Key documents you need to buy a home

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The paperwork you need—and when you need it—to buy a house

When you decide to buy a home, you commit yourself to a lot of paperwork and keeping it all organized can be tedious. It’s important to keep it all organized and on schedule to close on your new home without any major financial or legal roadblocks. If you miss a step or skip a form, you could throw the whole transaction into jeopardy. But Flyhomes is here with your guide to all the documents you’ll need to buy a house so you can stay on track and get into your new home with less hassle.

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Key takeaways

  • Find out what your credit score is before you submit a mortgage loan application
  • Provide two-years worth of tax returns and two-months worth of income to get pre-approved for a mortgage
  • Submit an offer on a house with your pre-approval letter and earnest money deposit in hand
  • The bulk of your paperwork is signed at closing

Before you start house hunting

Unless you’re buying your home in cash you’ll need to apply for a home loan. Before applying for a mortgage, check your credit report to make sure it’s accurate. Your credit score influences your ability to get a mortgage, so it’s important you know your score before applying.

What documents do I need to apply for a home loan?

After submitting your application for a home loan, your lender will give you a pre-approval letter. This letter states you are preliminarily approved for a set amount of financing. This document also allows you to get a better idea of what your monthly mortgage payments will look like. This way, the seller can tell you are a serious buyer, capable of making mortgage payments.

The exact forms you will need to submit in order to get pre-approved for a mortgage will depend on whether you are an employee or self-employed. Expect to provide these forms:

Tax returns

Lenders will ask for one to two years’ worth of tax returns to verify your annual income. Lenders will also check your tax returns to confirm that there aren’t huge differences from year to year. Tax returns provide lenders with a clear picture of your overall financial health.

Proof of income

To gauge your current earnings, lenders will likely ask to see your pay stubs for the past two pay periods. You may have to prove your income through 1099s, direct deposits, or client contracts if you’re self-employed. Include other sources of income like child support, as well. This information tells lenders your debt-to-income ratio which they use to figure out how much money to lend you.

Bank statements

Lenders will want to look at your bank statements for the past three months, as well as any other assets you hold. They may request to see stocks, bonds, and retirement accounts under your name. Lenders want to know that you could pay several months of mortgage payments in case of an emergency.

Credit history

Lenders will also request written or verbal permission to pull your credit report. Since you will have already taken a look at your credit score, you should be able to explain any negative items on your report. If you can explain any discrepancies, you’ll have a better chance at a higher loan and good rates.

Gift letters

If friends and family are going to help you with a down payment, they will need to put in writing that they don’t expect any money back. There should be one letter per monetary gift and list the donor’s relationship to you, as well as the gift amount.

Renting history

Your lender will ask for proof of on-time rent payments if you’re transitioning from renting to owning. You can show your lender your cleared rent checks or get a letter from your landlord. A good rental history is especially helpful if you don’t have an extensive credit history.

Photo ID

Show your lender a driver’s license or other legal ID to prove your identity.

white single story houses beside body of water
Documents you’ll need in the homebuying process are organized into three phases: pre-approval, offer, and closing

What documents do I need to submit an offer on a house?

Now that you’re pre-approved, it’s time to make an offer on a home. In today’s competitive market, it’s important you communicate to the seller from the very beginning that you intend to follow through on your offer. There are three key documents you will need to submit an offer:

Pre-approval letter

Your pre-approval letter is one of the most important documents for your offer. A pre-approval letter shows you will be able to get the necessary financing to buy a house. 

Offer letter

The offer letter indicates what terms you are willing to offer to buy the home from the seller. It includes important information like the total price and good-faith earnest money deposit. The seller will review your letter and either accept or reject your offer.

Purchase agreement

The purchase agreement is a legally-binding document that spells out the terms and conditions of the home sale. When the seller accepts your offer, the offer letter becomes the purchase agreement. Once you sign it, both you and the seller commit to the sale.

What documents do I need to close on a home?

Once you and the seller enter into a purchase agreement, both parties have about four to six weeks to gather the remaining paperwork. Luckily, the seller is responsible for preparing and reviewing much of the documentation before they give it to you at closing. Your agent should be present to help guide you through the document-signing process. Homebuyers can expect to sign the following documents on closing day:

Seller’s disclosure statement

The seller will give you a document to sign that outlines all the potential problem areas and previous work to the property. It’s a good idea to do your own inspection with a trained professional as well, though some buyers waive inspections to make a more competitive offer. Either way, a seller’s disclosure document gives you the chance to confirm that the seller is honest about what kind of state the property is in.

Certificate of title

A certificate of title, or a seller’s affidavit, gives you the chance to check to make sure there are no tax liens or other title issues attached to the home. If you buy the home with a lien against it, you are now responsible for paying it. Before buying a home, it’s recommended you buy title insurance to protect yourself against any losses from title issues.

Property deed

The property deed is the document that states the home is legally the seller’s to sell. At the time of closing, the seller transfers the deed to you to make you the legal owner.

Bill of sale

This is like a receipt for the property. The document sets out  what property is included in the home purchase, including any personal property being left in the house at the time of sale.

Mortgage agreement and note

The mortgage agreement and note give you the road map for your monthly mortgage payments, interest payments, and anything else related to your loan. It’s also the document that legally declares your lender has the right to take possession of your home if you can’t pay the mortgage.

Transfer tax declarations

Tax declarations are not required in every state, but they serve to  disclose the price of the property. This allows the corresponding  authorities to calculate your sales and property taxes.About the author: Vivian Tejada is a freelance writer and small business strategist based out of Providence, RI. She writes SEO blogs, articles, and neighborhood guides for a variety of real estate companies. She’s an avid traveler, location-independent and enjoys trying out new restaurants.

landscape photo of 2-storey house
During closing, the seller and their agent will prepare most of the documents for you to simply sign

Key paperwork to buy your home

There are three main phases to buying a home and each phase has its own paperwork. To get pre-approved for a mortgage, you’ll need to provide proof of income, bank statements, tax returns, a credit report, any cash gifts for your down payment, rental history. During the offer process, you’ll provide a pre-approval letter, an offer letter, and a purchase agreement. Then, when you close, you’ll sign the seller’s disclosure, certificate of title, property deed, bill of sale, mortgage agreement, and tax declaration.

About the author: Vivian Tejada is a freelance writer and small business strategist based out of Providence, RI. She writes SEO blogs, articles, and neighborhood guides for a variety of real estate companies. She’s an avid traveler, location-independent and enjoys trying out new restaurants.