Whether you’re selling your home on your own or with the help of a real estate agent, there’s tons of paperwork involved. After all, it’s the biggest sale in most people’s lives. Read on to learn more about the documents you need and where to get them. You’ll also get the answers to frequently asked questions about how to sell your house yourself.
Where Can I Find The Right Paperwork To Sell My Home?
Before you start having showings of your home, you’ll need to line up all of the necessary paperwork. Different states have different regulations. What may be relevant in one state may not be applicable in another, so be sure to thoroughly research the local requirements. You can check your state and county government websites and fill in any cracks with information that can be found on the sites of your state land title association and local real estate agent associations.
If you need some help, a real estate attorney can provide this information for you and might take on your home sale at this point for a flat fee. You can also check out these do-it-yourself real estate forms and guides to get access to attorney-prepared, state-specific information that you can instantly download and start using.
What Documents Do I Need To Sell My Home?
While this varies by state, some examples of documents you may need to sell your home are:
Property survey: This is a legal document that shows the buyer the boundaries of your property. It also includes other details such as where any fences, driveways or other structures are located. This is typically ordered by the buyer.
Receipts and warranties: This information will help you document any new appliances, finishes and upgrades to your home.
Plans and permits: If you did any additions or upgrades, be sure to have the plans and/or permits handy.
Certificates of occupancy: These certificates show that your home is compliant with municipal building codes and is safe to inhabit. You’ll need to get this from your municipality, have the permit pulled, have the inspection done, do the repairs (if applicable) and then have your home re-inspected.
Loan documents: This document typically includes the first mortgage, second mortgage and any home equity lines of credit.
Latest utility bills: These bills show buyers the amount your household has paid for electricity, water and/or gas each month.
Latest property tax bill: This bill gives buyers an idea of what they will pay in taxes should they purchase your home.
Title: The title shows that you own a legal or equitable interest in the home.
Homeowners association covenants and agreements: This will show buyers the rules established by the body that governs your neighborhood or condominium. It can include information about parking, pets, noise levels and more.
Floor plan or blueprints, if available: This gives buyers more insight into the layout and size of each room in your home. One way to stand out to buyers is to play up anything about your home that may be historically significant, such as a framed blueprint or a newspaper article about the home.
Once you have all your documents gathered, have at least two copies of anything that pertains to the house or your ownership. This way they’re available to potential buyers to inspect when they visit your home.
How Do I Sell A House By Owner?
Selling your home is a big thing to take on, but you can see significant savings by doing it yourself. There are five main steps to take:
- Assess your home’s value
- Get your home ready for sale
- Promote your home’s sale
- Negotiate the sale
- Close on the sale
Let’s get into the details of what each of these means.
Assess Your Home’s Value
Before listing your home, you want to accurately determine its value. A home that’s listed over its value can deter buyers. Later on in the process, it could cause problems with a buyer’s mortgage lender if the appraisal comes in too low.
On the other hand, you don’t want to list your house too low because you won’t get its full value. So how do you figure out its proper value?
First, you can easily look up an estimate online. Sites like Rocket HomesSM offer free home value estimates. This gives you a general idea, though it may not be completely accurate.
For a small fee, For Sale By Owner offers Pro Pricing. A licensed professional will perform an in-depth evaluation on your home. Within 5 – 7 business days of visiting your home, you’ll have a detailed report.
The other avenue is to hire a licensed appraiser. Most will charge $300 – $500 for the appraisal. You can use this valuation in negotiations with buyers. Unfortunately, a buyer’s mortgage lender won’t accept this appraisal and will order another.
Get Your Home Ready For Sale
Before you consider putting your home on the market, you need to make sure it’s in tip-top shape. While you may have gotten used to your home’s quirks, a potential buyer may see them as faults.
Make minor repairs, touch up paint and marks on the walls, clean the carpets and declutter. Think about how you would clean if a celebrity or royalty came to visit.
You want buyers to see the full potential of the space. Make sure it smells clean and is sparkling.
If you’ve already started packing, make sure all boxes are in a storage area and out of the main living spaces. You could go a step further and rent a storage unit to keep your stuff while transitioning.
