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Documents needed to sell your home

Woman surrounded by documents on the floor, beginning to organize them
AleksandarNakic/Getty Images
Woman surrounded by documents on the floor, beginning to organize them
AleksandarNakic/Getty Images

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Selling a home is a complex process that requires a long list of documents from start to finish. From the initial listing agreement to mandatory disclosures, home appraisal reports, closing statements and all of the steps in between, staying abreast of the documentation that moves the sale process along can be daunting. Here are some of the key documents needed and the purpose they serve.

Documents needed during the home selling process

If you’re thinking of putting your home on the market, it can be helpful to understand the documents involved, some of which you can gather on your own and some of which will be provided by the professionals who assist with the sale process, including real estate agents, mortgage representatives and home inspectors.

Pre-listing

Prior to listing your home for sale, you’ll want to track down the paperwork related to your ownership as well as any changes you made to the property while living there. Some of the key paperwork during this phase includes:

Homeowners insurance: Sellers are typically required to continue homeowners insurance coverage until the closing has taken place to ensure there’s no gap in coverage on the home.

“This won’t be required by every broker, but I would consider it a red flag if they don’t ask for it,” said Michael Noker, a broker with Dumb Blond Realty in Albuquerque. “Sellers need to maintain homeowners insurance coverage through closing not necessarily due to the sale, but certainly due to the requirements of their mortgage. In many states, this is also a requirement in the purchase agreement.”

Mortgage payoff statement: Either the title company or the closing attorney involved in the sale will request a mortgage payoff statement from your mortgage lender. It can also be helpful so a broker or realtor can provide a more accurate estimate of the proceeds at closing, said Noker.

HOA documents: Homeowners association rules and regulations, financial documents, dues schedules, and even insurance certificates and articles of incorporation are considered material to a real estate transaction and must be disclosed. “In many markets, these will be ordered by the title company or attorney prior to closing, so homeowners generally do not need to gather these,” said Noker.

Major maintenance and repair records: Maintenance and repair records are among the most important records to maintain as a homeowner. “Repairs and issues with the property are material facts that must be disclosed to buyers,” said Noker. “It can be tricky to remember if you replaced a water heater in 2017 or 2018, for example, and getting it incorrect is a misrepresentation that could create liability.”

Property tax records: These are nice to have but not required to sell your home. “Property taxes are public record, so real estate agents can pull them with ease in most areas. The closing agent will also pull these,” said Noker.

Manuals and warranties: The manuals for major appliances and systems in your home such as the alarm or HVAC, can be helpful for future owners, but they’re not required during the sale process.  “It’s generally an indicator that you took great care of your home, so it can make a good impression on buyers,” said Noker.

The home sale listing process

When you’re ready to list your home on the market, another round of documents will come into play.

Listing agreement: If you opt to work with an agent or broker, you’ll be required to sign a listing agreement. The agreement is a contract between the seller and agent or broker. It details such things as the agent’s commission and the seller’s obligations to the broker, such as providing documents, keys, and other important items.

Comparative market analysis: Prepared by an agent or broker, a comparative market analysis (CMA) is a report of similar home sales in your area. “A licensed agent prepares a report of sold, pending and active listings in order to provide the seller with a sense of fair market value for their property,” said Tim Garrity, partner and broker at Copper Hill Real Estate in Philadelphia.

Seller’s net sheet: Sometimes referred to as the seller’s estimated costs, this document breaks down the costs associated with selling a home. A seller’s net sheet also indicates the net amount a seller stands to pocket once all sale expenses are paid, said Garrity. “It provides the seller with a sense of what they could potentially walk away with.”

Preliminary title check: Preliminary title searches help both the agent and the seller understand what’s owed on the property, as well as whether there are any issues impacting the title that could hold up the sale or reduce the home’s value. “Similar to CarFax for cars, a title search helps buyers and sellers understand more about a property before deciding to buy or sell,” said Garrity.

After the home is listed

Once your home is on the market, the work shifts to keeping the home clean for showings and sorting through offers. But here too, documentation will be an important part of the process.

Pre-listing inspection: As the name implies, a pre-listing inspection involves a professional home inspector examining your property to find any potential problems or repairs that may need to be made. “When a seller performs a pre-listing inspection, they are opting to be proactive about the condition of their home rather than reactive,” said Garrity. It’s not something I personally recommend, but some sellers prefer to have it.”

Mandatory disclosures: A mandatory disclosure form provides information to buyers about any significant issues or defects related to the home. The requirements surrounding such disclosures vary by state. “Each state has its own way of disclosing adverse material facts,” said Noker.

At or after closing

Once you’ve reached closing, you’re in the home stretch. But there will be still more documents to process before the sale is finalized.

Home appraisal report: A home appraisal report will be ordered by the lender or homebuyer. “If you have a copy of a previous appraisal, it can be helpful for knowing the square footage of your home,” said Noker. “You will not likely see the appraisal as a seller unless the buyer is objecting to it or if you have offered to pay for it, which is not common in today’s market.”

Home inspection report: Home inspection reports are generated by an inspector who evaluates the home including reviewing such things as its structure, roof, foundation, heating, walls, windows and doors. Home inspections are generally recommended so that homebuyers fully understand a home’s current condition.

Closing statement: This document is typically provided by a title company or closing attorney. “This is an itemized statement of all debits and credits to the buyer and seller, providing a bottom line of cash to close on the buyer side or the amount due to the seller,” said Noker.

Deed: The deed is the document used to transfer title of the home from the seller to the buyer. “There are several types of deeds. Generally, a home will be transferred with a general warranty deed,” said Noker.

How to organize home sale paperwork

The good news when it comes to the documentation associated with a home sale, is that most of the process has become digital, meaning paper copies of these items are rarely required anymore.

“Pretty much everything is digital nowadays. I have yet to see anybody require a paper original for a transaction,” said Noker.

How an agent or attorney can help

While real estate agents and brokers may be seen primarily as sales people, they also provide key assistance and guidance helping buyers and sellers navigate the ins and outs of real estate sales laws and requirements.

“Selling a home can be a straightforward process in some circumstances, and it can be an absolute headache in others,” said Noker. “A lot of my time is spent predicting and avoiding disasters that can stop, or severely delay, a transaction.”

Agents represent buyers and sellers by assisting them with disclosures, accounting, and more during the home buying and selling process.

“We handle all of the paperwork for a residential real estate transaction,” said Garrity. “If a client has questions beyond our scope, seeing as most residential real estate agents are not also attorneys, we always recommend that they seek legal guidance.”

Real estate attorneys will generally review contracts and if necessary, collect documents necessary for closing.

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Written by
Mia Taylor
Contributing Writer
Mia Taylor is a contributor to Bankrate and an award-winning journalist who has two decades of experience and worked as a staff reporter or contributor for some of the nation's leading newspapers and websites including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the San Diego Union-Tribune, TheStreet, MSN and Credit.com.
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