Checklist: Prepare for Your Move

Update your mailing address at usps.com or fill out a change-of-address form at your local post office.

Change your address with important service providers, such as your bank(s), credit companies, magazine subscriptions, and others.

Create a list of people who will need your new address. Whether you plan on sending formal change-of-address notices in the mail or just e-mailing the family members, friends, and colleagues who should be informed, a list will ensure no one gets left out.

Contact utility companies. Make sure they’re aware of your move date, and arrange for service at your new home if the service provider will remain the same.

Check insurance coverage. The insurance your moving company provides will generally only cover the items they transport for you. Ensure you have coverage for any items you’ll be moving yourself.

Unplug, disassemble, and clean out appliances. This will make them easier to pack, move, and plug in at your new place.

Check with the condo board or HOA about any restrictions on using the elevator or particular exits or entrances for moving, if applicable

Pack an “Open First” box. Include items you’ll need most, such as toilet paper, soap, trash bags, chargers, box cutters, scissors, hammer, screwdriver, pens and paper, cups and plates, water, snacks, towels, and basic toiletries.

If you’re moving a long distance:

Obtain copies of important records from your doctor, dentist, pharmacy, veterinarian, and children’s schools.

E-mail a copy of your driving route to a family member or friend.

Empty your safe deposit box.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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Questions to Ask About Property Tax

It’s natural for the sale price of a home to loom large in your mind. But don’t forget to look at what your property tax bill might be.

What is the assessed value of the property?

Assessed value is generally less than market value. A recent copy of the seller’s tax bill will help you determine this information.

How often are properties reassessed in this area?

In general, this will happen annually, but properties in areas of slower growth may be reassessed less often.

When was the last reassessment done on this property?

Most significant tax increases on an individual property can be linked to when that property was last reassessed.

Will the sale of the property trigger a tax increase?

Depending upon where you live, the assessed value of a property may increase based on the amount you pay for it. And in some areas, such as California, taxes aren’t allowed to increase until the property in question is resold.

Is the tax bill comparable to other properties in the area?

If not, it might be possible to appeal the assessment and lower the rate.

Does the current tax bill reflect any special exemptions for which I might not qualify?

For example, many tax districts offer reductions to those individuals 65 and older.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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Questions to Ask a Home Inspector

Do you belong to a professional association?

There are many associations for home inspectors, but some groups confer questionable credentials or certifications in return for nothing more than a fee. Make sure the association your home inspector names is a reputable, nonprofit trade organization.

Will your report meet all state requirements?

Also, make sure the organization complies with a well-recognized standard of practice and code of ethics, such as those adopted by the American Society of Home Inspectors or the National Association of Home Inspectors.

How experienced are you?

Ask inspectors how long they’ve been working in the field and how many inspections they’ve completed. Also ask for customer referrals. New inspectors may be highly qualified, but they should describe their training and indicate whether they work with a more experienced partner.

How do you keep your expertise up to date?

Inspectors’ commitment to continuing training is a good measure of their professionalism and service. Advanced knowledge is especially important with older homes or those with unique elements requiring additional or updated training.

Do you focus on residential inspection?

Home inspection is very different from inspecting commercial buildings or a construction site. Ask whether the inspector has experience with your type of property or feature. The inspector should be able to provide sample inspection reports for a similar property. If they recommend further evaluation from outside contractors on multiple issues, it may indicate they’re not comfortable with their own knowledge level.

Do you offer to do repairs or improvements?

Some state laws and trade associations allow the inspector to provide repair work on problems uncovered during the inspection. However, other states and associations forbid it as a conflict of interest.

How long will the inspection take?

On average, an inspector working alone inspects a typical single-family house in two to three hours; anything less may not be thorough.

How much?

Costs range from $300 to $500 but can vary dramatically depending on your region, the size and age of the house, and the scope of services. Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true.

Will I be able to attend the inspection?

The answer should be yes. A home inspection is a valuable educational opportunity for the buyer and a refusal should raise a red flag.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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Vocabulary: Transaction Documents

When you walk away from the closing table with a big stack of papers, know what to file away for future reference.

Loan estimate

Your lender is required to provide you with this three-page document within three business days of receiving your loan application. It will show estimates for your interest rate, monthly payment, closing costs, taxes, and insurance. You’ll also learn how your interest rate and payments could change in the future, and whether you’ll incur penalties for paying off the loan early (called “prepayment penalty”) or increases to the mortgage loan balance even if payments are made on time (known as “negative amortization”).

Closing disclosure

Your lender is required to send this five-page form—which includes final loan terms, projected monthly payments, and closing costs—three business days before your closing. This window gives you time to compare the final terms to those in the Loan Estimate (see above), and to ask the lender any questions before the transaction is finalized.

Mortgage and note

These spell out the legal terms of your mortgage obligation and the agreed-upon repayment terms.

Deed

This document officially transfers ownership of the property. In a cash deal, it goes to you, but otherwise you won’t get the deed until you pay off the mortgage.

Affidavits

These are binding statements by either party. For example, the sellers will often sign an affidavit stating that they haven’t incurred any liens on the property.

Riders

This word describes any amendments to the sales contract that affect your rights. For example, the sellers may arrange to retain occupancy for a specified period after closing but agree to pay rent to the buyers during that period.

Insurance policies

These documents provide a record and proof of your coverage, be they insuring the title or the property itself. Homeowners insurance documents will generally be your responsibility, while proof of title insurance will be given to you at the closing table.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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Checklist: For the New Owners

Before the property changes hands, consult this list to make sure these items are transferred with the house.

Owner’s manuals and warranties for any appliances left in the house.

Garage door opener(s).

Extra set of house keys.

Other keys. Think beyond the front doors; do you have any cabinets or lockers built into the home that require keys?

A list of local service providers, such as the best dry cleaner, yard service, plumber, and so on. You’re not just helping the new owners, but also the local businesses you’re leaving behind.

Code to the security alarm and phone number of the monitoring service if not discontinued.

Smart home device access. Any devices listed as fixtures need to be reset for the new homeowner. Make sure your account information and usage data are wiped from the device so that they may use it. Check with your device’s manufacture to find out how to do this.

Numbers to the local utility companies. This can be especially helpful to owners who may not yet have easy access to the Internet in the new home.

Contact info for the condo board or home ownership association, if applicable.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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