Selling a home in the United States involves numerous legal documents, including those providing information about the house itself, promissory documents for loans and mortgages and to complete the closing. These documents provide protection for the buyer, the seller and the agent or agents involved with the sale.
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The first legal document required to sell a house is usually a listing agreement, a binding agreement between a seller and a real estate broker, giving the broker authority to sell the seller's property on the latter's behalf.
A buyer makes an offer using a purchase and sales agreement. This binding agreement between the seller and the buyer explicitly states the conditions for the purchase and sale of the house. There may also be certain forms required to disclose information about the home, such as lead paint disclosure forms and homeowners bylaws if applicable.
Title documents include the property description, the exact boundaries and size of the property, the tax map number of the section, block, and lot, restrictions and easements legally binding to future owners, and a description of any property sold from the original property. You also must provide copies of your title insurance policy.
Legal documents must be filled out properly to be valid. Many of the these complicated documents require legal expertise. For example, only a professional can do a title search to see if the house has outstanding liens. The technical requirements and regulations surrounding the legal documents necessary to sell a house make it best to hire a professional. Real estate attorneys, real estate agents and paralegals have varying degrees of responsibility when it comes to filling out legal documents for home sales. In some cases, a real estate attorney will need to provide a final review of the documents involved in the sales process at closing. You should not attempt to give anyone else advice about filling out the legal documents necessary to sell a house, because in some states this could be considered the unauthorised practice of law without a license.
The buyer and the seller face risks if the proper legal documents are not completed. The buyer, for example, might be dissatisfied with the condition of the house if the proper disclosures are not made or might face an unpleasant surprise if he arrives to find his new home missing a washer-dryer and oven that he thought was included. Worse, a buyer might try to sell a home she owned, only to find out that the house doesn't have a "clean title" because creditors of the previous owners have a claim on it. The seller, on the other hand, might believe he has sold his home and purchase another house or take other action on the basis of that belief, and be left holding two mortgages without a sales contract. Legal documents help both buyer and seller to avoid those pitfalls.
Legal documents necessary for the sale of a home, like any legal contract, are designed to ensure that everyone understands their rights and responsibilities. Most contracts for any type of sale over a certain dollar value must be in writing under the terms of the commercial code. The preference for written contracts is so strong, in fact, that a legal doctrine called "parole evidence' often prohibits the admission of nonwritten evidence in court when determining how a contract should be enforced. By having proper documentation, both buyer, seller and judge or jury know what was signed, in the event of a dispute.
Both the buyer and seller benefit form the legal documents needed to sell a home. The buyer benefits from disclosure documents and title insurance, since the seller is in the best position to know details about problems with the house. If the seller did not have to provide these legal documents, the buyer might walk unsuspecting into problems. The seller, too, benefits because the buyer is guaranteeing her part of the bargain in writing.
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