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Step 3: Paperwork & Closing

Closing a home sale by owner

There’s no avoiding it: Selling and buying real estate involves lots of paperwork and legalities. You can navigate this process if you are careful, meticulous and rely on the counsel of qualified experts, especially a real estate lawyer.

Make sure potential buyers are pre-approved to ensure that they will qualify for a mortgage. This story will fill you in on key terms.

Download state-specific real estate forms and contracts from We also offer related forms and contracts for financial and estate planning.

We strongly recommend you hire a real estate attorney who can help you handle the paperwork. The few hundred dollars that you pay an attorney will still be much less than relying on an agent, whose commission will be high and whose knowledge of legalities will be unknown.

Prepare for, and cooperate with, the buyer’s home inspector and appraiser.

Only accept offers from pre-approved buyers. When you receive an offer, you and your attorney can accept, reject or make a counteroffer.

Agree on a sale price, and have your attorney to assist you with the contracts.

Agree on a closing date that’s acceptable to all parties.

Close the Deal

Contact your mortgage lender to determine the mortgage payoff amount.

Closing day. You, along with your attorney and/or a representative of your title company, will meet with the buyer and his or her legal counsel to sign a wide array of closing documents that will convey the title of the property to the buyer.

Hand over the keys to the buyer.

Determine how much you saved in commission. Our average home seller saves $12,400!

High five! Congratulations!

You have sold your home directly, saving time, money and recouping maximum equity!

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What a Title Agency Does for By-Owner Sellers

There are many reasons for buying or selling a home without the assistance of a realtor, but one service provider you can’t complete a “for sale by owner” transaction without is the title agency. Using a title agency not only ensures that your closing goes smoothly, it also safeguards your transaction.

What Does a Title Agency Do?

A title agency’s job is to make sure the closing happens. To do this, the agency will make sure all the paperwork is in order, conduct a title search and order the reports and surveys needed to transfer property ownership.

Two of the biggest contributions of the title agency are the title search and providing title insurance.

A title search is a public records examination of the property’s title. This research determines that the property is clear of liens and is eligible for sale. The very last thing you want to do is buy a house and then find out there are liens against it, or worse, a co-owner didn’t sign off on the sale! A title search will uncover issues like these so they can be resolved before the closing.

Title insurance is required by most mortgage lenders. This insurance protects the lender (and a separate policy protects the buyer) from unforeseen defects in the title. These problems usually don’t show up in the title search, which is why this extra protection is needed. A title insurance policy means the title company will help you defend you from claims against the title. It’s a one-time fee, paid at closing and never again.

Other Services from the Title Agency

• Closing Facilitation: The title agency can host and facilitate the closing on neutral ground. As an impartial service provider, the agency does not work “for” the buyer over the seller, or vice versa. The title agency just wants the sale to happen, and it’s their job to make sure it does. A title agency does this by collecting all of the documentation needed from both sides, making sure it’s all filled out properly and signed. Having a second set of eyes to look over everything is especially helpful in a by-owner transaction.

• Paperwork Filing: The title agency files the closing paperwork with the appropriate government agencies and makes sure the buyer, seller and mortgage lenders all get copies of the closing documents.

• Escrow and Notary Services: Title agencies can also act as escrow agents, hold earnest money and disburse funds. They can also provide notary services for document completion.

The important thing to remember is that the title agency is there to help you with your by-owner transaction when you might not have any other real estate professionals assisting you and looking over the contract to make sure everything is in order.

Jennifer Ferri is the Owner and Operator of Title Junction, a Florida-based real estate title agency. Title Junction provides for sale by owner help in Fort Myers and Cape Coral, Florida.

Please note that this editorial content was provided by, who is not employed by or by Tribune Digital Marketplaces. This article has been republished for additional education purposes. This article is not affiliated with any links or products that appear on the on the same pages. Read more about our editorial policy.

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Inspection Misconceptions

Real estate inspection.

The three little words can cause palpitations in even the sturdiest souls.

For potential homebuyers, a real estate inspection means the house they have recently fallen in love with and are in the process of purchasing could be revealed to harbor conditions — expensive conditions. For home sellers, an inspection might mean finding problem areas that result in a price reduction or a laundry list of items to be negotiated or repaired before a closing can take place.

