Organizing Paperwork for Your Home Sale

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

By , Legal Editor

As if packing your boxes weren't enough, selling your house will involve gathering and keeping safe various forms of paperwork, mostly for communication with the buyer and to assure a smooth transfer. You'll thank yourself later!

Documents You'll Need to Prepare Pre-Sale

To handle documents you keep in hard copy form rather than digitally, create folders with relevant titles. Exactly what documents you will need will vary by state and local real estate practice, but here are some of the main ones likely:

  • details on different real estate agents you are considering working with
  • 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, and certificates of compliance with building and zoning codes
  • mortgage and financing documents (paying off your mortgage, if any remains, will need to occur as part of the closing)
  • tax records you might need to provide the buyer, such as real estate, school, and other tax information
  • 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 Determining Your Home's Tax Basis for an overview of how keeping records of improvements can help reduce capital gains tax obligations after you sell your house)
  • home repair and maintenance records (although maintenance will not figure into your tax basis)
  • manuals and warranty information (you might be including major appliances as part of your sale)
  • if you are in a homeowner's association, all related documents, such as CC&Rs (see 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).

Your real estate agent or attorney can help you with final preparation of these documents.

Marketing Materials Your Real Estate Agent Should Help Prepare

Once you sign a listing agreement with an agent to sell your house, your agent will help you figure out and prepare other paperwork and documents you'll need at various points in the process of selling your home, in some cases purely for your information, in other cases for marketing or related purposes. These will include:

  • details on various professionals you might be working with throughout the home sale process, such as stagers, contractors, electricians, plumbers, auction houses, and movers
  • files for your lawyer (especially if one will be actively involved in your transaction, as is typical in some states, such as New York)
  • files for your accountant or tax professional
  • final sale prices of comparable houses that were recently on the market (see How a Comparative Market Analysis Helps Sellers Price Their Home for details)
  • ads, listing sheets, and marketing materials on your house
  • disclosures (see 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, and
  • much more, such as paperwork regarding title insurance and documents you'll need for the closing.

Again, the volume of paper that could be flying around means you'll want to get organized early, and keep this someplace accessible, where you can find what you need when you need it.

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