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Selling Your Home Yourself? Don't Get Lost Under This Mound of Paperwork!

written by: •edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 8/2/2011

State laws often govern which documents need to be provided to someone purchasing a home. For those who are considering listing their home for sale by owner, documents become even more critical to ensure that the proper disclosures are provided and the contract is properly done.

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    Prior to Availability

    For Sale by Owner For those who are considering selling their home without using a real estate professional, there are some things that will need to be done before putting up the for sale by owner sign. Gathering the documents that a potential buyer will want to see will be an important first step in the sales process. Buyers should have the following documents that apply to the property available for potential buyers:

    Copy of current deed - Homeowners should request a copy of their current deed as this will be necessary for a number of things including identifying the county that the property is located in, confirming the current ownership of the property and determining the legal address of the property.

    When condominiums are involved - Those who are selling a condominium will need additional documentation to list their home for sale. The potential buyer(s) will need to see the current association documents, as well as know what the monthly fees are (if applicable) for the property. Restrictions in the association documents may sway a buyer to not pursue the property.

    Property tax bill - Having a current property tax bill allows the buyer to determine the amount of the current property taxes. It will also allow them to understand how the town has assessed the property.

    In addition to these documents, there are other documents that are required by law. These include (but may not be limited to) lead paint disclosures, home hazard disclosures and seller disclosures. Seller disclosures generally consist of a list of items that are in the home that the seller intends to leave in the property when they sell the property. Homeowners may need to check with their local Attorney General or other state offices for state specific disclosures that may be required.

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    Contract Preparation Requirements

    contract During the contract process it is probably a good idea to seek legal assistance. Depending on the individual state, there may be specific clauses that are necessary. Nearly all states will require that the sales contract be notarized as well. Sellers should determine if their state laws require a right to rescind as part of the for sale by owner documents. Types of information that should be included in the contract include:

    Amount of deposit - Any deposit that a buyer has placed on the property should be included in the contract. Sellers should keep in mind that the contract format is a purchase and sale and should contain all relevant information.

    Address of property - Real estate contracts should include the legal address of the residence. In addition to the street address, legal information regarding the property location (available from the deed) should be included.

    Contingency clauses - Both the buyer and seller may agree to certain contingency clauses. Contingency clauses define the amount of time the seller has to obtain financing, specify the seller's legal right to have the property inspected and under what conditions the buyer and the seller may break the contract. State law often governs the time periods that are allowed for property inspections and breaking the contract.

    There are other important clauses that should be included in the contract, including the buyer's right to enter the property, when the seller plans to move so the buyer may move in, and notes about defects in the property that the buyer has been made aware of prior to signing a purchase and sale agreement. Remember, this contract is a legal document and must contain all of the legally required information that has an impact on the sale of the home.

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    Closing the Deal

    for sale by owner When the buyer has secured financing, the seller may still be required to provide certain information for the closing. These may include (but may not be limited to) tax bills, proof of insurance and a copy of any escrow agreements (e.g., for the buyer's deposit). Even those who are selling their home on their own will require an attorney at the closing to ensure that all of the necessary legal documents are in order and meet not only state laws but the requirements of a lender.

    Those who are considering selling their home on their own should review their state laws to determine exactly what legal documentation is required, determine if any special inspections (pest, electrical septic etc.) must be done, and determine what rights or responsibilities of both involved parties must be included in the purchase and sale agreement. While using the for sale by other method may save a real estate professional's fee, sellers should still consult with an attorney to ensure that all requirements are met.

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    1. US Air Force Academy Legal Office
    2. Realtor Magazine - Handouts for Consumers/Handouts for Converting FSBOs
    3. US Legal Forms - Legal Forms for Home Sales and Contract of Sales

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