The Paperwork Needed to Sell a Home

What Paperwork is Needed at Closing?Even in the digital age, specific documents are necessary for certain transactions, and selling a home is a prime example. The need for paper copies, sometimes a bulging folder of transactions spanning several years and multiple owners, is the hallmark of a closing in most states. Knowing in advance what documents will be needed will simplify your path to selling, and ease the transition for the new owner.

Collect Pertinent Paperwork

In addition to the property deed that establishes your ownership and a certified copy of the filed plat or survey, you will want to have available a variety of documents that relate not only to your ownership, but to the property itself. State regulations define what is needed for selling a home in specific locations, such as Minnesota, but in general, you will need some or all of the following:

  • Documents relating to your purchase of the property, including original sales contract and settlement statement
  • Mortgage and financial records
  • Tax records, showing that all assessments and payments are current
  • Insurance documentation, particularly any records relating to claims and/or losses
  • Your initial appraisal, including documented improvements, if applicable
  • A list of improvements, updates, renovations, repairs and replacements made during your ownership, including both structural and cosmetic improvements, and actual dates and costs
  • Manuals and information related to any warranties that will transfer to a new owner
  • Reports of any inspections or treatments that you ordered in preparation for selling; i.e., a termite inspection, roofing assessment, or heating and air conditioning check

An absence of these documents can cause delays in selling a home. Your real estate agent will most likely have a list of additional backup documents that would be nice to have. If there is a neighborhood association, you should provide a copy of the covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) that govern operations, as well as the association’s most recent financial statement showing how dues are used.

Depending on the age of the home and whether or not you purchased it new, you might want to provide your Certificate of Occupancy or final inspection report from local authorities, showing compliance with building codes and restrictions. Information on the builder or developer would also be pertinent.

Also compile a month-by-month spreadsheet showing utility payments made over the course of a year. Prospective buyers always find that data valuable.

Keep Records Organized

Selling a Minnesota home is a business transaction. If you are organized at the outset, the process should be smooth. Interview several real estate agents before you sign a listing agreement; consult with a legal adviser and tax accountant. Be sure you have access to the records you will need. Finally, determine how long you must retain specific records and whether or not you can transfer some documents to digital files.

Start a separate file for seller-related documents and services, including your real estate agent interview notes and financial records of expenditures that relate to the sale. Payments for landscaping and home maintenance, inspections and repairs, staging and final cleaning all add to your “cost basis” and should be retained for tax purposes. Details of paint colors, appliance models, product specifications and the like can be left for a new owner, or kept as separate records for your own future use. Depending on your future plans, you might want to start a card file of service providers or local contacts.

Maintain a separate file for originals of any documents you sign at closing and follow professional advice about how long to retain such records. There are some documents best kept indefinitely, while others should be retained between three and seven years. And because of the memories it holds for you and your family, consider keeping a digital file of photographs along with the paperwork. Scan documents into the photo file as well for record-keeping ease.

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