Keeping Track: Essential Paperwork Every Homeowner Should Save

Congratulations on closing on your new home! In all the excitement of this significant life milestone, it’s easy to misplace critical documents. In this blog, we'll discuss the key documents after buying a house and how to keep them organized in your homeowner journal. 

Why You Need a Homeowner Journal

Creating a homeowner journal isn't just a good idea—it's essential. This collection of important documents for new homeowners will save you countless headaches. Think of it as your home's medical record. Keeping everything together ensures you’re prepared for any situation, from insurance claims, home improvements, and maintenance records to selling your property.

The Eleven Must-Keep Documents

Let’s dive into the critical documents you need to retain and how to store them.

1. Agent Representation Agreements

Early in your home-buying journey, you signed agent representation agreements. These documents outline the relationship between you and your real estate agent, detailing their duties and your obligations. Keep these agreements as part of your home-buying documents.

2. Purchase Contracts and Agreements

Your purchase contracts, including initial offers, counteroffers, and the final ratified agreement, are legally binding. They detail contingencies, dates, and agreed-upon terms. These documents are crucial to reference the details that were agreed upon when you bought your new home.

3. Seller Disclosures

Seller disclosures in real estate provide information about the property's condition and any known issues. These can include a seller’s real property disclosure and other documents provided during the closing process. Retain all seller disclosures, whether written or verbal, recorded by your buyer agent and in your personal notes.

4. Home Inspection Report

Your home inspection report is vital. It details the property’s condition and any repairs requested from the seller. Also, keep all invoices, quotes, and repair receipts related to these requests. This record is invaluable to create a home maintenance plan based on the findings in the report.

5. Property Appraisal

This document, provided by your loan officer, establishes the home’s value at purchase. It can help resolve disputes over assessed value and may assist in appealing property taxes if your local jurisdiction makes an error recording the purchase price.

6. Owner’s Title Policy

An owner’s title policy protects you against past problems in the property’s title history, such as forged signatures,  missing mortgage discharges, undiscovered lien or encumbrances during the closing process, and against any claims of ownership rights from previous owners or heirs. Ensure you have a copy of this policy for quick reference if any issues arise.

7. Homeowner’s Insurance Policy

Your homeowner’s insurance policy details your coverage and exemptions. Review your insurance policy annually with your insurance agent to ensure it continues to meet your needs. Easy access to your policy showing your coverages is crucial if you need to file a claim.

8. Home Warranty Information

Home warranties can cover repairs for major systems and appliances. Keep your home warranty information, including any builder’s warranty for new homes or a seller-provided home warranty for resale homes (if applicable). This documentation will help you understand what’s covered and how to make a claim if needed.

9. Closing Disclosure

The closing disclosure document, provided by your loan officer, outlines your loan terms and closing costs. Keep this for reference and for tax purposes, as it details deductible expenses and financial agreements.

10. Property Deed

The property deed record proves your ownership. It’s often recorded with your County Assessor’s Office, and you should receive a copy from your title company. This document provides proof of ownership.

11. Additional Helpful Information

Any other helpful information you receive during the closing process should be retained. This might include contact information for service providers the seller used, like HVAC or pool maintenance companies. These contacts can simplify your transition into your new home.

Storing Your Documents

Now that you know what to keep, let’s talk about how to store these documents effectively.

  1. Physical Copies: Keep paper copies of all documents in a binder, folder, or digital files in the cloud. Store this binder in a secure, easily accessible location in your home office.
  2. Digital Copies: If possible, scan all documents and save them to your favorite cloud service. This ensures you have access to them from anywhere and protects against physical damage or loss.
What If You've Misplaced Documents?

In all the hustle and bustle, it’s possible some documents got misplaced. Here’s how to retrieve them and who to contact depending on the files that are missing.

1. Buyer Agent

After buying a house, your buyer agent should retain copies of all key documents, including agreements, contracts, and disclosures within state-specified timeframes. Generally, real estate brokerages must retain all files for buyers and sellers their real estate agents represent for 5-7 years. Contact them for replacements.

2. Loan Officer

Your loan officer will have your appraisal report, closing disclosure, and other loan-related documents. They can provide copies if needed.  If your mortgage was sold at closing, your new service provider may have the information you seek.  If your mortgage note is sold at closing, you will receive a letter within 15 days sharing who the new service provider is, their contact information, and how to make your mortgage payments.

3. Title Company or Real Estate Attorney

If your state requires a real estate attorney, they’ll have certified copies of your closing documents. Otherwise, the title company holds these records.

4. County Assessor's Office

For your property deed, visit your County Assessor’s Office or their website. Many areas allow you to access and print these records online for free.

5. Service Providers

For documents like the home inspection report, contact the service provider directly. They should be able to supply a copy. If not, contact your buyer agent; they may have also kept a copy in their files.

Best Practices for Document Management

To ensure you’re never without these essential documents, follow these best practices:

  1. Create a Checklist: Make a checklist of all the documents you need and verify you have copies of each.
  2. Regular Updates: Periodically update your homeowner journal with any new documents, such as insurance renewals, home repairs or maintenance records, and home improvement documents, along with any updated home warranty information.
  3. Secure Storage: Use fireproof and waterproof storage solutions for physical copies and reputable cloud services for digital backups.
  4. Consistent Review: Review your documents annually to ensure they’re up to date and accurately reflect your current home and financial situation.
Adding Value: Useful Links

Here are some resources to help you maintain and understand your documents better: 

  1. Understanding Your Closing Disclosure - Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  2. Homeowner’s Insurance Explained - Insurance Information Institute

Keeping these key documents organized in your homeowner journal after buying a house will save you time and stress.

Whether preparing for tax season, making an insurance claim, or planning to sell, having these documents at your fingertips is invaluable. Start your homeowner journal today and ensure you have everything you need for a smooth homeownership journey.

If you plan on buying or selling a home in the Las Vegas, Nevada area, please contact me.

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