It might seem obvious that moving out goes hand in hand with selling your house, but when closing day comes rolling along, sellers aren't always ready to go. It's hard to blame them, especially since it's sometimes hard to be sure when a deal will actually close. However, unless the contract specifies a different moving date, when the seller gives the deed to the buyer he also gives up his right to be in the house.
Generally, sellers must have all of their possessions moved out of the house by the day of closing.
While Under Contract
One of the keys to a successful and on-time move is to start the moving process while the deal is under contract. While you might not pack your toothbrush on the day you and the buyer sign the contract, you can probably start packing up bookshelves and bric-a-brac. As you get closer to the closing day, continue packing items. If it's practical and you haven't yet closed on your new residence, consider moving them to an off-site storage area so that you have less to move at the last second. Barring that, put the boxes in the garage or in a storage shed so that you can quickly get them into the truck.
On Moving Day
After the closing, or on your contractually agreed moving day, the new owner should be able to move in to the property. To make sure that this happens, consider moving out the night before and staying in a hotel or having your mover scheduled to come first thing in the morning. While it's nice if you can build an extra day or two into the contract for yourself so that you don't have to move before you know that the buyer has closed, many buyers won't allow this. As such, you will need to work with him to fine a timetable that works for everyone.
Negotiating Extra Time
If both parties are agreeable, you can write into the purchase agreement that you will have 24 or 48 hours after the closing to move. If you haven't done that and at closing time you realize that you won't be able to move out in time, the buyer may be willing to allow you to negotiate the right to stay in the house for a specified period of time. It's not uncommon for the buyer to request some compensation for this, though. In some cases, you will pay a prorated share of his mortgage, taxes and insurance payments. On the other hand, the buyer may not be amenable since he's taking some risk by having you stay in his house.
Staying Past Closing
If you can't work anything out with the buyer and you stay past closing, you and the buyer may end up in a precarious legal situation. Technically, you become a tenant of the property, and he becomes your landlord. However, since you haven't paid any rent, he can evict you.
Steve Lander has been a writer since 1996, with experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology. His work has appeared in trade publications such as the "Minnesota Real Estate Journal" and "Minnesota Multi-Housing Association Advocate." Lander holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University.