What Documents Do You Need When Selling Your Home?

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When you sell your home with a real estate agent or Realtor, one of their primary jobs is to help you make sense of all the documentation you need. Pro tip: It’s a lot, and even if you’re not selling with an agent, you still need to gather all the required paperwork.

The good news is that any qualified agent can make this process easier on you. Still, it’s smart to stay informed since this is your house we’re talking about. So, what documents are required to sell your home? Do you need to have those documents or papers ready before you list your home, or can you gather them when the time comes?

Here, we’ll outline the key documents required to sell a house and avoid any legal or negotiation issues. 

Can an agent handle your paperwork? 

We may live in a digital world but, as Michael Scott says, real business is still done on paper. (Yes, all of this paperwork can be backed up digitally, but you will still need hardcopy originals of many documents for a legal sale.)

Selling a house is a massive legal and financial transaction, which is why most sellers prefer to use an agent. Agents deal with this kind of paperwork daily and know where to find it. Sellers who can’t find their paperwork might cause delays and scare off buyers.

But, that said, sellers pay an average of 5-6% commission to an agent. On a $400,000 home, that’s $24,000. That’s a significant amount of money so it’s not unusual for sellers to try to forgo agents and handle sales themselves. Real estate agents bring a lot to the table to earn that commission, including the ability to handle paperwork seamlessly, but it’s up to you to decide how much you’re willing to pay for an agent’s help.

If you’re firm on not wanting an agent, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. These are the most common documents you need to sell your house.

What documents do you need to sell your house?

The average property sale requires about 180 sheets of reports, contracts, forms, and statements. Compiling and signing all this documentation can feel like a tedious, painful task for both buyers and sellers. That said, understanding your property document obligations ahead of time can help secure a quick, stress-free sale.

State and country regulations vary across the country so this list is not exhaustive. Likewise, paperwork can differ if the property was a personal residence or rental home, or if there are long-term renovations underway. Always consult the property laws for your district or consider asking a local agent’s advice before you start gathering the specific documents you need to sell a house in your area.

For the vast majority of real estate sales, however, you need these documents. We’ve categorized them by the point of the sale process in which you will need to get them.

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Documents to collect prior to listing

Original sale contract

Sellers must provide prospective buyers with a copy of the original sale contract signed between them and the previous property owners. It will include the previous purchase price for the property, disclosures made at the time of the sale, and any contingencies to the deed transfer.

Maintenance records

While you don’t technically need to provide this, most buyers will request evidence of renovations and repairs. In that event, you must compile a record for home repairs and maintenance, including before and after photos, material receipts, and labor contracts including contractor contact information.

Mortgage statement

If you haven’t paid off your current mortgage in full, you’ll need to show how much you still owe. Contact your lender or servicer and request a statement that shows your payoff amount, which is the total you’ll have to pay to satisfy the terms of your mortgage loan.

The payoff amount will not be the same as your current balance since your current balance does not include interest. With this information in hand, you can calculate your estimated home sale profit.

Homeowners insurance records

Proof of your homeowners insurance records will inform a buyer about how much they can expect to pay for homeowners insurance themselves. Buyers appreciate that kind of clarity and it’s a nice gesture. That said, disclosure is not required by every state. We include it here because it’s still advisable and can help facilitate a sale, especially if the buyer’s lender requires a copy of the homeowners insurance.

Homeowners Association (HOA) documents

Ultimately, it’s the buyer’s obligation to search and discover HOA documents, but it’s a good courtesy for sellers to provide them upfront. If applicable, providing HOA documents can make the sale process go smoother. These documents may include:

  • Articles of incorporation
  • Bylaws
  • Rules and regulations
  • Homeowners dues amount statement
  • Copies of the minutes from the Association’s meetings of the past two years
  • The Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions

Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) report

If you’re selling with an agent, they will prepare a CMA report to calculate a suggested listing price for your property. These reports analyze local property market trends using historic and ongoing sales data to identify a fair projected sales price. If you’re selling without an agent, you won’t have this to give, and that’s fine.

Listing and marketing contract

Again, this is only necessary if you’re selling with an agent. This contract defines the arrangement between the seller and real estate agent, granting the agent the exclusive right to sell and market the property. This is more for your and your agent’s protection than for the buyer.

Documents you’ll need while on the market

Preliminary home title report

Chances are, you aren’t the first owner of your home and the way bureaucracy works isn’t exactly proactive and transparent. As such, sellers must request a preliminary home title report to determine any outstanding financial or legal obligations on their property. These could include taxes owed, local covenant restrictions, title insurance requirements, or property liens. You can purchase them from any major title company.

Purchase offer form

This form lays out the initial framework for the final purchase contract between a buyer and seller. It’s a good idea to have a general framework before you receive an offer. It’s not the final document and it's subject to revision or amendment, but it’s good to have ahead of time to expedite the process. The form lists a price offered by a buyer, a brief description of the property, and the listing information provided at the time of sale. You can make educated guesses to fill out much of the form and a lawyer can help you draw it up.

Documents you’ll need after receiving an offer

Mandatory disclosure statement

Once a prospective buyer agrees to a purchase price, the seller must disclose any known issues or hazards that might affect the property. That could be previous instances of water damage, location on a floodplain, usage of lead-based paint, previous toxic material use, or homeowners association rules.

Contingency removal form

Contingencies are clauses in purchase offer forms or final sale agreements that adjust the purchase contract. They could involve the seller covering the cost of certain fixes before the sale, a buyer adjusting their move-in date until after the seller moves into another home, or a host of other things. Record any contingencies agreed to by buyer and seller and successfully met on the contingency removal form.

Documents required at closing

Appraisal report

Buyers purchasing a home with a loan will be subject to a property appraisal. Lenders almost always require a third-party appraisal of the home to evaluate the true market value. If the appraised price comes in below the offered price, the lender may not approve the buyer’s loan. This document is handled by the buyer, but may result in some negotiations for the seller.

Home inspection report

Again, this is a document handled by buyers who will hire a professional home inspector to evaluate a seller’s property for any potential damage. If the inspection turns up any undisclosed or previously undiscovered issues with the property, they may lower their offer or ask a seller to repair the issues out of their own pocket. Sellers can pay for their own inspection, but most buyers will feel more comfortable having their own done.

Final real estate purchase agreement

The meatiest document in the bunch, the purchase agreement is the complete contract between buyer and seller dictating the ultimate conditions of the sale. It includes the purchase price, the closing date, any final contingencies, and acts as the legally binding contract that will finally seal the deal.

The deed

The final step in the property transaction process, executing the sale deed indicates the transfer of property ownership from seller to buyer. Attorneys for the buyer and seller draft the deed to the terms of the final sale agreement and the buyer and seller sign to execute the final step of the sale.

Again, the documents outlined here are likely just a portion of what you need to legally sell a house in your area. Rules vary between municipalities and states, which is why it’s valuable to have a real estate agent who knows the local rules on your side. But if you’re eager to save some money, this guide should help you on your way to gathering the essential paperwork to manage the sale by yourself.

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