Some states have laws that treat a land contract similar to a trust deed, and those land contracts provide for a trustee, giving a trustee "power of sale" to initiate foreclosure proceedings in the event the Vendee defaults on the contract. Other states give buyers a longer period of redemption, similar to those under a mortgage. For these reasons, it is important to reduce the chances of default by pre-qualifying the Vendee.
Land contracts are useful instruments for sellers who are selling a home and contemplating carrying the financing for a buyer. It gives sellers a built-in income and generally a better interest rate than rates offered on money market accounts or certificates of deposit. However, a prudent seller should take steps to protect equity and ensure the buyer can fulfill the terms of the land contract.
Perhaps you’ve inherited some land, decided to sell some investment property or are just in need of some extra cash. Either way, selling land by owner can require some extra work but in the long run will ultimately be more profitable than selling with a real estate agent. There are a few things you must keep in mind before deciding to sell land by owner.
Hi Esther – if I were in your position, I would let the bank and/or title company handle the closing. They know these procedures inside and out, and with the closing costs involved, it usually makes more sense to let the professionals handle it… especially if you aren’t planning to do a lot of these “self-closings” on an ongoing basis (as a business).
Hi Laura – in pretty much every case, you’ll have to at least sign the deed in front of a notary, so it’s a little strange they didn’t mention that. If they aren’t going to use a title company, that’s not necessarily a deal-killer thing, but it means they really need to understand what they’re doing, and how to get everything properly documented and closed (and if they didn’t mention the deed/notary thing, that makes me wonder).
If the sellers feel as if they are doing all the work, they might also be able to modify the existing agreement and add a termination if the broker doesn't meet certain obligations, like selling the home within a certain time frame, says Sandy Straley, a real estate agent in Layton, UT. Other obligations for the listing could include organizing open houses, creating and distributing printed materials, and even the posting of videos shot by drones, says Markel.
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.
If your house gets lots of attention and you get good offers, stay the course and be prepared to give up a little of your savings to close the deal. But if the process drags on without any real bites, hire an agent. You’ve lost nothing but time, and you’ll enter the agreement with a far better understanding of how it works and how to get the most from your agent.
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?
At the showing, make sure valuables and other confidential items are put away so the potential buyers are free to walk around. Try and keep the number of people in the house to a minimum. Give them some time and space to look around on their own, but be available for questions. Gather receipts for heating costs, taxes, past repairs, or renovations; buyers interested in the house will want to know these details.
At the showing, make sure valuables and other confidential items are put away so the potential buyers are free to walk around. Try and keep the number of people in the house to a minimum. Give them some time and space to look around on their own, but be available for questions. Gather receipts for heating costs, taxes, past repairs, or renovations; buyers interested in the house will want to know these details.

