How to Write a Contract to Sell a House

By Lana White
A contract to sell a house is a legally binding document.
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A contract to sell a house should include a legal description of the property along with details about the price the buyer and seller have agreed upon and the date when ownership of the property will transfer from the seller to the buyer. A contract to sell a house is a legally binding document that assures both the seller and the buyer are aware of and will execute the responsibilities outlined in the transaction.

You can purchase a real estate contract form or create your own.
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Contract to sell a house forms can be purchased from most office supply stores and from many sources online. Be sure you include every detail discussed between the seller and buyer, if you decide to compose your own contract to sell a house. Start with the simple task of filling in the seller's name, buyer's name, address, home and cell phone numbers, and the address of the property for sale (including city, state and ZIP code).

Find the property's legal description online.
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Include the legal description of the property along with the property address. Go online to the county recorder's office and search by property address or seller's name to find the legal description. Insert the legal description in the contract directly after the property address.

Itemize appliances and other items that are included in the home sale.
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Clearly state the selling price of the house in numerical form and also write it out. Describe any items that do not convey with the property and all items that are included in the sale of the house. Make sure items like chandeliers, appliances, washer and dryer, window coverings and external items like swing sets, storage sheds and hot tubs are clearly addressed when completing this section of the contract to sell a house.

Establish the amount of the earnest money deposit.
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Establish the amount of the earnest money deposit the seller expects to accompany the sales contract. Explain how this deposit will be used: applied to the selling price if the sale goes through, retained by seller if the buyer defaults on the contract and returned to the buyer if the seller defaults. Be sure to detail any portion of the earnest money deposit that may be retained by the seller for taking the house off the market if the buyer defaults.

Agree to accept an existing survey of the property that the seller may have, or agree that a new survey will be done, usually at the buyer's expense. Include this detail in the contract to sell a house.

Include home inspection details in the sales contract.
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Check with a local real estate agent or lending institution to find out what inspections are routinely expected in your area. Call out any required inspections in this section of the sales contract. Be sure this section of the contract clearly states which party will pay for the inspections and for any repairs that may be discovered in the inspections.

Choose a closing date.
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Be sure the closing date---the date when money and title to the property exchanges hands from the seller to the buyer and buyer to seller---is included in the contract. Negotiate and include the date for possession of the property, usually at the time of closing.

Negotiate any buyer settlement (closing) costs that the seller may be willing to pay and include this information in the contract to sell a house. Include wording regarding payment of settlement costs on the contract even if each party (seller and buyer) are responsible for their own settlement costs.

Most states have laws that dictate how a real estate contract can be terminated.
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Familiarize yourself with state laws that cover how and when a purchase contract can be terminated. Check your state's website and include specific language in the purchase contract that dictates how each party can terminate the contract and what fee must be paid for doing so.

Use this section of the sales contract to itemize any additional details that are pertinent to the sale of the property but have not been included in another section of the contract.

Set a timeframe within which the seller must respond to the buyer's offer, often one to three days. Make sure both parties understand that until both the buyer and seller sign and date the home sale contract, it is not a completed contract.

All parties must sign and date the contract.
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Insert lines for signatures of all buyers and all sellers. Make sure each person also includes the date when they sign the contract.

Include a legally required Real Estate Disclosure form as an addendum to the sales contract. Use this addendum to disclose any details about the house that are not immediately obvious. Be sure to include any damage to the home (even if it has been repaired), any lawsuits or liens on the property, annual property taxes and any remodeling or additions to the home.

Initial and sign any changes to the contract.
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Go to the section of the contract that is affected by any counter offer. Draw a line through the original information and write in the new counter offer details. Make sure both the seller and the buyer place their initials next to each area of the contract where changes occur.

About the Author

Lana White has a writing career that spans more than 20 years. Her articles have appeared in "Dayton Daily News," "Cincinnati Enquirer," "Leatherneck" magazine, "Discover Dayton Magazine" and many trade journals. Her commercial ad copy has aired across Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio television and radio stations. White studied at Miami University.