“It’s always ‘the dreaded’ home inspection,” says Larry Willette, an inspector for 20 years and founder of Home Quality Headquarters Inc., a general home inspection company based in Tolland.

But for both buyers and sellers, it doesn’t have to be.

“There’s a large misconception out there that home inspectors are here to kill a deal or ruin a sale, but that’s not what we’re about,” says Rick Hall, field manager for U.S. Inspect, a national home inspection com-pany with agents throughout the state. “Our job is to help a sale go through so everyone understands what they’re getting. The buyer is our client so obviously we’re there to help them, but we’re not the enemy.”

Another misunderstanding is that a home inspection offers a sort of warranty on the house; it does not.

Good inspectors make a concerted effort to work with all parties involved in an inspection. “It’s a very tough time for both the seller and the buyer,” Hall says. “The more you embrace everyone in this transac-tion, the easier it will go.”

It helps if both the buyer and the seller know what to expect.

‘Home 101’ For Buyers

For the buyer, a home inspection is designed to, “let people know what they’re getting into,” says Bill Stanley, a second-generation inspector and the owner of Stanco Inc. in Cheshire. “It’s their basic Home 101 course.”

A complete home inspection is a detailed analysis of the condition of a house and each of its operating systems. The list includes structural elements — foundation, walls, support beams, chimney, roof — and sys-tems including heat, plumbing, electrical and air-conditioning.

“The point of the inspection is to help the buyer make an informed decision and determine whether there are any major conditions they weren’t aware of,” says Willette. “They also learn about the different systems in their house, and they learn what to expect based on the age and condition of things.” But there are some limitations. “It is a visual inspection,” says Stanley. “We’re not technicians. We can’t go inside the boiler or tear it apart.”

Nor is a home inspection the same as a code inspection. “We’re evaluating based on what was required when that house was built 100 years ago, unless upgrades were done,” Hall says. “We tell [buyers] it’s probably a good idea to put a railing on the stairs, but was it required when the home was built? Probably not.”

Standards for a Connecticut home inspection are set out by the Department of Consumer Protection, but most inspectors go above and beyond. “What you’re required to do is pretty thin,” Stanley says.

“We throw in a lot of education,” says Hall. “How systems function, how a hot water boiler functions, the difference between a hot water heater and a furnace.” Good inspectors also give buyers an idea of the life expectancy on the systems in the house — “components like heating, hot water heaters, roof shingles — and how much life they have left on them,” he says.

An average home inspection should last about three hours. “If you’re getting less than two hours, in my opinion, you’re not getting your money’s worth,” Hall says. Prices start around $350, average $500, and sometimes range higher, depending on the size and age of the home.

Inspectors almost always encourage clients to follow them during the inspection process, learning as they go. “Follow the inspector,” Stanley says. “Ask questions.”

But not all buyers make use of the opportunity.

“Some lose interest,” says Willette. “They wander off. They haven’t been in the house much since they bid on it, and they might be taking the opportunity to measure rooms or plan paint colors, but if I find some-thing and you’re somewhere else, I’ll come and get you. Whatever I find, you’re going to know about it, and if it’s significant, I’m going to show you.”

“Significant” findings can vary from inspection to inspection. “Every inspection report will be different,” Willette says. But most qualified home inspectors hopefully will discover the same major things, Stanley says. “Significant” are items that pertain to safety and major capital expense. Willette labels “significant” anything that will cost more than $500 to fix or upgrade along with any posing major capital expenses down the line.

Buyers should not expect their reports to cover more superficial conditions, the types that can be fixed with a can of paint. “We’re not there to deal with cosmetic issues,” Stanley says. “If there’s a scratch in the countertop or a ding in the paint, from my perspective, that’s not going to change whether or not you buy the house.”

Inspectors bring an array of equipment to the job. Flashlights, screwdrivers, moisture meters, voltage gauges and radon testing gear are all standard. Newer to the field and not part of every inspector’s arsenal are ultrasound devices for determining weak areas in an oil tank, and thermal imaging equipment to detect heat loss. These tests involve costly apparatus and extra fees.

