire a podiatrist for a heart surgery?

2.) Contact your Condo Association

If the home being sold is a condo unit, your next step should be to get in contact with your condo association or board. Smaller associations will typically put you in contact with the board’s president and/or treasurer, while larger associations may need to contact the condo’s management company. In either case, once you’ve reached out to the association’s leadership, they will take a number of steps, including issuing a “home under contract notice,” and providing condominium documents to the buyer. These forms tend to include:

  • declaration
  • by-laws
  • rules and regulations
  • recent meeting minutes
  • condominium budgets
  • “22.1 disclosure” survey

3.) Your Agent Will Keep an Eye Out for Initial Earnest Money

As this is going on, your listing agent will ask the buyer's agent to provide the initial “earnest money” deposit. Put simply, this initial earnest money is a “good faith” payment due at the contract signing that proves the buyer is committed to your particular home. Earnest money is paid in two stages; this “initial” installment – typically of about $1000 – comes first, followed by a second installment, the “balance of earnest money,” later in the process. More on that when it comes up in a bit!

4.) Within Days, Buyers Should Work with Your Listing Agent to Schedule a Home Inspection

Generally, the buyer and the inspector will compare calendars in order to schedule an appointment, so they may not always be completely courteous of your needs as the current homeowner/occupant. Don’t fret! Sellers are not typically involved in the home inspection step of the process at all. Don’t plan on being present for the inspection; in fact, we almost always discourage the home seller from being present, for a variety of reasons. 

5.) Your Attorney Will Contact You with Contract Changes

While you’ve been busy with all of the other must-dos on your list, your attorney has been hard at work communicating with the buyer’s attorney and real estate team. At this point in the process – usually about one week from the contract – your attorney will come to you with the results of these negotiations, including: 

  • proposed contract changes
  • inspection remedy requests
  • any other contract language change requests from the buyer’s attorney

While your listing agent will still be involved, it’s important to remember that your attorney is spearheading this process – they will generally be your main point of contact for contract changes and other crucial documentation.

6.) Receipt of Balance of Earnest Money

Once attorney review issues have been settled, the attorney review period officially ends. At this point, the buyers now owe the remainder of the earnest money.

This amount varies from sale to sale, but typically ranges from between 3 to 10% of the contract price. While this amount will generally be made out via cashier’s check or wired to your brokerage, it’s important to remember that no one will actually “get” this money until the sale closes, at which point the earnest money accounts for part of the buyer’s down payment.

7.) An Appraiser for the Buyer’s Mortgage Company Will Contact Listing Agent

Next, an appraiser for the buyer’s mortgage lender will reach out to your agent to schedule a time to survey the house. The purpose of the appraisal is to give the buyer’s mortgage company confidence that the home is worth in excess of value that they’re lending to the buyer, and it's an important step in the lending process for the buyer.

The appraisal is generally a brief (maybe 20 minute) appointment, and, as with the inspection, you do not need to be present.

8.) Hurry Up and Wait

Once all of this is done, it’s time to play the waiting game!

At this point, you’ll likely need to wait for the appraisal results to come back and show sufficient value on the home, and then for the mortgage company to issue its mortgage commitment or clear-to-close. Of course, the steps here aren't always clear or set in stone. If the appraisal comes up short, for instance, this may lead to an even longer wait, as you may need to negotiate a lower price, or bide your time until the buyer can come up with more money or secure a new type of loan.

9.) Your Attorney Will Contact You to Hammer Out the Details

Once the buyer is cleared to close by their mortgage lender, their attorneys will contact yours. After that, your attorney – again, your main point of contact once you’re under contract – will get in touch with you regarding the closing date, time, location, and the final estimate of numbers (including cash flow, closing costs, and other final financial figures).

10.) Make Your Move

With all of the excitement, it can be easy to forget that you’re probably responsible for a major lifestyle shift of your own - including, maybe, a move! Hopefully, you’ve already done most of your home purging and decluttering. At this point, you’ll need to pack and ship the rest of your belongings, like the furniture left behind for staging purposes.

If you do have professional staging furniture in the home, be sure to contact your staging company at least a week before closing to see what lead time they need to handle it. You won't want to remove furniture prematurely - just in case the deal doesn't go through.

It’s also your responsibility to inform utility providers that you’re leaving. One word of advice? Give your utility companies a one day buffer to ensure that buyers’ final walkthrough, which will be happening in this window, isn’t too dark or cold. 

11.) The Closing

While sellers do occasionally attend the closing, attorneys can have you pre-sign paperwork or provide them with power of attorney to sign anything required at the closing table. This will help make the process much easier on the day of. Indeed, most sellers prefer to not attend the final meeting of their sale's closing – it alleviates a lot of stress and last-minute nerves.

And that’s the bulk of it! Have any more questions? We’d love to help! Our team has a ton of experience helping families buy and sell homes across the Chicago area. We know these markets like the back of our hands, and we'd love to set you down the path to success. Whether you want to list your home or you're looking for a referral, drop us a line to get the conversation started today!

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