A list of the most important documents that homeowners need to retain and manage over the course of owning their homes, from buying to selling, and everything in between!
As a homeowner, you will undoubtedly sign endless legal documents in the buying and selling phases of owning your home. Over time, you will need to create and retain contracts and other documents that pertain to renovations, maintenance, monetization, business agreements and other legal matters, especially if you choose to have a home business or other home-based streams of income.
So, exactly what are the most important documents that homeowners will need to retain and manage over the course of owning their house? We have categorized the document types that are most pertinent by Purgula’s Six Phases of Homeownership:
Included in the descriptions of these forms are links to related articles, examples and tools to help you create your own documents when applicable. We also included a list of other important documents that did not fit within any one particular category.
After becoming familiar with these documents, be sure to review our section on How to Store Your Legal Documents, which gives tips on how best to store, protect, share and maintain your documents and vital personal information.
- Buyers Agent Agreement
- Purchase Agreement
- Sellers Disclosures
- Home Inspection Report
- Closing Disclosure
- Title Insurance Policy
- Property Deed
- Quitclaim Deed
Buyers Agent Agreement
If you are a new homeowner, it would be wise to retain a copy of the agreement between you and the real estate agent who represented you when you purchased your home. This is a contract that spells out the responsibilities and obligations of each party and the terms of your relationship.
Specifically, the document records the length of the relationship, the agreed upon agent’s commission, and terms, if any, for terminating the agreement before the specified period is met. Should you have issues with the agent before or even after the close of the home sale, it would stand as the legal record.
Purchase Agreement including any Addenda or Riders
The real estate purchase agreement is between the buyer and seller and confirms the terms on which they have agreed to a transactions, namely the purchase price, closing date and any additional terms.
Addenda may be added when necessary should an inspection reveal flaws that must be corrected, or other changes to the purchase agreement after the official walkthrough or other inspections. This is a crucial document as it will be needed in order to sell the home in the future.
Depending on state laws, sellers are required to disclose any issues or problems of which they are aware that may affect the value of the property. In some states, namely California, you must disclose if it is a “stigmatized property” where a death, major crime or suicide may have occurred, if such “stigma” occurred within the previous 3 years. An exception to this rule is if the property is a foreclosure or bank-owned.
Home Inspection Report
Licensed qualified home inspectors work for the home buyer, and thus must detail any issue on the property that may be out of code or that will become an issue, such as an aging roof.
- Home Inspection Technologies to Alleviate Your Purchase Anxiety
- Sample Home Inspection Reports from InterNACHI
Closing disclosures are provided by the mortgage lender before the actual settlement date. This document is necessary for tax filing purposes in order to take legal deductions for mortgage points and other allowable fees. This document itemizes the borrower’s loan terms:
- Years of the Mortgage: 15, 20, 30 or 40
- Loan Type: Fixed Rate or Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM)
- Interest Rate
- All Closing Costs associated with the financial transaction
Title Insurance Policy
Should a contractor or ex-spouse of the previous owner show up at your door professing to be the owner of your property, you have in your possession a Title Insurance Policy, which protects against such claims. As part of the purchase process, the title company offers protection by reviewing the home’s title for any liens, inter-spousal grant deeds, conflicting wills or other title defects that may infringe upon your claim as the sole owner and insures your ownership rights to your property.
Once you take title and become the official owner of the property, you will receive a deed from the county recorder of your local jurisdiction. This document conveys legal ownership of the property to the borrower or trustor.
The Quitclaim Deed is used to transfer property without making guarantees about title to the property. This is usually filed to insure that one party has no legal claim to the property against the person signing the deed. This is often used after a divorce when one spouse is removed from the property’s title. In California the quitclaim is also used to convert community property to separate property to satisfy title insurance requirements.
- Personal Photo Identification
- Listing Agreement
- Mortgage Loan Documents
- Mandatory Disclosures
- Deed of Trust
- Property Tax Documentation
- Homeowners Insurance Policy
- Original Sales Contract
- Contingency Removal Forms
- Final Purchase & Sale Agreement
- 1099-S Tax Form
Personal Photo Identification
Due to the plethora of real estate fraud that has taken place over the years, sellers are required to verify their own identity via state-issued photo identification cards, passports or any other government issued photo document. In addition, you must present proof of having a relationship to the property address, such as a utility bill, tax bill or bank statement addressed to you at the property in question.
The Listing Agreement is a contract between the seller of the property and the real estate broker that grants authority to the agent to list and sell the home. It details the duration of the relationship (“beginning and terminating”) the sales price, commission to the agent, as well as any exceptions to the commission.
Be aware of the Safety Protection Clause which explains the details on how the real estate agent can be entitled to a commission after the listing agreement expires or is canceled.
Mortgage Loan Documents
If you have a mortgage on the property you plan to sell, you must produce the mortgage documentation to show details on the amount owed to date and any other associated fees. Most importantly, be sure to ask your lender for a payoff statement, which is a document prepared by the lender that shows the total balance that must be paid to satisfy the loan obligation.
