How to Organize Your Real Estate Documents

by | BiggerPockets.com

If you’re investing in real estate, you’re going to be filling out and receiving dozens of real estate documents. These documents will cover the details of your transactions, provide evidence on the condition of your properties, and in some cases, will be necessary to prove your ownership of the property. Keeping these documents safe, available, and organized is imperative if you want to continue making good investment decisions and ensure that your legal ownership and legal rights are protected.

The Most Important Documents to Track

These are some of the most important documents to keep track of as a real estate investor:

Agent agreements

Your agent agreements will define your working relationship with a given buyer or seller, including any commission fee that you’re going to pay, expectations for their responsibilities, and so on. It’s important to keep these documents on hand in case you need to fall back on them.

Purchase agreements

Purchase agreements are contracts for the agreed-upon price and condition of a given property. They may include specified timelines for the transaction, or conditions under which the sale must take place. These could be important if you notice something wrong with the property after you’ve purchased it.

Related: The 3 Major Benefits of a Highly Organized Landlording Business

Amendments, addenda, and riders

Make sure you keep any additions to your core paperwork, in case you need to refer to them. It’s easy for addenda and riders to get lost in the shuffle when they’re introduced at a later date.

Seller disclosures

In addition to your purchase agreement, you may have a seller disclosure to worry about. Make sure you keep these documents together.

Home inspection results

Home inspections are vital in the purchasing process, as they inform you about virtually everything that’s wrong with the property. You may need to refer back to this document if and when you decide to make upgrades, or if you notice something wrong with the house that should have been caught during the inspection, so you can hold someone accountable for it.

Title insurance policy

Title insurance is designed to protect both buyers and lenders from title-related problems during transfer of ownership. Documents related to your policy are important to keep on hand.

Lease agreements

If you’re renting the property to tenants, you’ll also want to keep track of your lease agreements—as tenant disputes can, and probably will arise.

Tips for Efficient Organization

You’ll also want to follow these tips to stay efficiently organized:

Store physically and digitally when possible.

Some of the documents you’ll complete will need to have physical copies; for example, you’ll probably want a physical copy of the lease agreement, signed by your tenants by hand. However, it’s important to have a digital copy as well. Digital copies can be stored redundantly in the cloud, and are much easier to share and manage. By that same token, it can be valuable to print out your digital files and have a paper copy available to view, in case you need a quick reference without an internet connection.

Related: 6 Steps to Master Organization in Your Investing Business

Manage permissions.

If you’re storing your files on a cloud-based app, you’ll be able to give and manage permissions for who can access which file, and share those files with the people who need them. Learning how to manage these sharing settings is crucial for both your security and your efficiency. For example, if you’re investing with a partner, you’ll want to make sure they’re able to access whichever documents are relevant to their decisions and responsibilities. If you’re sharing a lease agreement with a tenant, however, you’ll want to make sure they can view it without being able to change the contents within the document.

Have multiple backups.

Always back up your files. No matter which method of storage you choose—whether it’s in a safe in your house, in a safety deposit box, or online in a cloud storage platform—there are going to be vulnerabilities. Make sure you have multiple copies of your documents in multiple locations to ensure you have them in the event of a tragedy.

Label and organize your folders.

Finally, you’ll want to create a system of organization that allows you to find your files quickly—regardless of whether they’re stored online or in a filing cabinet. For example, you might create a folder for all the documents related to a single property, and separate those files out based on what’s relevant to you as a property owner, and what’s relevant to you as a landlord.

Once your files are systematically organized, you’ll feel much more secure about the integrity and accessibility of your documents. It takes some time to set up a good system, and ongoing effort to maintain that system, but it’s worth it if you want to stay organized.

How do you keep your real estate documents organized?

Comment below!

About Author

Larry Alton

Larry is an independent, full-time writer and consultant. His writing covers a broad range of topics including business, investment and technology. His contributions include Entrepreneur Media, TechCrunch, and Inc.com. When he is not writing, Larry assists both entrepreneurs and mid-market businesses in optimizing strategies for growth, cost cutting, and operational optimization. As an avid real estate investor, Larry cut his teeth in the early 2000s buying land and small single family properties. He has since acquired and flipped over 30 parcels and small homes across the United States. While Larry’s real estate investing experience is a side passion, he will affirm his experience and know-how in real estate investing is derived more from his failures than his successes.

1 Comment

  1. Aaron J. Mandel

    Nicely written! Though the BiggerPocket audience is not typically buying into Home Owner Associations/ Co-Ops, it might be relevant to note the value of tracking legal policies (CC&Rs), historical finance documentation (e.g. reserve studies) and governance notes (board meeting minutes) if buying into a multi-owner multi-unit property.

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