When buying or selling a home, closing day is the day the sellers get their money, the new owners get the keys, and the house officially changes hands. It may be the most important day during the entire buying and selling process.

In Quinte, REALTORS® use the standard Ontario transaction forms to write up an offer. If you’re buying a freehold property, you can find your closing date at the bottom of the first page of the Agreement of Purchase and Sale (APS) in Section 2 called the “Completion Date.”

Despite the process for closing existing for decades, there is still lots of confusion about exactly what closing day is, what has to be done, and the rules around finalizing the sale of a house.

Here are three things you need to know about closing day whether you’re selling your home or buying a new house:

1. Closing can happen any time before 6PM.

In the APS the time of closing is listed as “no later than 6PM. This does NOT mean that the seller can stay in the home until 6PM. It means that closing can happen any time before 6PM on completion day. The time closing happens depends on when the money is transferred and the change in ownership is recorded with the land registry office. This depends on the financing institution and the lawyers involved.

Buyers, don’t plan your move in for the day you get your keys. It could be 6PM by the time you’re allowed in the door which might leave you moving in the dark or racking up a huge bill with a moving truck waiting around all day. Plan to get your keys and maybe start cleaning but there is nothing you can do to hurry closing on completion day.

Sellers, plan your move at least the day before closing. If the sale is completed at 10AM and you’re still moving things out, you’re legally considered trespassing on the new owner’s property. If the buyer incurs costs after closing because you’re not fully moved out, they may be able to sue you for those amounts.

2. Final walkthroughs are inevitable.

Even if the offer to purchase a home doesn’t specifically say the buyer gets to do a revisit, the buyer has the right to revisit the property right before closing to make sure that the home is in the condition they agreed to buy it in. This is commonly referred to as a Harkness visit which refers to a court case, Harkness v. Cooney. In this case, the judge agreed that the buyer had the right to inspect the property before taking possession to make sure it was in the condition the buyer agreed to buy it in. This case set precedence for the way final walkthroughs are handled in real estate.

The best practice is that a final walkthrough be arranged after the seller has moved out and within 24-48 hours of closing.

3. Don’t change the property

When an offer is accepted, the offer is based on the condition of the property and what is in it at the time they saw it. Sellers must follow the agreement. If they don’t, they may get sued. Some common examples being if an appliance is listed as included, that exact appliance must be in the home on closing. Just because the offer says “fridge” doesn’t mean that the seller can change out the fridge that was there for another. The buyer agreed to buy the fridge that was in the home when they wrote their offer.

Sellers, keep your property the same until closing. Don’t try to get around this because you like your washer and dryer better. You may end up in court.

Buyers, be very diligent about documenting exactly what is in the home when you do your showings if you are putting in an offer. Noting the make, model, and serial number of appliances is a great way to protect yourself. Your realtor should do this for you but it is best to be safe and double-check with them.

Most sales close easily without any headaches but it is always best to be prepared and to make sure that you fully understand the closing process whether you are buying or selling a house. If a complication does arise, being prepared is the best way to protect yourself from lawsuits or financial loss.

These simple closing details are things that everyone should know but are often misunderstood or misconstrued which can lead to hiccups that nobody wants on the day a home sale closes.

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