What Documents and Paperwork Do Sellers Need When Listing Their Home for Sale?

Updated on May 3, 2016
MarleneB profile image

Marlene is a California real estate broker/REALTOR®, selling property since 1989. California Bureau of Real Estate License #01056418.

Sellers, make sure you have all the documents you need when selling your home.
Sellers, make sure you have all the documents you need when selling your home. | Source

Call Them Documents or Paperwork - You Still Need a Copy

I don’t know how many trees are logged to produce the amount of paperwork that goes into every real estate transaction. And, I don’t know about other states, but I do know that in California, every real estate transaction requires approximately 180 sheets of paper. And, if you’re my client, I’m going to make sure you have every piece of paper you’re entitled to have, and then some.

In today’s world, a lot of transactions can be handled digitally, nevertheless everyone is entitled to receive the information they need in order to make the best decisions possible.

A Short Story About Paperwork

I'm big on getting everything in writing and handing a copy to my client. I had a client once who was an amazing guy. At the same time, he was an experienced investor who had his own ideas of how things should be done. We were sitting in the conference room discussing a particular matter that had to do with a transaction he was considering. He explained how he wanted to proceed with the transaction. I mentioned that he probably shouldn’t make a certain decision because XYZ might happen. He said, “Yeah, but what are the odds of it happening?” I told him that it could, indeed happen and if it did, it would be tragic. The client made his decision against my advice. I then signed and handed him some paperwork which noted that he acted against my advice. Well, guess what? “It” happened! A lawsuit ensued. Everyone who was a party to the transaction was named in the lawsuit except me. It was a case that made the national news headlines. The result of the lawsuit is that some people went to jail, some people lost their license, and some people incurred monetary penalties.

In this story, I represented the buyer who was the person who initiated the lawsuit. The seller was the party who incurred monetary damage. The buyer was able to win the lawsuit because he had every piece of paper imaginable to prove his case. Let me also point out that the buyer didn't walk away overly compensated. In fact, he wasn't even 100% whole after the transaction. The point is, the buyer had a ton of paperwork to support his claim.

That’s the short version of the story. There are details about this story too intrinsic to explain, but I mention this story to reiterate the fact that a lot of paperwork comes out of every transaction, and as a seller you want every piece of paper that is due to you, because you never know what might happen at the end of a transaction. You want to be prepared to show paperwork that supports your position.

Make Sure You Get a Copy!

Agents are required by law to keep documents for a prescribed minimum time, but it’s a good idea that you, the seller, have your own copy in your files.

What Sellers Need Before They Decide to List the House for Sale

Sellers, before you make the decision to list your house for sale, you need your agent to provide very important documents. For starters, you need to see a Comparative Market Analysis, Preliminary Title Report, Seller’s Net Sheet, and Proposed Marketing Plan.

  • Comparative Market Analysis ( also known as CMA)
    The comparative market analysis is a report that your agent generates for you. This document contains information about other homes in your neighborhood that are similar to your home. The comparative market analysis shows homes that are currently for sale, homes with sales pending, and homes that have sold. Averaging up all the numbers, the comparative market analysis is used to give you a general idea of what your house might be worth on the real estate market if it is listed for sale in the immediate market.
  • Preliminary Title Report (also known as Prelim)
    The Preliminary Title Report is a document that shows who the owners are, what taxes are owed on the property, what type of liens are recorded on your property, and any type of covenants or conditions recorded on your property. There may be other important information reported about your property. Basically, you need the Preliminary Title Report to know ahead of time, whether there is anything reported as negative or needing attention on your property before you begin the sales process.
  • Seller’s Net Sheet
    The Seller’s Net Sheet is a document that sums up all of the expenses and money to be received at the time your house is sold. The result of the Seller’s Net Sheet is just an estimate, but the information should be reliable enough to give you an idea of how much money you can expect to receive at the end of the sale.
  • Proposed Marketing Plan
    The Proposed Marketing Plan is something every seller should receive from their agent. This document lets the seller know all of the activities involved with selling the house. The Proposed Marketing Plan lets the seller know how often the agent intends to hold open houses, broker tours, advertising, and virtually everything the seller needs to know about how the house will be marketed.

