Paperwork for Selling a House by Owner: Full List of Documents

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By Steve Nicastro Updated February 20, 2024

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Navigating the process of selling a house by owner can feel like a maze of paperwork. When you work with a real estate agent, they handle the documentation. But as a FSBO seller, the responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders.

This responsibility can lead to challenges, with over a third of sellers admitting legal missteps without an agent's guidance.[1] FSBO paperwork requirements can also vary significantly by state or region, adding another layer of complexity. 

While we've provided a general list of essential documents for real estate transactions, the specific documents required may vary depending on your region. For personalized guidance tailored to your area, we advise consulting with a local real estate professional. Their expertise can be invaluable in navigating the legal and financial complexities of selling your home independently.

📝Paperwork for Selling a House by Owner

Before listing

  1. Original sales contract
  2. Loan documents (mortgage statement and payoff quote)
  3. Current and past utility bills
  4. Records of repairs and maintenance
  5. Plans and permits
  6. Homeowners insurance record
  7. HOA covenants and agreements

To list your home

  1. Mandatory disclosure statements
  2. Listing agreement
  3. Preliminary title report

After receiving an offer

  1. Signed purchase agreement
  2. Contingency removal form
  3. Receipts and warranties

To close

  1. Recent tax statement
  2. Property deed
  3. Final purchase agreement

» Need help? Use Clever to find a local realtor for expert guidance on handling the required paperwork

FSBO paperwork before listing your home

Original sales contract

Before listing your home, obtaining the original sales contract can provide valuable insights into the property's history. This document outlines the agreement between you and the previous owners or the builder. 

It lists the terms and conditions of the prior sale, including contingencies, disclosures, and any special provisions. Understanding these details can help FSBO sellers grasp previous agreements and potential obligations when they list their homes. 

It may also contain disclosures made by the previous owner regarding the property's condition, known issues, or past repairs. FSBO sellers can leverage this information to prepare their disclosures for prospective buyers.

Loan documents (mortgage statement and payoff quote)

When selling your home before your mortgage is fully paid off, you'll likely need two key documents: a mortgage statement and a payoff quote.

The mortgage statement provides details about your loan terms and the remaining balance. Meanwhile, the payoff quote outlines the exact amount required to settle your mortgage debt.

You can typically find these documents by contacting your mortgage lender or accessing your online mortgage account.

By considering closing costs and potential agent commissions, you can accurately assess the amount needed to cover your expenses and secure a profit from the sale, says Nate Johnson, a real estate investment expert and product manager at NeighborWho.

Current and past utility bills

Keeping recent utility bills for electricity, gas, sewage, and water readily available carries advantages for FSBO sellers. Although not every buyer may request them, having these bills can assist buyers in estimating their monthly expenses and crafting a budget.

Mortgage lenders may scrutinize property taxes and utility costs to determine the buyer's financial capacity, according to Johnson, who also highlights that this information can enhance transparency in the closing documentation.

You can usually find utility bills online through your utility account portals or requested directly from the utility companies.

Records of repairs and maintenance

Maintaining documentation of all repairs and renovations is crucial for FSBO sellers. This documentation becomes especially important if you've recently undertaken renovations or repairs, or replaced essential items following a flood or storm event. 

Sellers may not typically prepare these documents unless requested by the buyer. But having them available can streamline the selling process and assure potential buyers. If you don't have these records on hand, you can try to contact repair companies or contractors to obtain copies.

Plans and permits

While not mandatory for all sellers, having plans and permits on hand can be a smart move, particularly if you've undertaken significant projects like expanding your house. 

Buyers often seek assurance that such work was conducted with proper permits, adhered to building codes, and completed to high standards.

This is especially crucial if your property's layout differs from its previous state, says Johnson. "Demonstrating that authorized and safety-inspected changes were properly permitted can prevent potential legal issues," he says.

You can typically find building plans or permits at your local building department, an online permit database, or through contractors or builders hired to complete the project.