The presentation of inspection reports — and the timeframe in which they are delivered — varies considerably. Buyers should ask in advance about what they’re getting to be certain it meets their needs and any desired closing deadline. The most basic reports are handwritten checklists issued at the time of the inspec-tion. Other inspectors complete a checklist — “the kind with boxes for good, fair, poor,” Stanley says. Stanley, Willette and inspectors at U.S. Inspect all produce narrative or commentary reports.

Gayle Deneen, area marketing representative for U.S. Inspect, says, “It stands to reason that a com-mentary format — a running dialogue as to the condition of the home — is not ambiguous to the buyer when ‘good,’ ‘fair,’ ‘poor’ can leave a lot of questions.” U.S. Inspect can also offer laptop-generated reports, on site if necessary in time-crunch situations.

Getting Ready

For homeowners, who tend to be a proud breed, an inspection produces different anxieties — starting with the discomfort of allowing strangers into the house to poke around and, potentially, find faults. To allay concerns, some inspectors recommend a pre-listing inspection — having the house fully inspected to identify and possibly fix any existing problems before putting the house on the market. “If you’re a person who doesn’t like surprises, why not do it ahead of time?” asks Stanley.

“If you do find things … it’s much cheaper to fix something when it’s under your own terms,” Willette says. “When you’ve got your back against the wall and everyone’s panicking, it tends to cost more.”

But Willette and others caution that a pre-inspection can produce problems. If the homeowner decides not to address any problems found, he or she is legally obliged to disclose them.

There are other things homeowners can do to help an inspection go smoothly.

“Make things easy for the inspector,” Stanley says. “Don’t have 40,000 things piled in front of the elec-trical panel. If you have a full closet leading to the attic, empty it out, or I have to.”

He also suggests having “the heating and air conditioning systems serviced, and be able to show the paid receipts,” he says. “It tells the buyer you’re keeping up with things. If the buyer finds you haven’t had the systems serviced, they might not be as confident. They might wonder what else hasn’t been taken care of. Take care of it so I don’t have to find it.”

via Hartford Courant Syndicated with permisison.

This article from Tribune Company news outlets has been republished for additional  education purposes.  Please note that this editorial content was produced by Tribune news staff who are not employed by or  by Tribune Digital Marketplaces.  This article is not affiliated with any links or products that appear on the on the same pages.  Read more about our editorial policy. 

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The Honest Truth about Disclosures

People taking up carpet.As a seller, you are legally bound to disclose any and all defects in your home prior to the sale. Buyers can sue for damages and conceivably force the seller to reclaim the house.

Though this is highly unlikely, it has been known to happen. To try and minimize the possibility of such lawsuits from taking place, many states now have mandatory disclosure laws. Sellers must make sure that the buyer is aware of any defects on the property, from water damage to structural problems and everything in between.In most states,a disclosure form is a required part of the sales documents. Falsifying information on the disclosure form constitutes fraud.

Being honest won’t scare away serious buyers. Only the most naive believe that they can find a flaw-free house. By keeping it factual, you can comply with the law and win your buyer’s trust in the process.

  • Complete the form citing specific dates of incidents (i.e., “May 2006: basement seepage in northeast corner during heavy rain”
  • Document efforts you have taken to correct or minimize flaws. That includes contractors’ receipts and signed-off permits from building inspectors.
  • Hire a home inspector to go over your house. Correct problems the inspector finds. Attach the report and proof of repairs to the disclosure form.

Some buyers will try to use the disclosure form as a wedge to get you to lower your price after you have accepted their offer.  If the buyer’s inspector discovers problems you did not know about, you will likely have to negotiation repairs. the buyers will be bringing in their own contractors and establishing their own expectations for how much the repairs cost. If you do find yourself negotiating over repairs, you have several options:

  • Hire the contractor yourself and oversee the work. If you do some of the work yourself, validate its quality by having a municipal housing inspector sign off on the job.
  • Accept the bid from your buyer’s contractor and co-operate with any preparatory work before closing.
  • Review the bids from the buyers’ contractors and offer to cover part of the estimated cost.


