Although the steps involved in selling a home are similar regardless of where you live or the type of property you’re selling, Oregon's real estate laws and practices are unique in some respects.
To avoid difficult last-minute decisions or other problems, become an educated seller. Here’s an overview of the basics—from working with a real estate agent to making legally required disclosures to closing the deal.
Working With an Oregon Real Estate Agent
Most people selling their home in Oregon work with a licensed real estate broker or agent. A good real estate agent will help price your house based on a comparative market analysis (or comps), effectively market your house to prospective buyers, and handle other tasks such as reviewing house purchase documents and negotiating with buyers.
Before signing a listing agreement (discussed below) with any agent, get references from other home sellers and check customer reviews on sites such as Zillow and Trulia. You can find licensed Oregon real estate agents at the Oregon Real Estate Agency’s Licensee Info Search.
Signing a Listing Agreement in Oregon
Once you find a real estate agent you want to work with, you’ll sign a “listing agreement.” This gives the agent the right to market and handle the sale of your house. Most real estate agents use standard forms created by their state or local Realtor association, such as the Oregon Association of Realtors.
Listing agreements typically cover:
The real estate agent commission that you (the seller) will pay. This is typically 5% or 6% of the house sales price and is split between your real estate agent and the buyer’s agent.
The type of listing. Most listing agents will want you to sign an exclusive right to sell listing, which obligates you to pay a commission to the agent regardless of who brings in the buyer (see the sample Oregon Exclusive Right to Sell Listing Contract form—your real estate agent will provide the most recent form). Other arrangements are possible, however, such as an open listing, in which you agree to pay a commission to whichever agent brings in a buyer, or an exclusive agency listing, in which you agree that your agent is the only agent authorized to sell your house, but that you will pay a commission only if the agent brings in the buyer (not, for example, if you do).
- Duration of listing. In all cases, the listing agreement will cover a set amount of time, such as 60 or 90 days.
- Listing price. Your agent will recommend the appropriate selling price by comparing prices of similar homes (“comps”) that have been listed in your immediate area, based on his or her experience and data found in a Multiple Listing Service (MLS). To educate yourself as to whether the agent is recommending an appropriate price, the National Association of Realtors’ website is a good source of information on prices of houses currently on the market, and websites such as Zillow and Trulia provide data on actual sales prices.
Items included or not included in the sale. For example, you may plan to leave behind a built-in dishwasher (which is therefore part of the property that the agent is contracted to sell), but exclude a washing machine that you plan to move to your new home.
Duties and obligations of seller and real estate agent. Your agreement will spell out how the real estate agent will list or market your house, what type of insurance you must maintain on the property, and what disclosures you must make.
Making Real Estate Disclosures in Oregon
- defects in the electrical, heating, cooling, and heating systems
- structural problems, such as leaky roof or dry rot
- water source and type of sewage system
- legal issues, such as zoning violations, and
- other specified details of the property.
To assist sellers in making all required disclosures, the Oregon Association of Realtors offers a disclosure form. State law allows some sellers, such as those selling a house that has never been occupied, to claim an exclusion to this disclosure requirement.
In addition, if your house was built before 1978, you must comply with federal Title X disclosures regarding lead-based paint and hazards. See the lead disclosure section of the EPA’s website for details.
Responding to Offers, Making Counteroffers, and Signing a Purchase Agreement
A buyer who wants to purchase a particular Oregon home will make the seller a written offer, specifying the price, proposed down payment, any contingencies, such as receipt of a satisfactory inspection report done by an inspector the buyer hires, or the buyers' arranging financing or selling their house, and so on.
You may reject an offer outright, accept it as-is, or (more typically) respond to a buyer’s offer with a counteroffer. A counteroffer accepts some or most of the offer terms, but suggests changes to others, such as a higher price or a closing date that’s sooner than the buyer proposed.
A legally binding contract, typically called a purchase agreement, is formed when you accept a final offer (agreeing to any changes from the original offer). Your agreement will contain key terms of the sale, such as the agreed-upon price, contingencies, financing terms, dispute resolution, and closing date.
Once a purchase agreement is signed by both buyer and seller, the transaction will go into escrow.
Escrow is the time period between signing the purchase agreement and closing on the house. You will choose an escrow or title agent, a neutral third party to serve as intermediary and supervise the process (preparing title reports, processing loans, removing buyer contingencies, and so on).
The buyer typically has a lot more to do during this time period than the seller. By the close of escrow, the buyer will need to finalize financing, remove all contingencies, have the house appraised (normally required by mortgage lenders), and get title insurance—usually under deadlines set by the purchase agreement.
Issues often come up that require negotiating, such as who will pay for the repair of problems identified in an inspection report. The buyer may insist that you pay to remedy a defect or lower the purchase price. If you cannot reach an acceptable agreement, the buyer may have the right to back out of the deal.
Attending the Closing of Your Oregon Home
By the close of escrow (known as the closing or settlement), you and the buyer should have fulfilled all the terms of your purchase agreement. At the closing itself (sometimes a meeting of the parties, other times conducted in separate locations), all final documents and funds will be exchanged between buyer and seller. The buyer pays you the purchase price, and you give the buyer a deed and other transfer documents and clear title to the house or condo. You pay off any outstanding loans on your property and pay commissions to the real estate agents (per your listing agreement).
The closing normally takes place over the course of one day, though it’s possible to go over several days.
Sellers do not usually need to be present at an Oregon closing so long as all costs are paid and documents are signed. Typically, the buyers will sign the final documents at the office of their title company or escrow agent and pick up the keys. The escrow agency or title company will record the new deed in the buyers' name at a local government office, and the home is officially the buyers'.
For details, see Escrow and Closing in Buying or Selling a Home.
Working With a Lawyer
Unlike in some states, Oregon law does not require that sellers involve a lawyer in the house-selling transaction. Even if it’s not required, you may decide to hire a lawyer at some point in this process—for example, to review the final sales contract or assist with closing details.
You may also want a lawyer's help in unusual situations, such as if you are drafting a lease agreement allowing you to rent the home back for an extended period of time, or if problems show up on the title report, such as a lien on the property.
If you are selling your home without a real estate agent (a “for sale by owner” or FSBO), it may be useful to hire an attorney to help with the legal paperwork and make sure you’re in compliance with state and local rules.
Check out our lawyer directory to find an experienced real estate attorney in Oregon.
More Information on Selling a House
The Residential Real Estate section of this website includes a variety of useful articles on all aspects of the house selling process, including marketing strategies and tax issues.