Although requirements for disclosures differ by state, you must complete a Mandatory Disclosure Document, which is intended to make potential buyers aware of known issues with the property. This could include lead-based paint, a leaking roof, a violent crime on the property and any legal dispute you may have had with property neighbors.
Deed of Trust
After your purchase of the property, you should have received documentation from the county recorder marked Deed of Trust. You will need the original deed to the property, as it was issued to you in order to sell your home – no exceptions!
Property Tax Documentation
Proof of property tax payments including the most recent or current invoice is important to demonstrate payment, as well as the actual property tax amount that will be assumed by future owners.
Homeowners Insurance Policy
Providing home insurance documentation gives prospective homeowners an estimate of the cost to maintain adequate homeowners’ coverage for the property they plan to purchase.
Original Sales Contract
For transparency, you must produce the original sales contract that you signed as the buyer of the home to verify the original sales price, disclosures at the time of purchase, current proof of ownership and the terms of sale at the time you purchased the property.
Contingency Removal Forms
In California, a contingency is a protection for the buyer that allows them to cancel the contract for any reason during a set period of time without repercussions. In California, there are three different contingency forms:
- Home Inspection Contingency
- Appraisal Contingency
- Loan Contingency
If for any reason there is an issue with any one of these three items, the buyer can walk away from the deal.
The Contingency Removal Form must be completed for each of the contingency types and requires that the buyer has signed off on each and all forms are received by the listing or seller’s agent. Even though it is the buyer’s responsibility to sign contingency removal forms, the seller should make sure to retain copies should a disagreement arise in the future.
If the buyer backs out after signing all contingencies, the seller may be entitled to the buyer’s good faith or “earnest money” deposit.
Final Purchase & Sale Agreement
The final piece of documentation is a comprehensive contract that summarizes the transaction between buyer and seller with all of the pertinent facts, such as:
- Final Sales Price
- Terms of Closing
- Tax Information
1099-S Tax Form
Tax Form 1099-S is used to report the sale or exchange of real estate and resultant proceeds to the Internal Revenue Service. Even if you are not required to pay taxes on any gain, you must report the sale or exchange of your property on your tax return.
- Maintenance Contracts for Recurring Service
- Major Purchases/Repairs
- Housekeeping Agreement
- Handyman Contract
Maintenance Contracts for Recurring Service
Any recurring contracts for service staff that maintain your home should be retained not just for your needs but for future buyers of the property as well. Continuity of service is a good idea, especially if you are happy with the service and pricing of your current gardener, housekeeper, nanny, plumber, electrician, or HVAC service companies.
Major Purchases & Repairs
New roofing, exterior painting or other large ticket contracts should be retained both for continuity to the new homeowner, and if there are any issues during the duration of the warranty period. Additionally, proof of any major repair items, such as new flooring, new windows and doors, should be presented to prospective buyers of the property when you are ready to sell your home.
Housekeeping or recurring cleaning services contracts should always include a section on liability and employee insurance should an accident occur at the residence. Although most homeowner policies cover maid services, homeowners should include a hold harmless clause in their contracts to release the homeowner from liability or consequences due to the act of the other party.
Since most states do not require that handymen be licensed, it is important to document an agreement of mutual responsibilities and expectations for this type of contractor.
In our experience, renovation contracts have been the most imperative documents to retain as new renovations often require some type of adjustment period, especially when the renovated room is placed into actual service.
With daily wear and tear, you may begin to see some of the flaws and issues that were not visible to the naked eye once your contractor packed up his tools for the final time. Referring back to the contract and specified warranties for construction, are the first step for remediating construction defects and other post-renovation issues.
Any and all documentation regarding capital improvements, such as upgraded master suites, home theater renovations or outdoor improvements, should be presented at the time of sale to demonstrate capital expended by you for property enhancements.
- What to Include in a Renovation Contract
- Costly Mistakes to Avoid in Home Renovation Contracts
- Construction Warranties: 6 Key Concepts
Independent Contractor Agreement
When hiring an independent contractor, always make sure to use a licensed general contractor who has been bonded and has workman’s compensation insurance for employees. Secure all copies of proof as part of the renovation contract, along with proof of general liability insurance for his fully licensed company.
Many companies require that you register your new appliances on their website to make warranty claims and service calls easier. By registering your name, property address and the date of purchase, you lock in the warranty from that date, as the “original purchaser” of the product. Companies such as Hans Grohe allow transfer of warranties, as long as the product remains in the same home for which it was originally purchased.
Also make sure to retain any purchase invoices to confirm the date and place of the original product sale. Make sure to retain all manuals for product usage and maintenance that may be helpful for future owners.
- Lease Agreement
- Lease Renewal Agreement
- Change in Rent Notice
- Landlord’s Notice of Non-Renewal
- Landlord’s Notice to Enter
- Tenant Maintenance Request
- Eviction Notice
- Forming an LLC
- DBA (Doing Business As)
- Business Contract
A Lease Agreement is a detailed contact agreement with all of the necessary tenets between the tenant or lessee and landlord or lessor for rental of real property.
