Organizing Paperwork for Your Home Sale

Being organized is key to a successful (and sane) home sale.

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Here is a list of the key files you’ll need when selling your house. In many cases, you will only have hard copies; but it’s a good idea to keep a note in your files of where to find a particular piece of information online (such as websites of stagers you’re considering using). Also, note materials that are in your safe deposit box or your attorney’s office.

Documents You'll Need to Prepare

Create folders with relevant titles for each of the following and keep them in a locking file cabinet or somewhere secure. The exact files you need will vary by state and local real estate practice (check with a real estate lawyer or real estate agent), but here are some of the main ones:

  • the original sales contract for your house, with the purchase price
  • documents related to title and ownership of your home, including a property survey, certificate of occupancy, certificates of compliance with building and zoning codes, and the like
  • mortgage and financing documents
  • tax records you may need to provide the buyer, such as real estate, school, and other tax information
  • the professional appraisal done when you bought your house and any documented changes to the appraisal since then
  • records regarding your homeowners’ insurance
  • reports of any professional inspections done before putting your house up for sale
  • receipts and documentation of improvements you’ve made to your house, such as adding a new bathroom (see the Nolo article Determining Your Home’s Tax Basis for an overview of how good records of improvements can help reduce taxes when you sell your house)
  •  home repair and maintenance records (although maintenance will not figure into your tax basis)
  • manuals and warranty information (you may be including major appliances as part of your sale)
  • details on different real estate agents you are considering working with
  • if you are in a homeowner’s association, all related documents, such as CC&Rs (see the Nolo article on preparing documents for selling a HOA home), and
  • anything else relevant to your sale (such as a file on the builder if you are selling a newly built home).

 After You Sign a Listing Agreement

Once you sign a listing agreement with an agent to sell your house, your agent will help you figure out other paperwork and documents you’ll need at various points in the process of selling your home. These will include:

  • a file for your real estate agent, including the listing agreement and written communications
  • details on various professionals you may be working with throughout the home sale process, including stagers, contractors, electricians,  plumbers, auction houses, and movers.
  • files for your lawyer (especially if a lawyer will be actively involved in your transaction as is typical in several states, such as New York)
  • files for your accountant or tax professional.
  • prices of comparable houses (see the Nolo article How a Comparative Market Analysis Helps Sellers Price Their Home for details
  • ads, listing sheets, and marketing materials on  your house
  • disclosures (see the Nolo article Required Disclosures When Selling U.S. Real Estate for more on the subject)
  • purchase offers from prospective buyers and all relevant material, such as documents regarding buyers’ removal of financial, inspection, and other contingencies
  • the buyer’s inspection reports
  • and much more, such as paperwork regarding title insurance and documents you’ll need for the closing.
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