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Legal Steps to Selling a House

written by: W. A. Swan•edited by: Jason C. Chavis•updated: 6/29/2011

If you are selling your house you already know about the physical steps needed to get ready for the sale. Do you know how to sell a house, legal steps and other factors as well?

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    When people mention selling a house thoughts often include cleaning up the house, showings, the ads and open houses and all of the visual physical details. What is often overlooked are the legal details involved in selling a house. To sell a house certain legal steps must be taken to ensure a proper transfer and that nothing causes headaches for either the buyer or the seller later after the contract is signed. How to sell a house, legal steps and the right advertising is essential to the real estate market.

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    Hire the Lawyer

    The first legal step to sell a house is to hire a lawyer. This is usually done in conjunction with finding a real estate agent to market the house for you. To successfully sell a house the lawyer handles most of the legal steps and paperwork. In this way you are covered against any litigation. They can also refer you to a reputable title agency to conduct the title search, which the seller also hires.

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    Research Disclosure Laws

    State real estate laws vary by intensity, meaning that California demands very detailed disclosure while Pennsylvania isn't as strict. Most states require sellers to disclose potential problems of which they are aware. There are states that require sellers to initiate specific inspections such as termite or roach inspections. While most states do not require hiring a professional inspection service, this is a good step to take to avoid potential legal problems later; be prepared to include the inspection report in the disclosure.

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    The Paperwork

    Sellers must provide various forms for buyers before the contract is signed. Written disclosures stating what problems come with the house must be dated and signed by both buyer and seller. Forms stating transfer of a clean dead, dead search and tax information are also handled by the seller. Warnings as set forth in your state statutes must be written into the sales contract. Signed statements verifying compliance with legal requirements must be obtained by the seller from every party involved; this includes any lawyers, buyers or real estate persons. Copies of all files and forms related to the sale should be maintained by the seller for three years in case there is a legal challange to the sale after documents are finalized.

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    Settle the Closing Costs

    Once the buyer closes on the purchase of the house, the seller may be responsible for paying the fees of everyone involved; these are called closing costs. These fees include the real estate broker commisions, legal fees, property taxes up to the closing date, transfer fees and taxes and the cost of title insurance. All liens currently held on the property must be paid before any proceeds are handed to the seller.

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    Once you have taken all of the legal steps in selling your house you can be assured the ability to walk away from it cleanly. Remember, selling your house is one of the biggest business decisions a person will make.