Homeowners insurance record

Keeping track of your homeowner's insurance policy history, including any claims made since you've owned the property, is crucial for FSBO sellers. It should include information about any damages or repairs, like storms or fires.

Homeowners insurance documentation provides transparency about the property's past, while also helping buyers estimate their potential homeowners insurance costs.

HOA covenants and agreements

These documents outline the homeowners association (HOA) rules that govern the neighborhood or building where the home is located. They typically cover regulations about pets, noise levels, parking, and permitted changes to the property. 

HOA documents also detail the HOA fees that buyers are required to pay, both at closing and as ongoing costs. The documents are often requested once the seller has accepted the buyer's offer. But it's still wise for sellers to get these documents ready in advance. Contact your HOA management company for these documents.

📊 Optional: Comparative market analysis (CMA) report

When selling FSBO, many homeowners find it challenging to set the right listing price, often turning to online estimators like Zillow's Zestimate. FSBO vs. realtor statistics show that approximately 3 in 10 FSBO sellers encounter difficulties in this area.

While not mandatory, obtaining a CMA report can assist FSBO sellers in accurately pricing their homes. By examining recent sales data from comparable properties in their area, sellers can gain valuable insights into their home's fair market value.

Realtors typically provide CMAs as part of their services at no cost. Alternatively, sellers can conduct their own analysis or use third-party tools to generate one.

FSBO paperwork to list your home

Mandatory disclosure statements and addendums

These documents are essential for revealing any known issues or hazards with the property, as required by law. Examples include a seller's property disclosure form, lead-based paint disclosure, or a natural hazards disclosure.

In some states, these disclosures are integrated into the purchase agreement signed with the buyer. For instance, houses built before 1978 may require a lead paint addendum, says Marisa Simonetti, founder of Simonetti Real Estate Team in Minnesota. 

The easiest pitfall when handling paperwork is forgetting to include the necessary addendums, such as those for lead paint, known hazards, or well and septic systems, according to Simonetti. 

There may also be specific addendums, such as flood insurance addendums, allowing the buyer to withdraw from the agreement if the insurance costs are deemed excessive, she notes.

🔍 Quick Tip: The National Association of Realtors and your local realtor board offer valuable online resources regarding mandatory hazard disclosures. Learn about environmental disclosures like radon, asbestos, lead-based paint, mold, and other potential hazards to stay informed.

Listing agreement

One type of listing agreement that may be used in FSBO transactions is an open listing agreement. This contract outlines the agreement between you and a buyer's agent, stipulating that you'll only pay them a commission if they successfully bring you the final buyer.

Alternatively, a buyer's agent might propose a basic listing agreement. Here, you would pay the agent a small fee in exchange for their help in ensuring all essential paperwork is accurately prepared.

You can find various templates and resources online to help you draft these agreements, including legal document websites like eForms, and websites of real estate associations or organizations. You can also consult with a real estate attorney to make sure the agreement meets all legal requirements.

Preliminary title report

This document, provided by a title company, details the current homeowner, any liens, and information about the escrow provider and title insurance. While not necessary for listing your home, having it available can streamline the process once you've accepted a buyer's offer. Reach out to a reputable title company in your area to request this document.

FSBO paperwork after getting an offer

Purchase agreement

This vital document lays out all the terms of the contract and any necessary conditions for closing. The document often includes:

  • The buyer and seller's details.
  • Property specifics, including the home's square footage and lot size. 
  • The buyer's offered price and any counteroffers. 
  • If the purchase is being financed with a mortgage.
  • Contingencies like home inspections or appraisals.
  • If any items are included with the property. 

The purchase agreement becomes legally binding when all parties have signed, indicating that you are now "under contract." 

While a real estate attorney can offer a template or example, consulting with one is recommended for assistance.

Contingency removal form

A contingency offers protection for the buyer, allowing them to withdraw from the sale for various reasons within a specified timeframe. However, a contingency removal form is essential for confirming that all sale contingencies have been met and can be officially removed. 

