Your Guide to Selling a Home

Selling a home

When and how you sell your home may be the largest and most important investment decision of your life. Working with a knowledgeable real estate attorney will help ensure that you protect your investment and ensure that the process of selling your home goes smoothly. An experienced real estate attorney will make sure that, before signing, you understand all legal agreements related to the sale of your home.

How your attorney can help you

Since the process of selling your home is fairly complex, the Illinois State Bar Association recommends that you hire and consult with an experienced real estate attorney before you sign any documents related to the sale of your home. If you do not know an experienced real estate attorney, contact the ISBA ( or your local bar association and they will provide you with the names of several attorneys in your area. When you contact an attorney, be sure to inquire about the fee arrangement and ask questions about that attorney's experience in handling real estate matters. Also, it is helpful if you have copies of the following documents relating to the property you wish to sell available for your attorney to review:

  • the title policy;
  • the deed;
  • the survey; and
  • if there is a mortgage outstanding on the property, a copy of the current mortgage statement along with a loan number and customer service number.

If you are involved in a mortgage foreclosure or any other lawsuit that may affect the property, you need to let your attorney know and provide him or her with copies of any documents you may have.

After your initial consultation with your attorney, you can then decide if you are ready to put your house on the market. If you decide to use a realtor, you should send the listing agreement to your attorney for review.

The contract to purchase

When a buyer is interested in purchasing your home, the buyer should submit an offer to purchase in writing. If you accept the offer, you and the buyer have a binding contract, which sets forth the rights of both the seller and buyer. The contract should include all the terms of your sale, such as sales price, earnest money deposit, financing terms, closing date, possession date, personal property to be included in the sale, tax prorations, and rights of inspection and possession. Since the contract is the most important document involved in the sale of a home, it is essential that you understand the terms of the offer. DO NOT SIGN ANY OFFER WITH CONDITIONS YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND. Your real estate attorney can assist you in reviewing your offer and making any counteroffers, if necessary. If you MUST accept an offer from a buyer prior to consulting with your attorney, make sure your contract allows for an attorney to review it and modify its provisions, if necessary.

The closing

In addition to helping you negotiate the terms of the contract, when all requirements of the Contract have been met, your attorney will arrange the time and place for your closing. As necessary, your attorney will perform the following tasks:

  1. Obtain a pay-off statement for your existing loan(s), if any.
  2. Assist in the selection of a title company of your choice.
  3. Assist in obtaining any necessary inspections (termite, radon, mechanical, etc.).
  4. Assist in the completion of the Residential Real Property Disclosure Act and a Lead-Paint Hazard disclosure, if applicable.
  5. Review and pro-rate your real estate taxes.
  6. Prepare your final closing figures and forward to the title closer.
  7. Prepare conveyance documents and other closing documentation necessary to complete the transaction.
  8. Help prevent or resolve disputes between you and the Buyer regarding the inspections, repairs, and the possession date.
  9. Attend the closing with you and explain the transaction to you.
  10. Assist you with post-closing matters.

This brochure is designed to explain the basic steps of selling a single family home. However, every real estate closing is unique. A variety of special circumstances, such as new construction, co-operatives, installment sale (also called land sale contracts or articles of agreement), seller financing, lease-options, senior/retirement housing, tax deferred exchanges, multifamily building, land trust, estate planning trusts, planned unit developments, condominium conversions, and even cash transactions, require additional considerations that are beyond the scope of this brochure. Just remember that when you are ready to sell a home, the best possible decision you can make is to hire an experienced real estate attorney.

This pamphlet is prepared and published by the Illinois State Bar Association as a public service. Every effort has been made to provide accurate information at the time of publication.

For the most current information, please consult your lawyer. If you need a lawyer and do not have one, call Illinois Lawyer Finder at (800) 922-8757 or online