Selling a house can be straightforward if the seller knows what to expect. At the outset, a licensed real estate broker or real estate salesperson can be a valuable resource, especially with “listing” the house. Listing is the process of advertising on certain various public and subscription lists that the house is likely available for purchase.
The listing also usually includes a listing price. The listing price is not a promise to sell the house for that price. Rather, the listing price provides information to potential buyers to help them save time and resources by having an idea of the seller’s financial expectations.
Most houses are sold “as-is”, which means that the house’s imperfections, even if hidden behind walls or under floors, are accepted by the buyer when the house’s ownership officially changes hands.
However, at or near the time of listing, the seller must complete and sign a state-mandated form that discloses any defects in the house that the homeowner actually knows. The five-page form must be filled out honestly and completely, but the homeowner does not need to conduct any inspections to identify additional defects to disclose on the form. The completed form is ideally provided to a prospective buyer before the seller and the buyer agree in writing to the house’s sale. If the form is not provided by that time, the buyer has certain limited rights to walk away from the potential purchase in some instances.
Also, if the house was built prior to 1978, the seller must also provide the buyer with a completed “lead paint disclosure” form, which tells potential buyers that there may be lead paint in the house, and whether the seller has any records or information about lead paint in the house.
Upon receipt of the reports, one or more potential buyers may submit a formal “offer.” The offer can be provided on a form from a real estate broker or salesperson, or it can be prepared by an attorney. The offer will identify how much time the buyer needs to secure financing or conduct certain additional inspections. The offer may also include contingencies, which are specified factual conditions that could preclude the sale. The buyer’s acceptable financing or a securing a clean termite inspection report might be contingencies.
If the seller agrees to the terms in the offer, the seller signs the offer, and the resulting document becomes the purchase contract. The closing is the date that the buyer and seller agree to exchange money for possession and a deed to the house. The time period from when the purchase contract is signed until the closing is often called “due diligence.”
At the closing, the seller is usually responsible to prepare the deed, but the seller is not usually responsible for the recording fees to file the deed at the courthouse. The seller may also have to sign various other documents required by many buyers’ lenders or the government, concerning the house or the seller, including that the seller is not a terrorist.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.