If you’re wondering how to sell a house by owner, paperwork is going to be one of your biggest tasks. According to one survey, paperwork is among the three most challenging aspects of selling a home FSBO.
Failing to have your paperwork in order before, during, and after your sale can have legal or financial consequences down the line or, worse yet, bring the entire sale to a screeching halt.
If saving on realtor fees is why you chose to go FSBO, you may find better overall value with a low commission real estate agent who offers full-service for a discounted rate.
But if you’re set on selling your house yourself, you’ll need to have FSBO paperwork ready for each stage of the home selling process.
Get started with our comprehensive checklist below. Find the for sale by owner documents you’ll need to sell your home, conveniently divided into each phase of the home selling process.
Paperwork for selling a house by owner
FSBO paperwork before you list
Before your home ever hits the market, you’ll need to get together some for sale by owner documents that will make selling your property easier.
These documents can help you avoid legal headaches later on and they can help market your home to buyers.
|📋 FSBO document||❓ What is it?|
|Comparative market analysis (CMA)||An estimate of your home’s market value, usually performed for free by a real estate agent.|
|Seller’s net sheet||A worksheet showing your proceeds from the sale after expenses have been deducted.|
|Mortgage payoff statement||A statement showing how much you’d need to pay off your mortgage in full.|
|Preliminary title report||A document that identifies any outstanding issues with the property, like liens or back taxes.|
|Certificate of compliance||A document proving your property exists and is in compliance with local laws.|
|Property survey||A plan showing the legal boundaries of your property.|
|Original sales contract||The original contract from when you bought the house, which includes the sale price and disclosures made by the previous seller.|
Comparative market analysis
What is it? A comparative market analysis (CMA) is an estimate of the current market value of your home based on recent sales of properties similar to yours.
Why do you need it? Pricing the home right is one of the biggest challenges for FSBO sellers, which makes a professional home valuation a must-have. Unlike an appraisal — which reassures a lender that a home isn’t overvalued — a CMA helps you set an appropriate listing price. Also, unlike an appraisal, a CMA is completely free.
A CMA is your best way to avoid costly pricing mistakes. A home that is underpriced means less money in your pocket, while one that is overpriced may struggle to find interested buyers.
What do you do with it? A CMA can help you set an appropriate list price for your home.
How can you get it? A CMA is usually done by a real estate agent. Most experienced local agents will provide a CMA for free and with no obligations. Because a CMA is one of the most important factors in determining how much you’ll actually make from your home sale, it’s a good idea to rely on the expert advice of a real estate agent for it, even if you do decide to sell on your own.
Seller’s net sheet
What is it? The seller’s net sheet is a simple worksheet that gives you a sense of how much you stand to net from your home sale, after deducting expenses. You’ll probably see a few different versions of this sheet throughout the sale as circumstances evolve.
Why do you need it? There are a lot of fees involved with selling a house, whether it’s escrow fees, settling your mortgage, or real estate commission. For that reason, it can be hard to keep track of all the money coming in and going out. That’s why the seller’s net sheet is so important.
What do you do with it? Keep it on hand to stay on top of what you’ll earn from your home sale. You’ll also need this FSBO document for your closing statement once the sale is finalized.
How can you get it? If you sell FSBO, the number crunching is your responsibility. If you sell with an agent, they’ll provide one based on the list price, then do other versions as you compare various offers and counteroffers.
Mortgage payoff statement
What is it? This statement shows your payoff amount, which is how much you have to pay to satisfy your mortgage in full. The payoff amount is different from the current balance as it includes extra costs like fees and interest that aren’t figured into the current balance.
Why do you need it? If you haven’t paid off your current mortgage before selling your home, you’ll need to figure out how much you owe, and how much you stand to gain from your home sale. The payoff statement will show exactly how much you’ll have to pay.
What do you do with it? This is mainly for your benefit. When it comes time to pay off your mortgage, the title company will ensure the money from the buyer gets applied to your mortgage.
How can you get it? You can request a payoff statement from your lender or mortgage servicer.
Preliminary title report
What is it? The preliminary title report tells you if you have any outstanding title issues with your home — things like liens, back taxes, or other restrictions that could complicate the sale.