I sold a house in Illinois with assistance of an attorney four years ago. The attorney instructed the buyer to record the deed during the closing. The buyer has never done so. I still receive the tax bills that I pass on to buyer with requests that he record the deed. I took all documentation of the sale to the county recorder but was informed that only the buyer could record the deed. Any advice?
Hi Seth, thank you for all this information, it’s a great post! I have a question hopefully you can help. My dad is selling his house to a company that buys “as is” in cash, they’re the ones doing all the work and they told me he would just have to sign the documents that they would send to closed the deal, (they’re also paying all closing cost) the thing is that the house is located in Georgia and my dad lives in Indiana, so they said they would send the documents to my email and he can do the e-sign. He already sign a Standar Purchase and Sale Agreement, I asked them if my dad needs to sign the documents in front of an attorney or notary and they said no, it’s this true? Since I don’t have any expertise on this I’m just helping my dad because he doesn’t speak English, I’m a little worry that I might be doing something wrong by not asking the right questions. Also for the payment they said they’re going to make the payment to the mortgage company and then send my dad the remaining money as a wire or cashier check whichever my dad prefers, is this also right? Help please!
Next, it’s time to advertise.  Depending somewhat on the type and location of your property, you can find a handful of free advertising sites on the web and you should employ these, preferably with a link to your web-page(s) if that’s permitted.   However, few of these free sites bring you enough traffic to help much in the absence of some uncommonly good luck.
My neighbor and I both want to do this as inexpensively as possible. I’m not expecting to make much more than what is needed to cover the mortgage payoff and a little extra to cover closing costs. I’m not sure what level of professional help needs to be involved, but the realtor who handled the deal for the home I just bought said it was as simple as contacting a title company to cover the necessary paperwork. Is that true?
When the foundation of an agreement has been reached, exchange the names, addresses and phone numbers of the lawyers involved (i.e., your lawyer and the buyer's lawyer). Get the buyer to have his lawyer draft up the details of the purchase and sales agreement (what you negotiated together, independently or through The Offer Maker®) and have them sent to your lawyer's office. Putting this responsibility on the buyer will help gauge the seriousness of the offer.
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.
When the foundation of an agreement has been reached, exchange the names, addresses and phone numbers of the lawyers involved (i.e., your lawyer and the buyer's lawyer). Get the buyer to have his lawyer draft up the details of the purchase and sales agreement (what you negotiated together, independently or through The Offer Maker®) and have them sent to your lawyer's office. Putting this responsibility on the buyer will help gauge the seriousness of the offer.
If your house gets lots of attention and you get good offers, stay the course and be prepared to give up a little of your savings to close the deal. But if the process drags on without any real bites, hire an agent. You’ve lost nothing but time, and you’ll enter the agreement with a far better understanding of how it works and how to get the most from your agent.
Land contracts are security agreements between a seller, known as a Vendor, and a buyer, known as a Vendee. The Vendor carries the financing for the Vendee, which may or may not contain an underlying loan. A main difference between a land contract and a mortgage is the buyer does not receive a deed or clear title to the property until the land contract is paid off.
2.  Clean Up the Junk:  If you didn’t do this when you bought the place, now is the time.  Other than buildings of value, get rid of everything that didn’t grow there.  This doesn’t have to be a major ordeal.  First check out local laws regarding what, if anything, can be burned at your location.  Nearly all states have laws against burning old tires and many forbid burning other items such as other rubber products; wire; treated, painted or finished wood; plastics; garbage; heavy oils; asphalt materials; building materials, especially those containing asbestos; paints; and agricultural and household chemicals.  Then, if you have anything combustible, and plenty of water and a way to disperse it, go ahead and burn what you can, but make absolutely, positively certain the fire is out before you leave.  “Out” in this case means cold to the touch.

Thanks for the quick response. When I took the documents, generated by the attorney, to the county recorder, they did not look at them. The attorney had explained to the buyer at the closing the significance of recording the deed, joking it would prevent me from reselling the property. In hindsight, the attorney was about to leave on a cruise, so he may have rushed through this transaction. I will contact the attorney for his assistance. Thank you again.
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.

A lot of attorneys would love you to believe you have to cough up $1,000+ every single time you need to close a deal. There may be the occasional case where you have a VERY complicated deal that ought to be handled by an attorney (and in some states, the involvement of an attorney is required – see this blog post for more information), but I've found that in many cases, there is nothing wrong with using these basic templates to close transactions in-house.
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.
There always seems to be an endless pile of paperwork and a lot of legal hoops to jump through (everybody wants to protect themselves from liability, etc).  While some of this documentation is certainly good practice – I've learned that when you boil it all down, closing a real estate transaction is actually a fairly simple process – especially when it's an all-cash transaction (no financing or mortgages involved).

Hi Walt – certainly. The delinquent tax list could be a solid way to get started. I typically look for land deals when I’m wholesaling, whereas most wholesalers are doing land… so that would be one key difference in the types of deals I look for (mainly because land is a much simpler type of property to work with – even though there may be fewer buyers for this type of property).


Now, far be it from me to discourage using an agent.  This certainly is the easiest way and not necessarily the least profitable or most expensive, especially in a booming market.  In a less-than-booming market however, it’s good to remember that listing your property with an agent will subject it to comparison with dozens, perhaps hundreds of other listings, all competing with yours in features and price. Selling your property then, will probably require that a potential buyer finds it to be either the best he sees… or the cheapest.
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