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How to get ready for your first home closing

This is the American Dream: make sure you're prepared.

Scott Gamm
by Scott Gamm, MainStreet contributor (@ScottGamm)

First-time homebuyers get stress from searching for the ideal place, securing a mortgage and moving in, but the closing adds even more drama to the process.

Even though home closings don’t usually last more than a few hours, showing up unprepared and not having a sense of what’s expected from you could delay your move-in date or even cause the closing to adjourn.

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Real estate experts explain it all here — what you need to bring, what documents you should take home with you and even how to make the move-in process more seamless:

1. Identification. Chances are you’ll have your driver’s license with you at the closing, but you may not think to bring a second form of identification, which the notary may require.

“Notaries must have identification and notaries are required at all signings. I recommend bringing two forms of ID, such as a license and passport,” says real estate expert Dani Babb of The Babb Group.

2. Blank checks for unexpected escrow items. Don’t leave your checkbook at home; it'll cause plenty of headaches.

“While escrow aims to have all files and payments made ahead of time, it's not uncommon for expenses to pop up at the closing that the buyer is responsible for paying," Babb says. "Sometimes organizations want to be paid by the buyer, instead of being paid from the escrow account."

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3. Utility companies. It’s up to you to make for a seamless transition when it comes to keeping the utilities running and setting up cable service when you move into a home.

“Have the names and phone numbers of the new home’s utility companies handy in order to transfer the utilities from the seller to the buyer for continuous service,” says Marie Donnelly, licensed real estate agent and vice president at The Donnelly Group.

Call each company a few days in advance to make for a smoother transition. Donnelly says some companies want proof of ownership before they transfer service. Make sure you have documentation ready to send to the utilities.

4. Copies of paperwork. Closing dates aren’t set in stone, and there are myriad reasons why the date could get changed.

“If a closing date is off by one day, the amount of interest that is paid on closing changes," Babb says. "This is one example of information/documentation you will want with you in case a question comes up or information is in question. Having a copy of everything you have paid so far is helpful in case you see another charge for the same thing on escrow paperwork."

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5. HUD statement. Don’t leave your closing without getting a copy of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development statement, which is important for tax purposes. Also, be sure to hold onto documentation regarding the STAR program, which is a tax rebate process.

“The HUD provides a breakdown of closing costs incurred at the closing and some of these expenses are tax deductible. The STAR program is a tax rebate that you need to apply for, hence the need for having the proper documentation,” Donnelly adds.