For example, in California, there's a specific contingency removal form outlining various contingencies that can be removed, such as those related to home inspection, appraisal, and loan approval.

In states without a specific form, meeting the contract's terms – such as completing a home inspection within a specified timeframe or obtaining an appraisal at the purchase price -  may suffice to move the transaction forward.

Receipts and warranties

During the buyer's due diligence period, they may request receipts for any repairs or renovations you've undertaken, including purchases of new appliances. 

Buyers might also ask for warranties on appliances or major components like the HVAC system to ensure everything is in good condition and working order, and to prepare for potential post-closing issues, says Johnson. 

Can't find these documents? You can contact the companies or contractors who performed the services or provided the products to request duplicate copies.

FSBO paperwork to close

Recent tax statement

Recent property tax statements can provide essential information on local property taxes paid, help in estimating prorated taxes due at closing, transfer taxes, future taxes for the buyer, and verify the seller's tax status.

You can find your most recent tax statement through your local tax assessor's office or by accessing your property tax account online through the county or municipal government website. Reach out to your tax assessor's office if you have trouble finding it.

Property deed

A recorded deed is a crucial legal document as it establishes legal ownership and grants you specific rights, including selling the property. 

Different types of deeds exist, such as warranty and quitclaim deeds, with the closing company typically employing a warranty deed. This document ensures that you, the seller, have a clear title to the property. 

Check your state or local government website for deed accessibility, and contact your city or county's recorder's office if you can't find it online.

Final purchase agreement

The official contract outlines the conditions of the property sale, including price, closing date, and contingencies. It's legally binding when all parties have signed and met the required terms of the sale.

Final payoff

The final payoff refers to the ultimate payment made to the mortgage lender, HOA, or to clear any outstanding liens associated with the property. It's crucial to verify these amounts as they may have changed since the start of the transaction.

You can typically find your final payoff by contacting your mortgage lender, HOA, or the entity responsible for managing any liens on the property. They will provide you with the most up-to-date payoff amounts and instructions for completing the payments.

Remember to confirm any expiration dates for lien payoffs, as advised by Simonetti, the real estate expert based in Minnesota.

Getting ready to sell FSBO? Next steps

Navigate your state's requirements

FSBO paperwork and legal obligations may differ from state to state and location to location. We've compiled state-specific guides for more tailored advice.  

Review these guides and seek guidance from local experts such as title companies, attorneys, or real estate agents.

Post your home on the MLS

Ready to list your home? We highly recommend posting your listing on the multiple listing service (MLS). The MLS is a comprehensive database of homes for sale, providing exposure to a vast network of potential buyers. 

When you list on the MLS, your property doesn't just appear there; it's also shared across top real estate websites, including Zillow, maximizing your home's visibility.

Direct access to the MLS is exclusive to licensed real estate agents and brokers, presenting a challenge for FSBO sellers. But FSBO sellers can turn to a flat fee MLS listing service.

Speak with professionals

Professionals are well-versed in the necessary paperwork and requirements essential for a successful sale, and their expertise is often instrumental in reaching the closing stage.

For example, a title and escrow company plays a pivotal role in facilitating the transaction by managing the property transfer from the seller to the buyer. They also handle the financial aspects of the real estate transaction, including the loan, closing, and recordation processes. 

While retaining legal counsel will cost you, a lawyer's expertise can help prevent legal complications and ensure a smoother sales process. Explore the costs of hiring a real estate lawyer to make an informed decision.

Weigh the pros and cons of FSBO

Explore our comprehensive guide on selling without a realtor for more insights on maximizing your FSBO sale. Before proceeding, weigh the pros and cons of FSBO carefully. 

For example, our recent study revealed that 36% of sellers admitted to encountering legal issues due to the absence of an agent. Meanwhile, sellers using an agent sell for nearly $50,000 more on average than those selling FSBO, outweighing potential commission savings.[2]

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