Who Handles the Paperwork if I Don’t Use a Realtor When Selling My House?
6 minute read
March 7, 2020


There are many reasons to sell your house without a realtor. You can avoid paying their commission and might be able to find a different selling method that better fits your needs but then who does the paperwork?

Whichever method you choose, it’s important to understand the paperwork that goes into the sale of a major asset such as your home. Once an agreement is signed, it’s legally binding and you can’t easily back out.

We’ll help you understand the paperwork involved in selling a house, as well as the best way to manage it so that you’re empowered to make the sale without fearing the fine print of a contract.

When You Don’t Need a Realtor

There are many reasons to sell your home without a realtor, including financial or timing factors, conditions of the market, and conditions of your house.

Based on your needs, you have more options than ever to sell your house. This includes non-traditional iBuyers, which are tech companies that buy and sell houses online by making instant cash offers for houses.

Besides this newer method, you could try For Sale By Owner or FSBO, as well as managing your own listings on sites like Zillow, Trulia, or Realtor.com.

Handling Paperwork Without a Realtor

You can handle much of the paperwork to sell your house independently until the actual closing, where states have varying legal requirements about whether an attorney, escrow agent, or title agent must handle the closing paperwork.

For example, in some states, only an attorney is allowed to prepare the home purchase documents, perform a title search, and close the deal, according to Nolo.

Understand a Purchase Agreement and the Resources to Complete It

Beyond state legal requirements, and before closing, determine whether you want additional involvement from an attorney to understand your purchase agreement, which is the contract you’ll work through to finalize an offer with the buyer. 

Working with a realtor or not, an attorney directly protects your side of the deal. Realtors can’t draft purchase agreements from scratch, as they can’t practice law. They can fill in the blanks to fit a specific sale but they must do so within a contract that was created by an attorney and they consult attorneys on any legal issues that arise.

Some sellers prefer to work directly with an attorney instead of having a realtor go between them.

If you hire an attorney, according to Nolo, they charge hourly rates ranging from $150 to $350. Some attorneys charge flat fees for services, such as preparing real estate closing documents. This means you call the shots. If you prefer to hire an attorney for a limited number of hours, or for specific tasks, such as answering a legal question or reviewing a document, you can negotiate it.

If you don’t involve an attorney, it’s important that you become familiar with the legal requirements and how to protect your end of the deal when selling your house.

In this case, the buyer’s agent could serve as a dual agent and draw up the paperwork to close the sale. However, you risk protecting your side of the deal as the agent will have the buyer’s and their own best interest in mind. This also isn’t allowed in certain states.

Steps to Close

Let’s look at the steps to close the sale of a house to better understand the paperwork and legal requirements you’ll need to hire help for or manage on your own.

1. Order a title search and purchase title insurance

If you purchase optional title insurance to ensure your house’s title is cleared, the insurance company will require that an insured closing agent finalizes the sale, so the title company manages the actual closing. The other option is to have an attorney close the sale as they can get approval from a title company to do so if needed. This depends on your state as some require that an attorney handles closing and others require that a title company handles it.

2. Complete an inspection for the buyer

The inspection will give the buyer an impartial view of the condition of the house to help them determine whether they’re getting a fair value.

3. Agree on contingencies or updates following inspection

The purchase agreement will include any requirements or improvements that were based on the results of the inspection so that there is legal documentation that each side had their requirements met for the sale.

4. If a lender is involved, an appraisal is needed to determine the value of the house

This informs whether the lender is willing to invest in the house by lending money to the buyer.

5. Final walk-through before closing

This ensures that the seller met any requirements the buyer needed before they’re willing to purchase the house.

6. Finalize the sale at closing with an attorney, escrow agent or title agent

Again this will depend on your state’s legal requirements and your choices related to hiring an attorney or purchasing title insurance.

Pay Close Attention to the Details

Before signing an agreement, The Mortgage Reports says to pay close attention to these potential problem areas of a contract to make sure you’re not getting the short end of the deal – buyer contingencies, seller full disclosures, timeframe requirements and anything that is highly customized. Watch for any issues that protect the other party and could hurt you in the process.

You Don’t Need a Realtor to Manage the Paperwork When Selling Your House

There are many options beyond hiring a realtor to sell your home and manage the paperwork involved in closing the deal.

Whether you handle it independently, hire an attorney, sell your home through an iBuyer or For Sale By Owner, understanding the paperwork could make or break the deal, saving you money and hardship by avoiding a halted sale or one-sided contract.

Recommended Reading

Share on LinkedIn
Email this Article
Print this Article

More on How to Sell My House