Lease Renewal Agreement
While many leases automatically convert to a month-to-month agreement after the one year term, a renewal agreement will guarantee income for another year. Additionally, if the current tenant adhered to the lease terms without any issues, it might be best to renew to avoid the hassle of re-renting the property with an unknown entity.
Change in Rent Notice
In some states, a change of more than 10% of the existing rent must be provided by an advance written Change in Rent Notice to the tenant within 60 days of the actual increase.
Landlord’s Notice of Non-Renewal
Should you decide not to renew an existing tenant’s lease, you are required to provide a Notice of Non-Renewal notifying the tenant that they will need to vacate the property when their lease ends.
Landlord’s Notice to Enter
Although a landlord has the right to enter a property in emergency situations, such as fire, flood or earthquake, in other circumstances a Notice to Enter must be provided to the tenant within the terms dictated in the lease agreement. In other words, if the lease states a 24-hour notice to enter, you must provide notice a minimum of 24 hours before you enter the premises.
Tenant Maintenance Request
To insure that all problems and issues are reported and repaired promptly as per the lease agreement, a Tenant Maintenance Request serves both parties. Tenants have proof of requesting maintenance issues and landlords can file the request with notes as to the dates of repair with a signature from the tenant.
Should your tenant or lessee violate any of the terms of the original lease agreement, you must use an Eviction Notice to document the breach of contract and give warning of your intent to remove them for failure to comply with lease terms.
Forming an LLC
Starting a home business may require that you register or file with your state’s Secretary of State as a business entity. This is typically only necessary if you are profitable and need to pay income tax, planning to raise funds or looking to hire employees.
DBA (Doing Business As)
You can register your home business under a DBA or “Doing Business As” entity, which allows a sole proprietorship or partnership to operate under a unique name to conduct official business.
Your business relationship with other entities should not be entered into lightly. Scope of Work, Terms and Payment should all be carefully documented in a mutually beneficial business contracts that outlines responsibilities and fees of all parties.
- Catering Contract
- Bartending Contract
- Musical Performance Contract
- Talent Contract
- Valet Service Contract
An agreement between a catering client and the catering provider or business will make sure that expectations are met with respect to menu options, service level, payment details, cancellation policies, health and hygiene compliance and insurance requirements.
An agreement between bartending companies and clients protects both parties by requiring bartenders to abide by liquor laws and by outlining payment and service level requirements. Detailed contracts should include responsibilities of both parties, as well as start and end times of the engagement.
Musical Performance Contract
Musical performance contracts allow musicians to set forth the terms and conditions of an arrangement with a client event organizer. Details such as compensation, performance duration and expectations, scheduled breaks, riders, cancellation policy, green room or backstage perks, such as meals or refreshments and merchandise sales should be addressed.
Talent contracts for home entertainment purposes should include each party’s responsibilities, compensation and duration of the relationship.
Valet Service Contract
For home entertainment events, valet service contracts should carefully outline the responsibilities of both the homeowner and valet service provider. Fully bonded and insured valet services must also stipulate the non-employment relationship between the event organizer or homeowner and the valet company and its employees in the event of any legal disputes or claims resulting from employee negligence.
Other Important Legal Documents for Homeowners
- Liability Release Form
- Last Will and Testament
- Living Trust
- Divorce Settlement Agreement
- Child Care Authorization Form
- Homeschooling Contract
How to Store Your Legal Documents
Home Document Repositories
A basic, inexpensive method of retaining documentation is to scan all signed and fully executed contracts, deeds, and other legal commitments and email them to an email address specifically set up as a repository, such as documents@[email-provider].com.
This will insure that you always have access to your pertinent documents, even if you lose your home and its contents to a fire, flood or other disaster. This repository method is also helpful if you need to access documents from another state or country. Access to the cache of documents can be given to and rescinded from whomever as and when needed.
Professional Home Document Repositories
For persons and families that need a more robust and protected solution, we recommend services like Trustworthy, who specializes in Family Information Management which is pertinent for the following types of informational assets:
- ID’s, Money, Property, Passwords, Insurance, Taxes, Legal, Emergency Instructions and Family Archives
Trustworthy’s service also offers:
- Bank-Level Security with 256-bit encryption
- Concierge Support
- Consolidated Dashboard for Multiple Family Members in one place
- Partnerships with Law Depot and Trust & Will.
Legal Resources & Tools for Homeowners
Related Articles from Purgula
- Best Online Legal Services for Homeowners
- What to Include in a Renovation Contract
- Home Renovation Contracts: Costly Mistakes to Avoid
- Homeowner Liability With DIY Projects
- How Landlords Can Find The Perfect Tenant
- How to Choose a Qualified & Trustworthy Contractor
- How to Hire a Handyman Safely, Wisely & Virtually
- How to Increase Your Chances of Hiring a Good Contractor
- Signs of a Bad Contractor Before You Sign A Contract
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