Why do you need it? Issues revealed in the preliminary title report have the potential to sink a deal if they’re only found out after a buyer makes an offer. It’s better to know about and address them before you list.
What do you do with it? Use the preliminary title report to fix any title issues it identifies. You can decide whether to solve these issues yourself (for example, by paying off liens and back taxes) or to add them to the disclosures and pass savings onto the buyer by lowering your listing price.
How can you get it? A preliminary title report generally costs between $25 and $150 and is available from any title company or your county assessor.
» LEARN MORE: What Is a Property Title Search?
Certificate of compliance
What is it? A certificate of compliance is a legal document that confirms your parcel of land exists, and is in compliance with any state and local subdivision laws.
Why do you need it? A certificate of compliance is not required everywhere, so check your local laws. If you do get one, it can help you avoid unwanted headaches later on.
For example, a potential buyer may find out that your property violates local subdivision laws — such as if it was previously subdivided into two properties without the proper permits. That fact may slow the purchase or cause it to fall through completely. A certificate of compliance helps you avoid these unexpected surprises.
What do you do with it? If you find out that your property doesn’t comply with local and state laws, you’ll need to get a conditional certificate of compliance until the problem is resolved.
How can you get it? You can request a certificate of compliance from your local county or municipality, usually through its building or planning department or the tax assessor’s office.
What is it? The property survey shows the legal borders of your property, buildings, improvements, and the location of any easements.
Why do you need it? While you don’t need a property survey, it can be useful, especially if you’re selling a property with a lot of land or one where the property boundaries aren’t immediately obvious. A property survey can help identify potential issues — such as a fence that doesn’t align with the actual property line or a home addition that juts onto a neighbor’s land.
You may want to fix these issues before putting your home on the market. And many buyers will ask about them before making an offer.
That said, the property survey is usually the buyer’s responsibility as it’s often required by the buyer’s lender. If you live in an area where property lines are more obvious — such as a subdivision — a property survey is often not needed until after you’ve received an offer.
What do you do with it? If you choose to get one, you can use it to address any issues it identifies, such as an encroachment by a neighbor’s structure. If there aren’t any issues, you can use the property survey to reassure potential buyers.
How can you get it? If you don’t already have a copy, your best bet is to contact your municipality or county’s land records, building department, or tax assessor’s office.
Original sales contract
What is it? This is the contract from when you bought the house. It shows the chain of ownership — from the previous owner, to you, and then to the buyer.
Why do you need it? The sales contract isn’t necessary in most states, but many buyers will ask for it. It includes the previous sale price, which may be of interest to the buyer. Plus, it shows disclosures made by the previous seller. Review these to refresh your memory, and make sure they match your own disclosures.
What do you do with it? Simply keep it on hand in case a potential buyer asks for it or to help you if you’re filling out a disclosure form.
How can you get it? You should have your own copy of the original sales contract. If you can’t find it, reach out to the realtor or broker that originally helped you buy your property (assuming you used one). Many realtors keep copies for approximately four to seven years after the sale.
Other FSBO paperwork you may need before you list
- Receipts for improvements and repairs: Receipts reassure potential buyers that you’ve invested in upkeeping the property. While not essential, they can help convince buyers that the home is well taken care of or recently renovated.
- Appliance warranties and service records: If you’re including the home appliances in the sale, the buyer will likely want to see the warranties and service records for them.
- Past utility bills: Although this isn’t a required disclosure, you can expect the buyer to ask about your utility costs in order to get an idea of what they may have to pay.
- Professional appraisal: The buyer typically orders an appraisal after they’ve made an offer. However, you are free to get your own appraisal done to see if you’ve priced your home correctly, but, unlike a comparative market analysis, it will cost money.
- Inspection report: Like an appraisal, the buyer typically orders an inspection after putting in an offer. But you can get one done early to identify any necessary repairs. Or use it as a marketing tool to reassure buyers about the state of your home.
» LEARN MORE: How Much Does an Inspection Cost?