Promote Your Home’s Sale
It may sound old school, but start with a great yard sign to promote your home’s sale. People hunting for houses in your neighborhood will see it and make note of it.
Get your house listed. Start by listing on popular home listing sites, like ForSaleByOwner.com. If you want to take it a step further, pay to have your home listed on a multiple listing service (MLS). An MLS is a catalog of homes accessible to real estate brokers and agents. With a listing on an MLS, you’ll get more traffic.
Organize and host an open house. Advertise it on sites like Facebook and Craigslist. Place signs on major roads nearby to lead people to your home.
Negotiate The Sale
Once you get an offer in, you’ll need to negotiate. A buyer may offer below your asking price or ask for you to pay closing costs.
This is the stage where you’ll need documentation. Within days of accepting a buyer’s offer, you must get a copy of their mortgage approval. Once a buyer submits a written offer that’s acceptable to you, a written contract must be drawn up.
This contract will include price, closing concessions, closing date and location plus a list of contingencies. These contingencies protect the buyer and allow them to back out of the contract if things go awry. For instance, if there’s a problem discovered during a home inspection, a buyer will have the option to back out.
Close On The Sale
Depending on your state’s laws, the closing will either take place at a title company or a real estate attorney’s office. The date of closing is when the buyer and seller come together and finish the sale.
Your house doesn’t sell until this moment. Make sure to keep communication channels open between yourself, the buyer and the closing agent. When asked for documentation, provide it as soon as possible to keep the process moving.
Why Do I Need A Disclosure Statement?
Before any potential buyer visits your home, you’ll want to make sure you complete a disclosure statement and have copies available when you show your home or hold an open house.
Required by most states, the disclosure outlines key defects or dangers about the property. This might include, but isn’t limited to, radon, structural problems, flooding, mold, lead paint, asbestos and other potentially problematic conditions.
Disclosure typically comes in the form of boilerplate documents (put together by the local or state REALTOR® association), where the seller is responsible for answering a series of yes/no questions detailing their home and their experience in it. You should be able to download a disclosure statement form for free from your state’s REALTOR® association.
It’s only fair that the buyer knows about such problems before making an offer. At the same time, a thorough disclosure statement protects you from post-sale claims by the buyer that they didn’t know about defects in the house.
What Should Be Included In A Real Estate Contract?
Nothing is more critical to your home sale than preparing and executing a proper legal agreement between you and the buyer. This contract between the buyer and seller outlines the terms of the agreement and should include:
- Property and its characteristics: The type of property (condo, single family home, multiunit), address, lot size, parking, property identification number, etc.
- Identity of the parties involved: Typically the buyer and seller
- List of fixtures/personal property: What’s included in the purchase price
- Purchase price: The agreed-upon price of the home
- Earnest money amount and financing terms: The money paid to confirm the contract and details on the buyer’s financing
- Target closing date: The date intended for the home sale to occur
- Contingencies: Examples of this include attorney review, inspection provisions and/or a home sale/close contingency
- Prorations: What the seller and buyer owe on items such as taxes, assessments and utilities
- Title: What type of title clearance the seller is obligated to provide
- Closing costs: Which party must pay for which closing costs
- Notice or default legalese: What happens if a party breaches the contract
- Miscellaneous provisions: Any other provisions the parties agree on
Before that first offer comes in, be prepared. If you can’t give the buyer the proper documents or be able to fill out a contract on the spot, your offer could fall through.
Are There Closing Costs On Homes For Sale By Owner?
There will always be some sort of fee for you as the seller, even if you’re not using a real estate agent. The good news is that almost everything in a FSBO transaction is negotiable, though.
Something else to keep in mind is that closing costs will vary, sometimes quite a bit, by state. Some common examples of closing costs you can expect are a deed transfer tax, excise tax and document preparation. Sometimes you may also need to pay for the owner’s title policy.
If you want to ensure your home sale goes smoothly, you’ll need to be absolutely sure you have all the required paperwork and documents to sell your home in order. If you need more guidance, check out our packages for home sellers. We’re here to help!