Just like any sale of real estate, a land contract should begin with a purchase agreement. This is a legal document signed by a potential buyer making an offer on the real property for sale. The purchase agreement should indicate that the offer is for a land contract, and should state the purchase price, initial cash down payment, length of the payment term, and any other terms of sale.
Back in the day, there was so much available land in the U.S., especially in Kansas and other Midwestern and Western states, that the federal government was giving it away for next to nothing. Thanks to the Homestead Act of 1862, settlers who made their homes on land and stayed there for at least five years could take ownership of up to 160 acres, all for the price of a small filing fee.
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.
Equally, if you are thinking of buying a particular property, you don’t have to wait for a property to go on the market or appear in the real estate section of the newspaper in order to make an offer to purchase it. There is nothing stopping you from approaching the owner directly and asking if they are prepared to sell their property if the price is right.
However, after the buyer makes his sixth payment, I give him title to the property, that is I make and record a Warranty Deed to him, and hold a Promissory Note and Deed of Trust in return as security. Finally, as boiler-plate, I have the buyer sign a Quit-claim Deed back to me which is annotated to only be recorded in the event of a default. This, in one stroke lowers my foreclosure costs from around $1,500 to hire an attorney to perform a trustee’s sale, down to about $27 to record the Quit-claim Deed. Since I create all the contracts and deeds myself from standard forms, I save immensely on attorney’s fees. Using this technique, I am prepared both for the long-term sale as well as, should it be necessary, a fast and easy foreclosure.
California's basic transfer tax is $1.10 per $1,000 of value, and generally the seller pays the cost. If a $575,000 piece of land changes hands, the seller will pay the entire $632.50 tax at closing. Some cities also impose transfer taxes, which vary from $1.10 to $15.00 per $1,000 of value transferred, depending on the value of the property and the community in which it is located. The custom is for the buyer and seller to equally split the tax in most cities, but in some areas sellers customarily pay the entire tax.
Part of the reason for a title company is not only to help facilitate the closing, but also to make sure everything is prepared properly, and (perhaps most importantly) to be a mediator who can handle the documentation and transfer of funds (making sure both parties do everything completely, and that you actually get paid). If there’s no title company involved with this closing, I would be sure your dad and the mortgage company get paid either before or at the same time your dad is signing his documents, to ensure that everything is completed, and you/he actually gets paid.
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.
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).
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.
You should work out a budget for advertising, because it can get pretty pricey. Although it’s not mandatory, it’s a good idea to get a selection of photos of your house showing it at its best, and using these in your advertising. Make sure any advertisements include accurate details about how and when you can be contacted. If you don't want calls from agents offering their services you can include the words “no agents please” in your ads.
Dino Di Rosa, the Founder and Principal of Di Rosa Lawyers, has over 25 years’ experience as a lawyer. Based in the heart of Adelaide’s legal precinct, he is the trusted adviser many South Australian business and property owners turn to whenever they need help in the areas of law that matter most: family law, wills and estate planning, deceased estates and property law and conveyancing.
In order to determine the right buyer for your land, look at the highest and best use to determine where to start placing ads. If it is country land that is perfect for hunting, look for local outdoor forums and clubs to advertise your land. If it is a good home site, a land broker or traditional real estate agent may be best. You can also contact the neighbors, who may be interested in extending their property.