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How Much Paperwork Is Needed to Sell a House Without a Realtor?

Imagine you're selling your home and a friendly person appears at your door with a stack of papers more than a foot high. "This is all the paperwork you'll need to sell this house," they say. Doesn't that sound nice? This guide outlines all the paperwork you'll need to sell—and a way to make it easier.
Paperwork to Sell House

Every home seller has the same basic goal in mind: to complete the legal sale of a house. The problem? Paperwork.

The devil, as they say, is in the details. Guidelines, rules, and restrictions for property sales vary so widely from state to state that no comprehensive guide for every last jurisdiction in the United States exists. It's a necessary hurdle in the seeming obstacle course of selling a house.

Before we proceed, one way to effectively flatten the mound of paperwork involved is to work with a low-commission selling agent. Choose this option and the most you're likely to endure is a conversation or two with your real estate agent, the buyer, and the buyer's agent. Here we'll show you just how complicated the paperwork can get so you're prepared for when those talks happen.

Stage One: Pre-Listing

Launch Prep Documents

While it's not theoretically possible to put together all the documentation you need absent a buyer, the bulk of these documents can and should be prepared before you list your house online.

When you think back to when you bought the house you're trying to sell, certain select documents may spring to mind. Among these are the sales contract and the appraisal you signed at the time of purchase (be advised you'll also need to get the home re-appraised by a professional before selling). The appraisal sums up the value of the house being sold, and the sales contract confirms that it originally was bought under legal terms.

Besides the sales contract and appraisal, a slew of more recent documents awaits your discovery. Among these are your mortgage statement (if you have one); home repair and maintenance records; utility bills showing 12-month averages chiefly for heating and cooling costs; and finally any manuals and warranties you still have pertaining to household appliances like washers and dryers.

Lastly, you'll need to present evidence that you had homeowner's insurance and belonged to the HOA—the Homeowners Association. These documents will let the eventual buyer know what sort of damages, if any, your house sustained under your auspices.

Launch Documents

Here there is good news on two fronts: not only will a good real estate agent help with the above documents, in most cases, they'll generate reports that communicate to buyer and seller alike why the house is listed at market price. This latter type of documentation covers both the state of the broader real estate market as well as more detailed items factoring into the net value of your house.

Before launch, you (and whichever agent you may decide to work with) also should sign a listing agreement. As a contract, this document sets forth terms for the rights to use marketing materials both around your home (like signage) and from your home. Deliverables like a photograph of your kitchen or a written description of its washing machine would be fair game under a listing agreement.

Stage Two: On Market

Pre-Offer Documents

For starters, you'll need not only the title to the house but also what's called a Preliminary Title Report, a summary document that warns you of any existing conditions that would hamper your sale. Then there are disclosure documents which vary by state. These in effect warn the buyer if there are pieces of equipment, systems, items, or environmental conditions which have or may in the future pose detriments to living conditions.

No matter the order you settle on, the pre-offer document most relevant to the final stages of the sale is the Pre-Inspection Report. Though this document is optional, it acts as a precedent to the Home Inspection late-stage prospects no doubt will hire out. It's a good idea to get your own home inspected, if only to present a more honest front to possible buyers.

Post-Offer Documents

So you've received an offer. What happens if it's not enough? In that case, you'll want to send back a counteroffer form, a buffer for negotiations.

Then, once a price is agreed upon, you and the buyer will get together on a Final Purchase and Sales Agreement. This document is a legally binding contract that outlines all the terms of the sale. That way, there are no surprises on the final stretch.

Stage Three: At Close

In order to put the finishing touches on the sale, the buyer first will get the house inspected, a process which can take up to a week. In that time frame, many sellers also have their house evaluated by a professional appraiser. Together the inspection and appraisal set a definite record for each transacting party going into closing.

Two last documents remain—the first of these being the receipts from your most recent property taxes. With these receipts in hand, the likely buyer will know beyond a shred of doubt how much money will be owed for property taxes in the coming fiscal year. Once that document is sent, you can sign the closing statement, the happy report which shows your net profit on the sale.

Now What?

The above steps should be taken more as guidelines than gospel for selling your home. On paper, moving a house can seem daunting, especially if this is your first time on the sales end. It can't be emphasized enough: the intricacies of property sales will always matter—no matter how much you want to sell, how nice a property you're selling, or even how well you know the buyer.

But still, there is the house. How should you go about selling it? If you're ready to start and would like to speed up the sales process, contact a Clever Partner Agent.


Thomas O'Shaughnessy
Thomas O'Shaughnessy

Tommy O'Shaughnessy is the Head of Research at Clever Real Estate, the free online service that connects you with top local agents to save on commission. Tommy's team of data scientists create surveys, gather data, and analyze trends in housing, real estate, and personal finance. He directs public relations efforts, acting as a "data communicator" between his team and the press. Clever studies have been featured in Politico, the LA Times, CNBC, Forbes, Yahoo Finance, and other publications.

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