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Top 10 Deductions for Homeowners

Your home may be brimming with tax advantages. How will you get all of the breaks you’re entitled to? You should always consult a professional tax advisor for details, but here’s a list of the top 10 tax deductions:

1. Mortgage Interest Interest on the loan for your primary residence is fully tax-deductible, if you qualify. Quicken Loans Tax Savings Calculator can help you figure the tax advantages of home ownership.

2. Points Paid on a Refinanced Loan If you refinanced, you may be able to write off the points paid for the new loan. But, there’s a twist: you’ll have to deduct them proportionately over the life of the loan. So, if your new loan has a 30-year term, you’ll deduct 1/30th of your points each year. A couple of things to consider: If you’ve refinanced before, and you have points from the previous refinance that you haven’t finished deducting, you can write off the rest of those points in the year you refinance.

3. Points Paid on a Purchase Loan The points you pay at closing when you buy a home are deductible on your income tax statement for that year. If the seller paid some (or all) of your points for you, you may be able to deduct those seller-paid points.

4. Capital Gains with No Income Taxes Thanks to the 1997 Tax Act, once every two years, single homeowners can realize a tax-exempt profit of up to $250,000 – as long as the seller owned and occupied the home as a principal residence during any two of the last five years. Married homeowners who file jointly on their tax returns do not have to pay taxes on up to $500,000 of gain when they sell their primary residence.

5. Home Improvements Although you can’t deduct the expenses associated with home improvements, keep in mind that making improvements to your home may increase the purchase price of your home. Keeping all of your receipts from home improvements may help you prove your home’s worth at resale and reduce the potential taxable gain when selling your home.

6. Real Estate and Property Taxes State and local property taxes can be deducted as an expense against income. However the real estate taxes are only deductible in the year they are actually paid to the government.

7. Home Offices If you have a qualified office in your home, you may be able to deduct costs associated with maintaining the portion of your home exclusively used for business. For example, 100% of your expenses related to the office such as painting and upkeep are deductible, as well as a portion of indirect expenses such as the cost of utilities and garbage pickup.

8. Limited Moving Expenses Homeowners who have recently relocated for work may be able to write off the cost of moving themselves, their household goods, their vehicles, and other reasonable costs associated with the move. Restrictions do apply. For instance the new job must be 50 or more miles farther from the old home than the old job was.

9. Health-Related Improvements Any home improvements for medical purposes can be deducted entirely from your taxes as long as the improvements do not add to the overall value of the home and have been made for a chronically ill or disabled person. If you qualify, you may be able to deduct a portion of expenses such as a swimming pool for treating polio victims or an air conditioner to alleviate a specific medical condition.

10. Vacation Homes Owning a vacation home has more benefits than you may think. You can deduct some of the costs associated with owning a vacation home, such as real estate taxes, personal property taxes, mortgage interest, and points. As always, you should check with your tax advisor to determine which of these deductions apply to you.

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5 Tips to Consider When Moving a Pet

You’ve purchased more boxes and moving supplies than you can imagine, found a reputable mover and have taken all the necessary steps to make sure you, your family and your belongings make a smooth move to your new home. But how will you make sure your pet’s transition is as successful as possible? Here are five ways to ease the process of moving a pet.

1. Learn the Laws of the Land

Before you move, it’s important to learn about all of the necessary and relevant laws regarding domesticated animals in your new town and state. For dogs and cats, you shouldn’t run into too much trouble outside of leash laws and limits on how many animals can be kept in one house.

However, the process gets a little trickier for exotic pets and farm animals, which can be restricted from living in certain areas by zoning laws and other restrictions.

There are certain places that require pet registration and certificates of health, regardless of how exotic or conventional the animal may be, so be sure to acquire all necessary paperwork to get your pet across state lines without stress.

2. Get a Check Up

If Sparky hasn’t been to the vet recently, the last few weeks before the move are a good time to get him checked up and treated before you hit the road. Besides making sure your pet is healthy, this last trip to your current vet is the perfect time to ask for any of the aforementioned health-related paperwork and ask for your pets’ medical records to be sent to your new vet, if you have one.

This is also a good opportunity to make sure you pet will have enough medicine for the move and to ask for any prescriptions that may need to be refilled during the moving process. Moving is enough of an undertaking, and a sick cat is something that no one wants to deal with in a stressful situation.

