real estate contracts and disclosures

Five Important Documents You Need to Sell Your Home

From the information you must supply to a potential home buyer to the documents you pass through the notary at closing, several documents are essential in the home selling process. Your real estate agent will handle most of the documents, such as the sale and purchase contract and the buyer’s pre-qualification letter. Some documents you’ll have to handle yourself. Having these documents ready should speed up the home sale process and avoid any last-minute delays.

Lien Holder Paperwork

The first thing you need to know when selling a home is how much you owe on your mortgage. While this figure has no bearing on the fair market valuation of your home,  it will give you an idea of how much of the offer price you will walk away with, cash, after paying off your mortgage debt. Early in the home selling process, ask your lender for the outstanding loan amount and any fees or penalties the lender will charge for early repayment of the mortgage. The buyer will want proof that your mortgage and other lien payments are up to date and that the lender has no cause for commencing foreclosure proceedings.

Title Documents

Your deed is proof that you own the home and have a valid title that you can turn over to the home buyer. In most cases, you will not need an original deed to sell your home. If you have misplaced the original, the county recorder can give you a certified copy of the deed for a small fee such as $5 or $10. The certified copy can service as the original deed.

Property tax and utility receipts

Tax and utility receipts prove that you have paid the expenses due on the home and that the buyer is not going to inherit any nasty surprises. The buyer will also want to see evidence of any special charges, such as the fee you pay to use the public sewer or for garbage collection, so he can assess his monthly housing costs. If you pay Homeowners’ Association dues, keep the receipts handy as well as the HOA Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions document and meeting minutes if you have them.

Seller’ Property Disclosures

The seller’s property disclosure form is a pre-printed sheet of around 40 to 50 questions. It tells the buyer everything he needs to know about:

  • the condition of the property, such as the age of the roof and the plumbing system
  • zoning, building code and Housing Association violations
  • access, highway and parking arrangements
  • legal relationships affecting the property such as a lease.

Seller’s property disclosures are relatively simple to fill out. The questions require “yes”/”no” or “not applicable” answers, with space to include additional information where relevant. Your agent will give you the disclosure form early in the home selling process.

Additional Disclosures

Depending on the type of property you are selling, you may be asked to supply some or all of the following disclosures as part of the home sale transactions:

  • Square footage disclosure — confirms that the property’s square-footage description in the listing particulars or sales brochure is accurate, and that you have evidence to back this up
  • Water disclosure — specifies where the source of water is for the property
  • Lead based paint disclosure — lead-based paint is a health-harming substance used with surprisingly frequency in older houses. Under federal law, sellers whose homes were constructed prior to 1978 must tell the buyer if they are aware of any lead-based paint in the property. You’ll also have to hand over a government pamphlet advising buyers of the dangers of lead paint.

A licensed real estate agent can let you know which disclosures are necessary for the home you are selling and generally guide you through the paperwork.

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