Closing a real estate deal involves a fair amount of work and attention to detail (and of course, there’s always the chance that you could do something wrong). With a property like what you’re describing, the value that a professional closing agent brings to the table is a pretty easy thing to justify spending money on. In Virginia, I believe either an attorney or a title agency could do the job (but this kind of thing varies from state to state, so you may want to ask a local real state agent what they recommend).
Although the process of selling land is less complex than selling a piece of property with a home, this is still a process that requires the help of a professional. Real estate laws vary from state to state, so its important to work with an experienced real estate attorney when selling your land. The help of a professional becomes even more important if youre creating a land contract.
In terms of paying off the mortgage, you’d have to work directly with the lender to make sure they get paid and that they discharge their mortgage. If you’re unsure about how the process works, then honestly – it probably is best to just work with a title company. It may cost a few hundred dollars more – but for a property like what you’re describing, that’s what I would be doing anyway (I use title companies for anything in excess of $10K). They will take all the guesswork out of this process and make it WAY easier to get the job done.
Hi Dothan – thanks for asking! The package explains all of the standard steps for handling the closing in-house, but it’s geared more towards vacant land investors (and vacant lots are a bit simpler to close on than a standard home). If you’re working with a bank, they might even require that you go through a title company (and honestly, if the purchase price is $10,000 or higher, it should be fairly easy to justify the closing costs).
Negotiate the price with the buyer and finalize the paperwork. Once you’ve decided on a purchase price, you can write up your contract. Free contracts can be found online or you can contact a real estate attorney. Some states also require additional paperwork, such as a land disclosure form, so be sure to do your research before completing the transaction.
For what it’s worth, I do know of at least one wholesaler who has worked in Florida for years (though he does use a title company for every deal, he doesn’t close them himself). Given the logistical challenges with assigning contracts, I wouldn’t recommend trying to do these types of deals without a title company – it requires A LOT more running around and coordination than just paying cash and buying the property yourself.
Hi Seth, and thanks for the quick response! I’ve looked at the steps you’ve outlined, and, other than a few required disclosures when selling a house, the steps seem the same to me. I’m just not willing to pay a third party 2300 bucks to close a cash deal on a 54k property. It’s just not right that I can go pay cash for a 54k car, but somebody else’s hands have to be in the pot when I buy a 54k house for cash! Arghh! I’m going to buy title insurance because the owner is in bankruptcy, but I really don’t see anything else that I can’t do by myself. I’m waiting on a couple of quotes from different title companies, but I’ll likely buy your package and go from there. Even if it doesn’t work out for this deal, I’m sure I’ll be able to use the info on future land only deals!
While approximate land value calculators and charts are available online for most areas of the United States, sellers should use these figures only for broad estimation purposes. Arriving at a more exact price point to use as a listing price is best done by a real estate professional with a solid track record of successfully selling the type of land being sold.
Have a pre-prepared contract and Form 1 statement at the ready, to be signed when you find yourself a buyer who is prepared to pay you the right price. You must remember that on most occasions purchasers have a right to “cool off” on a contract that they have just signed which they can exercise at any time and for any reason within 2 clear business days of signing the contract. It is therefore critical that you strike while the iron is hot.
A deed to transfer the legal title of the property from the seller to the buyer should be drafted and signed by the seller at the closing. This deed will be held in escrow until the final payment is made on the land contract and then filed with the appropriate government agency, such as the county clerk in the county where the property is located. Held in escrow means that the deed is held until a triggering event, payment of the land contract. A title agency, an attorney, or a financial institution may hold the deed in escrow for the buyer and seller.
You may want to add an ‘escape’ clause, which allows you to keep the house on the market while the buyer sorts out the conditions of purchase (e.g. arranging finance, getting a builder’s report). If you receive another offer during this time, the clause gives the buyer a set number of days in which to go unconditional, and if they don’t you would be free to take up the other buyer’s offer instead.
Real estate agents typically charge a 4% to 6% commission on the sale price, so selling without an agent could certainly save you big bucks. Even after you pay $1,000 or so for your own online ads, open-house brochures, and a lawn sign, you would still probably clear an extra $14,000 on a $300,000 sale, $24,000 on a $500,000 sale, or $36,500 on a $750,000 sale.
Provide as much detail as you can. Land buyers want the facts, and they wanted them yesterday. When you’re listing your property, be sure to include the zoning, plus details on whether the buyer will be able to change the way the property is zoned. You also want to include details on taxes paid on the land and other typical expenses. If you can, include the tax-roll printout from your local land registry or county assessor and include the legal description of the land in the listing. You can also provide that detail when people come to look at the land.
While a land transaction is different in many ways from a real estate transaction in which improved property changes hands, it's still a real estate transaction. Land sales still involve escrows and title insurance and are still subject to transfer taxes. As with any other transaction, there are customs for who pays which expense at a closing, but the customs are also set aside when the purchase agreement for the land specifies a different procedure.
Closing your own real estate deal doesn't have to be difficult. When I am buying or selling a property with a cash sale (most of my deals are cash transactions these days), it's just a matter of taking the time to ensure that all the documents are completed with the correct information, signed by all appropriate parties and then sent to the appropriate places for recording (the deed should be sent to the county for recording and the supporting documentation should be sent to the local city, township or municipality office for their records).
I found the affidavit that you linked to and I get how to fill it out but the thing I’m stuck on is the notarizing. It has to be signed by both the seller/buyer and notarized. Obviously we aren’t near one another; can this document be notarized separately? Should I sign/notarize and then send it to the buyer for them to do the same? Have a mobile notary go to them? Any best practices?
Seth, I hope I’m not pestering with too many questions. Your web site has been invaluable. It’s probably covered on your web site, but I may have missed it: In a purchase transaction where we are closing the deal ourselves with a Notary, when do we mail the seller their cashier’s check. After the County returns your stamped documents? Supposing the seller is uncertain. What would you think of (A) leaving the cashiers check with the Notary to mail directly to the seller upon recording of the transaction or (B) including something in the packet we mail to the effect of “transaction will be voided if seller does not receive payment in the agreed upon amount of _________________ within two weeks of recording”. I like the idea of including a copy of the cashiers check. Or is this just too much of me worrying over nothing?
In recent years, however, a combination of extremely low interest rates on savings accounts coupled with fluctuations in the stock market have helped to increase interest in the purchase of land as part of an investment strategy. These conditions may seem negative, but they can be good news for land owners. If you currently own vacant property that you would like to sell, the following tips are designed to help you get your land noticed by more buyers, increase your chances of getting a great offer and move on to a successful sale.