Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork! Some days, it feels like you’re going to drown in it. But you know it’s part of the business.
The golden question is – is it really necessary to keep all of your paperwork forever and ever? In short, the answer is yes. For legal protection, it’s a good idea to have a solid real estate file organization system and to keep a comprehensive file for each and every client. That way, if a dispute or audit ever surfaces; you’ve got your ducks in a row. It also gives you an easy to reference property file that you can go back to if a house you’ve previously marketed goes back up for sale. So how do you maintain easy to navigate records for all of your clients?
Organization is a critical when it comes to keeping your paperwork mountain under control. Since different regulatory agencies have different rules on how long you should keep various documents and forms, I strongly suggest creating a client binder for every new buyer or seller you work with and filing their paperwork as you move through the transaction.
Follow these steps to simplify your recordkeeping:
Step 1: Buy binders in bulk (tax deductible – save your receipt)
Step 2: Utilize organizational tabs
Since you’re going to end up with a ton of paperwork in that binder, it’s wise to add some organizational tabs (also tax deductible – save your receipt!). That way, if you ever have to go back and reference your file, it’ll be easy to find the specific document you’re looking for. The number and order of tabs will vary by agent and transaction, but if here’s an example of how you could organize your binder tabs if you’re working with a buyer:
- Client profile
- Listing Agreement
- Listing / MLS Data
- Offer Details
- Inspection Paperwork
- Loan Documents
- Appraisal Notes
- Close Paperwork
For sellers, you can use the following tabs:
- Client profile
- Selling Agreement
- Pricing & Promo Paperwork
- Marketing & Results
- Earnest Money & Escrow
The marketing and results are optional, but adding a section in there to track how you promoted the home and what worked best can help you move properties more quickly in transactions. You can pull this data out and build your own secondary marketing folder after the close.
Step 3: Add paperwork as you move through the transaction
Don’t wait until the end to gather up all your paperwork and file it away! As you build the documents, print a copy and add it to your binder. When you walk into each meeting with an organized paperwork binder – your clients will be impressed and reassured that you’ve got everything under control.
Step 4: Audit and close the book after your transaction closes
Go back through your binder and review each section to make sure you’re not missing anything and that you have signed, dated copies of all pertinent documents. It’s a lot easier to do a self-audit right after close than it is to wait several months – so try your best not to put it off.
Step 5: Securely store your paperwork
Now you have a decision to make – how are you going to store your binders? If you work in an office – ask your broker or office manager if there’s a good place to use for storage. If you work out of your home, a fire-resistant filing cabinet with a sturdy lock is always a good bet if you have the space for it. If you don’t have a good storage space in your home, you may want to consider investing in a small storage unit (also possibly tax deductible – talk to your accountant!). If you use a paperless file system, make sure you have multiple backups (we recommend dropbox!)
When it comes to legal or tax issues, being organized is the key to protecting your business. By managing paperwork throughout the transaction, you’ll have a complete, easy to reference client file ready to go after close.
Make it even easier on yourself with our Paperwork Checklist: