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.
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.
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Hi Brandy, thanks for reaching out! Most of the deals I close in-house are vacant land, so there isn’t much work involved with contractors or improvements. If I were you, I would probably bring this kind of deal to a title company or closing attorney, simply because they’ll be able to handle the moving pieces a lot better than you can on your own (and the cost should be reasonably low – low enough to justify the value they’ll be bringing to the table).
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If you have unimproved land to sell, you may also find that the majority of agents are more interested in selling more expensive improved properties where they stand to make much larger commissions (and get fewer ticks) so your five acres of woods may get short shrift when it comes to exposure to the market. This wouldn’t be such a big problem were it not for the fact that these days, more and more brokers are insisting on exclusive listing contracts that obligate you to pay them a commission even if you sell the property yourself to the fellow next door.
The first obligation of a vendor to the purchaser is to make sure they can provide clear title to the purchaser, in other words, ensure your property can be freed of any encumbrances or orders or conditions at settlement so that the purchaser has clear title to the property. Your lawyer or conveyancer can assist you with this but the obligation is on you so make sure these matters are worked out before you start signing contracts.
You may also want a lawyer to produce and review contract documents; some states actually require you to hire one. Although you can find much of the paperwork online, Schorr says, “you need to tailor it to your deal — and the way you fill it out is just as important as what the boilerplate language says.” You’ll probably pay $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the cost of living in your area, but you’ll get an experienced pro who’s in your corner and can make sure the deal gets done right.
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?
Just like you'd stage a home, you want the vacant land to show at its best. A lot overgrown with weeds is going to look less desirable in the eyes of a potential buyer than a lot that's apparently cared-for. Professionally trim trees, mow grass, remove weeds and perhaps plant wildflowers to show the property at its best. Visit the property weekly – or hire someone to do so – to remove windblown trash, beer cans, fire rings or anything else that might detract from its curb appeal.
I've seen a lot of different situations and dealt virtually every type of buyer, seller, lender and property type imaginable. After working through many of the different scenarios that can materialize in the real estate closing process, I have to admit – I understand why most people are intimidated by the idea of closing a real estate transaction themselves. For understandable reasons – there can be a lot of confusion and fear about how to close a real estate deal without the assistance of a professional.