Get Your Paperwork Before You Put Your House on the Market

Before putting your house on the market, get the paperwork signed by all parties and then get your copy.
Before putting your house on the market, get the paperwork signed by all parties and then get your copy. | Source

What Sellers Need When They Decide to List The House for Sale

It would seem obvious that the seller would have a listing agreement, but I know of a case right now where one of the executors of a property has not even seen the listing agreement, yet the house is on the market being sold. It happens! Make sure you get a copy of the Listing Agreement, Mandatory Disclosures, Contingency Removals, and Inspection Reports.

  • Listing Agreement
    The listing agreement lists all the terms of the agreement between you and your agent, along with other brokers and agents (considered sub-agents in California) who will be showing your house to potential buyers. The Listing Agreement includes the price, commission to be paid, how the property will be showed, whether or not there will be a lockbox and signage. Virtually everything you need to know about the selling aspect of your house should be contained in the listing agreement.
  • Mandatory Disclosures
    I cannot state factually for other states, but in California all sellers are legally required to disclose information that may be of interest to the buyer. Make sure that you receive your copy of all disclosures signed by you, your agent, and the buyer’s acknowledgement that he or she received a copy of the disclosures.


Contingencies are specific issues in the contract that could hold up the sale.

  • Contingency Removals Contingency removals are documents which show that contingencies have been removed. You want written proof that contingencies are removed and you want a copy for your files.
  • Inspection Reports Inspection reports are reports such as home inspections, pest inspections, pool inspections, basically, any inspection that has been completed on the house during the time the house has been for sale. Even if the buyer pays for the report, as the seller, it is wise to obtain a copy of the report for your files.

What Sellers Need When the House is Sold

At the end of the sale, your state or region may have different procedures for getting the Seller’s Closing Statement. Depending on where you reside, this document may be called by a different name and may come from the Escrow Company, Title Company, or your real estate attorney.

  • Seller’s Closing Statement
    The Seller’s Closing Statement shows the net result of the money the buyer paid for the house minus the cost of selling your house. The net result is how much money you get to put in your pocket.

Table of Documents or Paperwork at a Glance

It is likely that if you’re working with a competent REALTOR®, you will receive all of the documents required. Your state or region may have different names for each document. Regardless of what the document is called, the information contained in the document is what is important.

What the Seller Needs…

Before The Seller Decides to List the House for Sale
When The Seller Decides to List the House for Sell
When the House is Sold
Comparative Market Analysis (CMA)
Listing Agreement
Seller’s Closing Statement
Preliminary Title Report (Prelim)
Mandatory Disclosures
Seller’s Net Sheet
Contingency Removals
Proposed Marketing Plan
Inspection Reports
Your state or region may have different names for these documents.

More Information Leads to Better Decisions

It might seem overwhelming to see all of the paperwork involved in listing your home for sale, and while you may receive additional paperwork throughout your particular transaction, the paperwork mentioned in this article is the minimal amount required to:

  • Determine if you want or need to sell your house
  • Know how much it will cost to sell your house
  • Know how much money you will receive when your house is sold

Before Listing Your House, Get the Paperwork in Your Hands

There is a lot of paperwork involved in listing a house for sale, and you want every piece of paper you can get your hands on.
There is a lot of paperwork involved in listing a house for sale, and you want every piece of paper you can get your hands on. | Source

Keep the above-mentioned things in mind when you’re thinking about selling your house and even if you don’t remember the document by name, remember to ask your agent to show you how much it is going to cost to sell your house and how much you’re going to receive when the house sells. Ask your agent to put it all in writing. It is the act of putting things in writing that gives you the best chance of obtaining all the paperwork you’re entitled to receive.

Video: In the Market - Out of the Market

This is absolutely the BEST explanation about why some houses sit on the market for a long time, and why some houses sell quickly.

Is Your Home In or Out of the Market?

I’d like to mention that no trees were harmed in the creation of this hub!

Marlene Bertrand is a Broker/REALTOR®.
Calif. Bureau of Real Estate Lic. #01056418.

Questions & Answers

    © 2013 Marlene Bertrand


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      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 10 months ago from USA

        Hello Johannes Namibia. Thank you for responding to my article about what documents are required when listing a home for sale. I see your question, but I am not sure what you are asking. Could you provide more information so I can be as thorough as possible in my response? Thank you.