3. Find the Perfect Carrier

Whether you plan to move your pet by car or plane, it’s essential to find a carrier that will comfortably and safely hold your pet during travel. The ideal carrier should big enough for your pet to stand up, lie down and turn around relatively easily. The sides, while sturdy, should allow enough cross-ventilation for your pet to breathe and stay cool, and the leak-proof bottom should be lined with absorbent material to contain any accidents.

If you are moving a fish, you should visit your local pet store to pick up a travel-safe container for Jaws, especially if you’re flying to your new home. Airlines require that fish be professionally packed prior to travel to prevent any accidents from occurring during transportation.

4. Prepare for a Long Trip

If you are moving a fairly large distance from your current home, be prepared for anything that may happen during the process. When you transport a pet by plane, each airline has specific requirements involving drop-off, pick-up and necessary paperwork to be completed prior to takeoff.

If you plan to drive your pet, equip yourself to handle accidents, carsickness and handling an upset pet. Even the most even-keeled animals can find car travel unsettling, so comforting your pet according to what they like can make the travel easier. Also, outlining a few animal-friendly rest stops along your route ahead of time will help keep your pet in good spirits while potentially preventing accidents.

5. Manage Food and Water Right Before Departure

Avoid giving your pets food or water within the last two hours before you depart, whether by car or by plane. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends that you feed pets one light meal 3-4 hours before you hit the road. If you’re traveling by car, give them water only while stopped, since feeding them in a moving vehicle can cause an upset tummy. The ASPCA also recommends bringing your own container of water from home for them to drink, since you can’t be sure what the quality of water that you encounter on the road will be. Also, if you are driving with your pet, be sure to keep the car cool enough to prevent motion sickness from setting in.

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5 Simple Tasks to Do Before Moving Day

After months of open houses, negotiating, paperwork and packing, moving day is finally here. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement and anxiety of moving out of your old house and into a new home. So, to save yourself some sweat and trouble, here are five simple tasks to do before moving day to make the move as smooth as possible.

1. Create a Survival Kit
While being thrust into the wilderness isn’t likely to happen on moving day, you should create a box or bag full of essential items that can readily be accessed as soon as you set foot into your new home. This includes toiletries, non-perishable snacks, important paperwork, unpacking supplies and any medications that need to be administered soon after the move is completed.

And don’t forget your pets when assembling the kit! Make sure there are a few snacks for Fido and some litter for Lola in there, too.

2. Make Your Home “Mover-Friendly”
Completely emptying a house of its contents isn’t the easiest task. To make your move quicker and safer, clear off walkways, remove any obstacles that might get in the movers’ way, prop doors open and get rid of any trash that may be lying around. Your movers will appreciate it, and the easier their job is, the safer your belongings will be.

3. Keep the Kids Away
Children, stressful situations and heavy objects don’t tend to mix well together, which is why it’s critical to figure out a way to entertain your kids off-site on moving day. One simplest solution is to ask a family member or friend to look after them during the moving process. Another option: Schedule the move for when the kids are at school. If you have babies or toddlers in day care, make sure you let an administrator know about your situation, just in case he move gets delayed, and you need someone to stay with your child after-hours.

4. Double-Check Everything
Before you leave your old house for good, make sure it’s clean from attic to basement, all your boxes have been loaded in the truck, all windows and doors are locked, and there are no stray items hiding away in cracks or crevices. This will secure the house and prevent any hassles in retrieving anything you may leave behind on moving day.

5. Protect Your Valuables
Losing anything is bad, but losing something of incredible value, monetary or personal, is even worse. Keep your valuables close on moving day, or if you’re trusting them to the movers, make sure you document where they’re securely and safely packed.


Please note that this editorial content was produced by staff of, who are not employed by or by Tribune Digital Marketplaces. This article has been republished for additional education purposes. This article is not affiliated with any links or products that appear on the on the same pages. Read more about our editorial policy.

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5 Moving-Day Tips that Make Moving Out Easy

Moving day has finally arrived; the papers are signed, the boxes are packed and you’re ready to make the trip to your new house. Before you leave for good, remember these five essential moving-day tips that will make moving out quick and easy.