FSBO paperwork while your house is on the market
|📋 FSBO document||❓What is it?|
|Purchase offer||Includes how much the buyer is offering for the property along with any counteroffers.|
|Final purchase/sale agreement||Includes the final sale price, closing date, and contingencies.|
|Seller disclosures||A form that lists material defects of the property that the seller is aware of.|
|Home inspection report||Evaluates the condition and safety of the property.|
|Appraisal report||Establishes the fair market value of the home.|
You’ve received and accepted an offer. Congratulations! It’s probably not surprising to hear that this new phase of the sale process comes with a stack of FSBO paperwork. Most of this paperwork defines the terms of the sale, and clears the property of any problems before the sale finalizes.
What is it? The purchase offer documents the buyer’s offer, and defines the terms of the deal. If you negotiate on price, counteroffers will be amended to the purchase offer. This document also includes a lot of the information you gathered earlier in this process, like property boundaries and specifications. Once the purchase offer is signed by both parties, it becomes the purchase contract.
Why do you need it? You won’t sell your house if you don’t have a buyer. That alone makes the purchase offer one of the most important FSBO documents — it’s the whole point of the process!
What do you do with it? When you get a purchase offer from a potential buyer, you can choose to accept it, reject it, or counteroffer. It’s also a good idea to have some purchase offer templates on hand for potential buyers who aren’t already working with an agent.
How can you get it? If the buyer has an agent — which they probably will — you’ll get the purchase offer from their agent. Otherwise, it will come directly from the buyer.
What is it? The purchase/sale agreement is essentially the final version of the purchase offer and it is a binding contract between the buyer and the seller.
Why do you need it? The purchase/sale agreement details the final sale price, the terms of the deal, the closing date, the earnest money amount, any contingencies that are included in the deal, and other elements of your sale. Like the purchase offer, it’s important!
What do you do with it? The purchase/sale agreement is arguably the most important FSBO paperwork, so review it carefully. Ensure that all elements of the original purchase offer are included. It’s usually a good idea to have an attorney review it.
» LEARN MORE: Do I Need a Real Estate Lawyer to Sell My House FSBO?
How can you get it? Usually the buyer’s agent will write up the purchase/sale agreement. If the buyer doesn’t have an agent, it will likely be on you to provide a purchase/sale agreement. In that case, your best bet is to work with a real estate attorney to draft one up.
What is it? A seller disclosure form lists known defects or negative conditions about the property. Disclosures generally include things like lead-based paint, asbestos, or environmental hazards like spilled oil or toxic chemicals.
Why do you need it? Seller disclosure laws vary by state, but most require sellers to at least disclose known material defects about the property. Some states have additional disclosure obligations.
For example, Illinois requires sellers to disclose possible radon exposure on the property while California requires sellers to disclose if the property is in an area that’s at risk from floods, wildfires, or earthquakes.
However, some states are considered “caveat emptor” (or “buyer beware”) states. Sellers in the following states generally have fewer disclosure obligations — especially in regards to known defects — than they do in other states:
- New Jersey
- North Dakota
- West Virginia
However, even in these states, sellers often have some disclosure obligations. For example, Montana sellers are required to disclose known mold issues, while Alabama requires sellers to disclose defects that could pose a health or safety risk to the buyer.
Regardless of the state, U.S. federal law also requires anybody selling a house built before 1978 to fill out a lead-based paint disclosure form.
What do you do with it? If you live in a state where defects must be disclosed (which is most states!), you have to share the seller disclosure form with any potential buyer. Even in states where they’re not required, buyers will usually request them.
How can you get it? Download free U.S. and state disclosure forms for FSBO sellers here!
Home inspection report
What is it? The buyer’s home inspector will evaluate the home from top to bottom, noting issues that could affect the value or safety of the property, and produce a detailed report that includes photos.
Why do you need it? Once you and the buyer have a purchase agreement in place, the buyer will usually want to have the property inspected. Issues uncovered by the inspection could bring both parties back to the negotiating table. The buyer may want to renegotiate the sale price, for example, or want you to cover the costs of repairs for any defects uncovered during the inspection.
What do you do with it? You’ll typically only get a copy of the inspection report if you’re sharing the cost of it with the buyer or if a defect is uncovered. You don’t need to do anything with it aside from identify defects (if any) that need to be addressed.
