Bureaucracy could be the worst ‘invention’ in human history. With everything else you need to do to close a sale, bureaucracy is the last thing you want to have on your mind. Unfortunately, there’s no escaping it, but the process can be simplified. That’s why we’ve provided a full checklist of the legal documents required to sell a house.
We hope this article can make the process clearer and get you one step closer to selling your property. However, there’s one caveat – some documents you are legally obligated to have, while some help the process go smoother and it can vary state by state. This article will focus on the documents needed to sell a house in California.
First, we should note that there are two types of documents needed to sell a house – the documents you’ll always need to provide and situational documents. The first category is not contingent on anything and you’ll always need to have them, while the second will depend on your specific situation. We have categorized them accordingly.
When you are selling a house in California, these are the documents you will always need to have for the sale to go through. Who prepares the documents is another matter – your agent or title company may take care of some of them, while you take care of the rest.
If you are selling personally, without an agent, expect that you will need to obtain them all. So here is the list of the legal documents required to sell a house:
You will need the original or a copy of the original sales agreement, including any addendums that were made. That is the document you signed when you purchased the house from the previous owner. It should clearly display the terms and conditions under which the property was bought and contain disclosures related to the property before the sale was completed.
So, this document includes who bought and who sold the house, where it is located, when it was sold, etc. The original purchase agreement also includes the price you paid for the real estate.
You will need the deed that proves that you are the rightful owner of the property. After the sale is complete, you will sign over the deed to the buyer, thereby making them the new owner of the property.
We should clarify that a deed and title are not the same. A deed is the physical, legal document that proves that you are the rightful owner of a property. The title is the legal concept that gives you the right of ownership over the property.
Thus, deeds are one of the legal documents required to sell a house, while titles are not. The original deed was signed over to you when you bought the house, that’s for sure. But assuming it was a long time ago, you might not be able to find it.
If you can’t, go to your city’s or county’s registrar of deeds or court clerk’s office (the exact name of the government office varies by location). That is where the deed is recorded and they will be able to give you a copy.
You will also need an affidavit of title. The affidavit is not the same document as the deed. The affidavit is a statement of fact – a document that needs to be notarized, wherein you swear that you are the owner of the property (that’s where the confusion with the deed comes from), that the property is not currently being sold to a third party, that there are no liens or unpaid taxes, and that you are not in bankruptcy proceedings.
This document will include all the costs associated with the sale, so the closing costs, and an agreement on who is responsible to pay for them – you as the seller or your buyer. Your agent or the title company will usually prepare this document.
The bill of sale should include both the seller’s and buyer’s information. It will list what was included in the sale and the final price that was agreed upon. This document is typically prepared by your lawyer or real estate agent with the buyer’s lawyer or agent.
What documents from this category you’ll need to have will depend on your exact situation and possibly what the buyer requests. You could need (and if you want to be on the safe side, you should) the following documents to sell a house:
If a home inspection was conducted, you’ll want to have the documents on hand. More than likely, your buyer will also have done an inspection so you should have the documents from your own inspection to compare and find any inconsistencies, if necessary.
A home inspection report is generally not obligatory real estate documentation for you, the seller. But imagine this situation - your buyer performs an inspection and claims you have a leaky roof that needs to be replaced.
So they want a concession - you should lower your price by 5k. Wouldn’t you want to have your own expert perform an inspection so that you can make a counter-offer? This kind of situation could be repeated with multiple buyers, which is why it's advisable to have a professional report you can refer to.
A home appraisal is typically required by a lender before they approve a mortgage loan. So, if you are selling your house, the bank will have a professional appraisal done to assess the current fair market value of your property.
However, you will likely also need to produce the home appraisal report from the time you purchased the home. The original appraisal will likely also need to be supplemented with documents that include any major changes you made to the home - specifically changes that substantially increase (or decrease) the value of the property.
This document is used to prove where the property lines are and your buyer may request to see the survey results. You can also use an affidavit that verifies a previous survey that was conducted.
If you have taken out a mortgage on your home, you will need a document that proves how much is still owed and if there are any additional fees. If the mortgage is paid in full, the document should prove that. We should note that your current mortgage balance may not be the same as your payoff amount.
Ask your lender to provide you with the full payoff amount - they are legally obligated to do so.
When you are selling an inherited property, you will need to provide documentation that proves that the home belongs to you. This could include wills and trusts, or any other documents that prove you are the rightful owner.
If the property you are selling is part of a Home Owners Association, you will need to supply the rules, regulations, codes, documents related to monthly/annual fees, etc. that apply to your HOA.
If you have done any major repairs or renovations that have increased the value of your property, you should have documents proving it. These documents can demonstrate the added value and increase the cost basis of your house, which can lower the capital gains tax you’ll eventually have to pay.
Your buyer may request the home warranty services agreement that explicitly lists what is covered by warranty, for how long, and whether there are any costs associated with it.
Finally, you will possibly need documents disclosing anything that could affect the buyer’s desire to buy the house. By law, you need to disclose all “material facts” related to your house.
The real estate transfer disclosure statement is the general document that is used. You should list all known issues with your home in it, like malfunctioning appliances, if lead-based paint was used, whether there is any water damage, etc.
You may also need to provide a natural hazard disclosure statement. This is only applicable if your property is on or near any mapped area where natural hazards are likely, such as seasonal flooding, wildfires, if the home is in an airport influence area, if the home is located on fault lines - thus earthquakes happen, etc.
If it is, that’s understandable. If you decide to sell your home to SleeveUp Homes, we will take care of almost all of the legal documents required to sell your house for you and you can always contact us if you are still unsure about anything. Even with the mounds of paperwork needed, you can close within 7 days.
We are not wholesalers, don’t work with realtors, and do all of the repairs in-house, which is why we can offer you top dollar for your property, regardless of the state it’s in. Request an offer and if we make a deal, you can get $10 000 in advance, before you close.
If you want to sell fast and are worried about how long the traditional process takes, and the commission and fees involved, consider working with SleeveUp Homes.