1. Make a Good Last Impression
Just because the house you’re moving out of isn’t yours anymore doesn’t mean that you should leave it in disarray for its new occupants. Moving can be messy; be sure to do a thorough cleaning before leaving. It’s easy to overlook a few scraps of box tape here and some stray packing peanuts there in the middle of the loading process. Think about how you want your new house to look when you get there, and try to emulate that.

2. Leave No Belonging Behind
This is pretty self-explanatory: Check every seemingly pointless drawer and cabinet, along with all the nooks and crannies for any stray objects, tools or toys that may have been hiding from you while you were packing.

3. Raid the Fridge
You don’t want to leave anything in the house, and you certainly don’t want to leave anything in the refrigerator. To be safe, you should unplug and defrost your refrigerator 24 hours before moving day to dry it out. This will prevent you from leaving a messy—and possibly smelly—housewarming gift for the new owners. Any non-perishable food you’re not taking with you can be donated. The organization Move for Hunger coordinates with movers to take any unused food during a move to local food banks.

4. Don’t Fall Off the Map
Before you leave your old home, it’s nice to leave an email address or phone number for the new owners. You or the movers might have forgotten a box or a few items, an issue with the house may have been overlooked in the inspection or they may just want to check in to see what lawn service you used while you lived there. In any case, it’s a good idea to make sure the new owners can reach you if they need to.

5. Keep Your House Safe and Sound
Make sure all windows and doors are closed and locked before you leave. This is especially important if your house is going to remain unoccupied for a few days. Also, turn off all faucets and lights, turn off the water heater and lower the thermostat to prevent wasting any energy.


Please note that this editorial content was produced by staff of, who are not employed by or by Tribune Digital Marketplaces. This article has been republished for additional education purposes. This article is not affiliated with any links or products that appear on the on the same pages. Read more about our editorial policy.

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How to Coordinate a House Closing and a Move

Great news: You’ve sold your old house and found a new home to move into! Now, it’s time to close both deals. Coordinating your move and your closing can be a tricky process, laden with possible delays and costly complications. Here are four smart tips for how to keep your closing and moving process quick and easy.

1. Make Your Move

The best way to coordinate your move and your closing is to align your move with the moves of the people involved in your transaction and closing. Yes, that is easier said than done. Getting everybody in the chain on the same page can be complicated, especially when dealing with real estate agents, lawyers and banks; but, the initial effort will save you time, and potentially money, too. Making sure everybody can move in and out on the same days means that your belongings will spend less time trapped away in boxes and in the possession of movers, who may charge you to hold your items. When dealing with a process as time and money-consuming as moving, anything you can do to conserve these valuable resources is worthwhile.

2. Communication Is Key

Life happens, which means bad things can happen. Just in case something delays your ability to move or close at a certain time, make sure you keep open the lines of communication with the buyers of your home, the sellers of the home you’re buying, your movers and the lawyers involved in the process. If an unforeseen expense is hampering your ability to pay the closing fees, or a snag in the packing process requires more time than you budgeted for, be sure to let everyone else involved in the move know. Giving everyone a heads up means that the problem can be resolved faster and more successfully than if it was left unmentioned. Murphy’s Law may seem to apply directly to your move, but that doesn’t mean you can’t undermine it with a little creativity and communication.

3. Time It Out

Once the moving and closing date has been decided, you can coordinate the process even further by drawing up a rough timeline of events. The more you know about how the day should unfold beforehand, the easier it will be to budget your time. Thinking about a day-of timeline ensures that you realistically give yourself enough time for each step in the process, and it gives you the opportunity to avoid any major time snags. Prevention is the best medicine, and stressing out on moving day because of poor timing is not a place you want to be.

4. Keep Back-Up in the Bank

There are several costs that come along with moving and closing, and you don’t want to be unable to pay them. That’s why it’s important to have enough easily accessible money in the bank, or on hand, to cover these charges if an unexpected expense comes up. Additionally, know how much your mover charges to hold your boxes overnight, just in case a problem in the closing prevents you from moving into your new home right away.


Please note that this editorial content was produced by staff of, who are not employed by or by Tribune Digital Marketplaces. This article has been republished for additional education purposes. This article is not affiliated with any links or products that appear on the on the same pages. Read more about our editorial policy.

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