      • profile image

        Johannes Namibia 10 months ago

        How about seeling a Lodge?

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 2 years ago from USA

        Hi Glenis! What a great success story. I don't think it has ever been that easy to buy a house in California. They say California is a sue-happy state so it is always best to document everything in case you need it.

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 2 years ago from USA

        You are not alone, Robin. There are so many documents involved with selling a house that it is a little difficult to keep up.

      • Glenis Rix profile image

        GlenR 2 years ago from UK

        Selling a house in the USA appears to be much more complicated than selling one here in the UK. I found a buyer for my father's, following his recent death, in one week:

        The house Deeds had been lodged with Dad's solicitor, along with his Will. I simply needed to provide the Death Certificate and proof of my identity. I appointed an Estate Agent, who worked for a fixed fee of £1000. He advertised the property on the Right Move website and let a few clients already on his books know about it. In the meantime we had an Energy Performance Certificate prepared (legal requirement) and I put 'owners' information on the Zoopla website. Buyer found within 7 days. She is having a survey carried out and completion of the sale due to take place within 4 weeks. Incredibly lucky!

      • RobinGrosswirth23 profile image

        Robin Grosswirth 2 years ago from New York

        Marlene, clear and understandable information . I am in the process now of selling my house and I see I missed a few things already. Wish I read this beforehand. Thank you.

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 2 years ago from USA

        Hi Stephanie. I have been on both sides of the transaction as a consumer. I think that helps a lot when working with clients. I simply think about the things I would want to know. By the way, congratulations on the sale of your house. I hope things went well.

      • StephanieBCrosby profile image

        Stephanie Bradberry 2 years ago from New Jersey

        This is such a timely hub for me. My house literally just sold, and it is much different when you are trying to sell then when you are buying. There are many things I wish I knew before selling my house. I hope many read this article.

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 2 years ago from USA

        Bill you are such an inspiration to me. Thank you on many levels for you support.

      • Kristen Howe profile image

        Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

        Nice to meet you Marlene. My pleasure.

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 2 years ago from USA

        Hello Kristen Howe and thank you for the vote of confidence. Your feedback encourages me and makes me hopeful that the information is useful to sellers who may need to know what is required before, during, and after selling their home.

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 2 years ago from USA

        Hello RTalloni . Thank you. You are so kind to share such positive feedback. Your support is inspirational.

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 2 years ago from USA

        Hello word55. Thank you for your feedback. You are so right about the mold issue. Claiming "Unknown" is a real issue here and as I see, everywhere. Inspections are always a good idea, then you have a professional who knows what to look for in certain conditions.

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 2 years ago from USA

        Hello ChitrangadaSharan. And, thank you for your support. It means a lot to me.

      • Kristen Howe profile image

        Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

        Congrats on the HOTD, Merlene. This was a great hub for every home owner should look into, when they want to sell their home. Voted up!

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        I love it when my friends get HOTD...congratulations, Marlene!

      • RTalloni profile image

        RTalloni 2 years ago from the short journey

        Congratulations on your Hub of the Day award for this useful and interesting post!

      • word55 profile image

        Word 2 years ago from Chicago

        Hi MarleneB, Congrats on HOTD, I like how you explained about the importance of paperwork involved with a seller listing a home for sale. A sharp real estate agent/broker does his/her best to protect self and selling or buying clients. I liked how you avoided involvement in the lawsuit. I want to point out too that with all the heavy storms and rain water we've been getting, all parties involved in buying and selling need to be aware of mold showing up in the premises. Buyers are not having homes rightfully inspected for that. Sellers can get away by claiming "they are not aware of mold in their property." At least, this is happening in Illinois. The hazzard of Lead in the home is logged the same way. Anyway, thanks for sharing this special information. God bless!

      • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

        Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

        Came back to congratulate you for HOTD and read your informative and well presented hub again.

        Well deserved and thanks for sharing!

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 3 years ago from USA

        Oh yes, PegCole17, add the loan documents and now you have TWO tons of paperwork. I'm glad you have the mind to seek out the advice of a professional who is well versed on such matters and that the professional was able put things in order for you.