How can you get it? Usually the buyer finds and pays for the home inspection.
» LEARN MORE: How Much Does a Home Inspection Cost?
What is it? The appraisal report details the fair market value of your home. The appraiser’s report will include details and photos about the property, similar properties they compared it to (often called “comps”), and the process the appraiser used to arrive at a final number.
Why do you need it? If the buyer is getting a mortgage, their lender will want an appraisal to determine the fair market value for your home. The lender is looking for that to be in line with the amount of the mortgage. If the appraised value comes in below that, the buyer will have to make up the difference in cash, or convince the seller to lower the price.
What do you do with it? Usually nothing. The appraisal is often necessary for the buyer to get a mortgage, so the seller doesn’t typically see it.
How can you get it? Since the appraisal is done for the benefit of the buyer’s lender, it’s usually the buyer’s responsibility to get it. The seller doesn’t typically receive a copy of the appraiser’s report, but you can request a copy, which the lender must provide within 30 days.
Other FSBO documents you may need
- Contingency removal form: This FSBO document lists the pre-conditions of the sale, such as an inspection or appraisal. While it is only required in California, it does help speed the process along elsewhere. But if you opt against using a contingency removal form and you’re outside of California, don’t worry — contingencies automatically expire after a set time, or after their conditions are satisfied. Contingencies are often included in a section of the purchase offer form.
- Homeowners’ Association (HOA) documents: If your home belongs to a homeowner’s association, you’ll need the HOA documents. These documents lay out the regulations and dues potential buyers will be responsible for. You should have received a copy of your HOA’s documents (usually HOA bylaws, CC&Rs, and regulations) when you bought the house or when you joined the HOA.
For sale by owner documents at closing
|📋 FSBO document||❓What is it?|
|Deed||A document that legally transfers ownership of the property from the seller to the buyer.|
|Closing statement||The final form of the seller’s net sheet. Details the seller’s proceeds from the sale after expenses.|
|Property tax records||Local/state documents that show your property’s data, including tax rate and assessed value.|
|1099-S tax form||Determines any capital gains taxes owed on the sale.|
You’re almost at the finish line! The documents in this final phase of your sale process are often legally required at closing.
What is it? The deed is the physical document that transfers ownership of the property from the seller to the buyer. Again, it’s another very important FSBO document!
Why do you need it? Without the deed, ownership of the property can’t actually be transferred to the buyer.
What do you do with it? The property deed must be notarized and filed with the appropriate authority, usually your county recorder’s office. The buyer will also get a copy of the deed.
How can you get it? If you can’t find your own copy of the deed, you can get one through your county, usually through the recorder’s or assessor’s office. A real estate attorney or title search company can also get the deed for you. The cost can range from $50 to $250.
What is it? The closing statement — also called a settlement sheet — is the final statement of all the costs and credits of a real estate transaction. Think of this as a definitive form of the seller’s net sheet.
Why do you need it? The closing statement is required at closing. Plus, it’s a good opportunity for you to double check that everything about the transaction is what you agreed upon with the buyer. Use the closing statement to ensure that nothing is missing from the purchase agreement.
What do you do with it? Keep it for your records. The closing statement is your receipt of the entire transaction.
How can you get it? The title company will fill out and supply the closing statement. You can also use a closing agent, who is a real estate agent who charges a flat fee to help you navigate the paperwork you need at closing.
Property tax records
What is it? Property tax records include local tax data related to the property, such as the tax rate, property assessment value, and tax exemptions.
Why do you need it? Tax records help you understand what property taxes you still owe at closing and how much the buyer will have to pay.
What do you do with it? You can provide a copy to the buyer if they request one.
How can you get it? You can usually find property records online through your county assessor’s office or through your state’s department of revenue.
1099-S tax form
What is it? This tax form will specify any capital gains taxes you’ll owe on the home sale. This form isn’t required if you’re selling your primary residence and you’re earning a profit that’s less than $250,000 if you’re single or $500,000 if you’re married.
Why do you need it? The 1099-S tax form is required by law unless you qualify for an exception.
What do you do with it? You must file your 1099-S tax form with the IRS. Instructions about where to send it are included on the form itself.
