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.
The memorandum of land contract is an abbreviated legal document referencing the land contract itself. This memorandum serves to put the public on notice of the buyer’s interest in the real property without the parties having to publicly disclose and record the full land contract and all of its terms, including price. Since the deed to the property is not filed until the seller receives payment in full of the purchase price indicated in the land contract, this memorandum is filed with the city and county to record the buyer’s interest in the property. The memorandum should list the address and legal description of the property as well as the names of the buyer and seller, and the date of the land contract. This document should be notarized and signed by the seller.
When deeds are drafted as a part of a land sale, they have to be recorded to become a matter of the public record and protect the buyer's ownership rights. It is customary for buyers to pay for the cost of recording -- after all, it's the buyer that benefits from having his interest in the property entered in the public record. However, this custom isn't always the case, and some areas assign the fee to the seller, or to both parties equally.
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).
If youre providing seller financing, youll still need to draft a deed, but this deed will be held in escrow until the final payment is made. Once that payment is made, the deed will be filed with its respective government agency, typically the county clerk. You can have an attorney, title agency, or a financial institution hold the median in escrow for you until the buyer makes the final payment.
The title company charges for the escrow services that it provides. These services include holding the funds, providing a place for the closing and having one of their staffers calculate the cash flows in the transaction. Typically, the buyer pays all of the costs, but in some areas they can be split between the two parties, or they can even be paid by the seller, although this is rare.
You'll want to have a real estate lawyer ready to go once you start entertaining offers. If you are new to selling privately, getting familiar with some common language such as deposits, conditions, adjustments, closing dates, etc., might be a good idea. Remember, you would need to get the services of a real estate lawyer to help close the transaction no matter what method you chose to sell. This is not an added expense to selling privately.
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).
If you have an underlying loan, given a choice between a straight contract or a wrap-around contract, offer the wrap-around land contract. It will give you an override on the existing interest rate of the first mortgage. Ask for legal advice about an alienation clause. The lender could call your loan due and payable if the lender discovers you have sold the home through a land contract.
If there’s a lot of money involved in this deal (like, more than a few thousand dollars) and if you’re AT ALL unsure about their level of competence or trustworthiness – then I wouldn’t hesitate to push for a professional title company or closing attorney to get involved. That will resolve pretty much all of the issues that can come up in this kind of scenario. If you don’t know them well, then you have every reason to be skeptical for your own sake.
A closing statement should be prepared to show an accounting of the debits and credits to each the buyer and to the seller as part of the land contract transaction. An attorney or a title agency can prepare a closing statement for the parties. The closing statement may also contain an amortization schedule showing the projected payments to be made from buyer to seller to fulfill the financial obligation of the land contract.
I agree with Ellen Chung, finding the right type of buyer to target is very important. Also, you should consider the amount of time you have to sell the land. If you are short on time due to back taxes owed or other financial obligations, your best bet may be to talk to a vacant land investor. You will not get the full market price for your property, but the typically can pay cash and close quickly.