      • PegCole17 profile image

        Peg Cole 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

        Just this week I was involved in the sale of Real property. Your advice about Murphy's Law is really important. If it might happen, it's likely to happen when you least expect it. Your story about the flaw in the closing where you were exempt from liability is really important to heed. Thank goodness you got it in writing.

        As a former loan closing agent for a mortgage company, I'm pretty familiar with the volume of paperwork that is required for a complete loan package. One item I was not clear about is the one that affected our sale negatively. The property is in a Life Estate which would have caused some financial issues for a family member if sold at this time.

        Thankfully, I contacted a CPA before we went through with the sale.

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from USA

        Hello rcorcutt. Thank you for reading and for leaving a comment. I hope this information helps people know the minimum amount of documents needed for their sales transactions.

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from USA

        Thank you, DDE. Your feedback means a lot. It's surprising to me how many people don't receive the documents that are required in their transactions. When I heard someone say they had a house for sale and didn't even see the listing agreement, I was astonished and was prompted to write this hub. I figured it could help someone in the future.

      • profile image

        rcorcutt 4 years ago

        Very informative. Great HUB. I am sure to use some of this info in the future.

      • DDE profile image

        Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

        What Documents and Paperwork Do Sellers Need When Listing Their Home for Sale? An informative and very useful hub about this topic, you certainly did your research and presented a well approached hub

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from USA

        Eric, my friend, you are always welcome to stop by for a visit. I always pay good attention to you because your advice is always good advice.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Sorry, I came back because -- I did say, "hold on here that is a great lesson for all of life". I reckon it is like good neighbors having good fences. Or that crazy psychobabble about boundaries ;-)

        Bet you did not figure a life coaching moment here but you done good.

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from USA

        In fact, Writer Fox, I was one of those people who thought there would be less paperwork, but my files were getting heavier and heavier. Then, when I tried opening up a "paperless" office in the late 80's people thought I was crazy to think it would work. It only worked with the younger clients. The older clients would not have anything to do with electronic signatures and such like that. They had to have paper and pen in hand to seal the deal.

      • Writer Fox profile image

        Writer Fox 4 years ago from the wadi near the little river

        There was a time when people thought the invention of the PC would put an end to paperwork. It didn't: it just made it that much easier to print copies! Very useful information and voted up.

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from USA

        Hello ChitrangadaSharan. There is so much documentation involved with real estate transactions that I actually had to rent a storage shed to save the documents for the prescribed time. Toward the last five years of my career, I transitioned into a paperless office and have never looked back. I do everything electronic now.

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from USA

        You are so welcome, Mhatter99. Thank you for reading and for your feedback.

      • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

        Chitrangada Sharan 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

        This is a very important issue you have raised here. We all know how many trees are cut to meet the needs of paper and what harm it does to the environment. Due to the computer and the Internet, we have the option of avoiding paper use. The less paper we use the better. It is better to store important documents on computer to avoid extensive use of paper to save environment. Thankfully in India, it is being practised quite enthusiastically.

        Great insightful hub and very informative! Voted up!

      • Mhatter99 profile image

        Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

        Good information. Thank you for this.

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from USA

        Thank you, Faith for the vote of confidence. It means a lot to me.

      • Faith Reaper profile image

        Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

        Marlene, you are the go to woman on any real estate transaction and necessary paperwork!!!

        Thank you for sharing your knowledge for all of our benefit.

        Up and more and sharing

        Blessings, Faith Reaper

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from USA

        Hello MsDora! I have been told I have the heaviest files on the planet. People kid me about it, but putting things in writing and having a copy of it has saved a lot of people from headaches.

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from USA

        Thank you Eric! Since claiming real estate as my niche, every time I go back in my mind, I think of experiences that allow me to share a little bit of what it's like in the real estate world. I hope it all helps.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

        Marlene, I usually tell people that I respect paper, and more so if it has my signature. Thank you for sharing the value of "paperwork." Yours is a cautionary tale; all should heed the lesson.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Great advice and a great read. I normally just see folks who did not follow your advice. Get the word out!!

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from USA

        Bill, thank you. As you know, your compliments mean a lot.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Loved the introduction. I'm telling you, when we buy our farm in two years, you'll be hearing from me. :) I need someone I can trust in my corner. Great info, Marlene!


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