Update: We chose to keep this post up since it was all part of the learning process, but given the outcome (update 1, update 2), if we could do it all over again, we would get an attorney. Get an attorney, people!
Or “Saving the Big Buck$!”
The plan was always to try to sell our house by owner, and we read a lot of articles and blog posts to prepare ourselves for that task. We were very lucky, I mean beyond lucky, to have a buyer before even listing our house. All of that knowledge we gained preparing for the task, didn’t prepare us for what was next–the paperwork.
The buyers said, “We’ll come over on Wednesday with some earnest money and sign the paperwork.” We went into panic mode thinking about all the paperwork we signed with our realtor when we were first purchasing the house. This time around, neither we nor the buyers had a realtor, and we didn’t want to bring one on just to pay a commission for a house that was already nearly sold. Another option was hiring a real estate attorney. A few friends who had recently sold their homes went this route and even recommended one to us. His price was $1000–which is a great deal compared to what we would pay a realtor, but could that be a grand saved? Could we do it ourselves? We thought we’d give it a try.
This is where I should probably say, every home sale is different and we are not realtors or attorneys or even close to experts in this field. In fact, we’re amateurs. But, we did it ourselves, saved a bunch of money and it wasn’t very difficult so we thought we’d share our experience.
The first thing we did was google for a real estate purchase contract for our state. Every state is different, but ours was right on our government website and we printed it out. As you can see in the first paragraph, “Buyer and Seller, however, may agree to alter or delete its provisions or to use a different form.” Even though that gave us some confidence (and power!), we wanted to make sure we at least had the right form. We also had a couple questions about what we put in a few spaces, like the one marked “Buyer’s Brokerage” (you can leave it blank ps.). This is about when we thought we would bring on an attorney. But, instead I called the local title company where we were planning on closing and asked them. They were so helpful and encouraging, answered all of our questions and even had extra contracts on hand if we didn’t already print one.
When the sweet couple came over with their earnest money, we went over the contract together. We discussed what they wanted included, any disclosures, costs, and closing date and signed our names quite a bit (oh yeah, and interviewed them). If you didn’t want to personally have a discussion with your potential buyers, then hiring an attorney would probably be a better choice for you.
We made a copy for them, and the title company really took over from there. As for closing costs, there were still a few fixed fees that needed to be covered and we split those 50/50 with the buyer. Our portion came to $667. :) Not bad for a couple of amateurs!