How can you get it? You can download and print the 1099-S form from the IRS website.
» LEARN MORE: How Do I Avoid Capital Gains Tax When Selling a House?
Free paperwork for selling a house by owner
Some FSBO paperwork — like a title search or a professional appraisal — cost money, but other forms can be found online for free. Here are some essential and recommended FSBO documents you may need when selling a house without a realtor.
|🗺 State||📋 FSBO paperwork|
|District of Columbia|
How to find the local and state FSBO paperwork you need
If you can’t find the right free paperwork for selling a house by owner in the above table, there are other places to look.
Templates for purchase/sale agreements and seller disclosure forms can easily be found online. While there are some paid options — which usually include other FSBO documents — you can find free templates. Here are some free and paid options for purchase/sale agreements:
We also recommend contacting your local realtor’s association or your state real estate commission — some have forms available to download on their websites, although others only make these available to licensed realtors.
Many legal forms, such as tax records, property surveys, and deeds, are usually found through local or state government offices, such as your tax assessor’s office, department of revenue, or the local building department.
You may also want to reach out to your agent that helped you purchase the property as many realtors hold onto copies of anything related to a housing transaction for at least a few years.
If the amount of paperwork we discussed here is overwhelming, an attorney or closing company can help you navigate the process. Or, you may choose to work with a discount agent instead who can get you the support you need at a fraction of the cost.
Complete list of for sale by owner documents
|📋 FSBO paperwork||🔎 Where to find it|
|1099-S tax form||From the IRS.|
|Appraisal report||Appraisals are usually arranged by the buyer.|
|Certificate of Compliance||From your local building department or tax assessor’s office.|
|Closing statement||From the title company or closing agent.|
|Comparative market analysis (CMA)||Provided free of charge by most real estate agents.|
|Deed||From a real estate attorney, title search company, or your local recorder or assessor’s office.|
|Final purchase/sale agreement||Find purchase/sale agreement templates here.|
|Home inspection report||From a home inspector. This is often the responsibility of the buyer.|
|Mortgage payoff statement||From your lender or mortgage servicer.|
|Original sales contract||If you don’t already have a copy, contact the realtor or broker who originally helped you buy your home.|
|Preliminary title report||From a title company or your county assessor.|
|Property survey||From your local land records, building department, or tax assessor’s office.|
|Property tax records||From your local tax assessor or your state’s department of revenue.|
|Purchase offer||The purchase offer will come from the buyer or the buyer’s agent.|
|Seller disclosures||Find seller disclosure forms here.|
|Seller's net sheet||If you don’t have a real estate agent, you’ll have to make this yourself.|
The best alternative to selling FSBO
If all of this paperwork sounds overwhelming, you’re not alone! Not only is there the paperwork to worry about, you also have to prep your home for sale, come up with a marketing plan, and orchestrate showings. It’s a lot.
It’s no surprise that many home sellers who try FSBO ultimately end up with an agent. Luckily, there is an alternative that can still save you time and money.
Our friends at Clever have pre-negotiated discounted rates with a nationwide network of full-service real estate agents. Let someone else handle the paperwork while still saving thousands of dollars on your home sale.
What paperwork do I need to sell a house myself?
Selling a house by yourself requires a lot of paperwork, including a purchase/sale agreement, deed, property tax records, property survey, home inspection, seller’s net sheet, and more. You can find a full list of paperwork for selling a house by owner here.
Where can I find free FSBO paperwork?
Online resources offer some free paperwork for selling a house by owner, although other documents — like title reports and a certificate of compliance — usually cost money. Find free FSBO paperwork for every state here.
The Best Discount Real Estate Brokers for Every Budget: A discount real estate agent is a good option if you’re looking to save money on the sale of your home, but don’t want all the hassle that FSBO entails. Check out our list of the best ones.
Read This Before You List Your FSBO on Zillow (2021 Guide): Zillow is one of the most popular platforms for FSBO sellers. Read our complete guide to listing your FSBO home on Zillow, including its pros and cons.
11 Best For Sale By Owner Websites (2021 Rankings): Wondering which site to use to sell your home FSBO? Check out our list of the best FSBO websites, including reviews from real customers.