Disclaimer: Please be aware that I am not an attorney and the information in this article should not be interpreted as legal advice. Every state has different laws and every real estate transaction has unique variables that can affect these standard documents listed below. Even though these are the exact steps & documentation that I use in my closings – don't assume that this information is fully applicable to your situation. Before you act on anything described below, be sure to consult with an attorney or legal professional in your area to confirm you're following the right steps and procedure.
We are buying a home (FSBO) with cash from a friend, and want to avoid ridiculous closing costs. The seller is in Chapter 13 bankruptcy and the bankruptcy court has lifted the “stay” that had protected the house from foreclosure. We have contacted her bank (mortgage holder) and informed them we want to buy the house, and they have provided us with the payoff number. Does this package tell me everything I need to do to close this deal myself?
The land contract should also state how the payments are to be made, including the due date, any grace periods for late payments, late payment fees, and where the buyer should deliver each payment. Typically, the land contract buyer will be treated just like the property owner and thus will be responsible for the taxes on the property, the insurance, and any utility bills including water and sewer which are typically billed directly to the property.
Moreover, even though you’ll not have a lump sum of money to place against another piece of land or some other big-ticket item such as a vehicle or home construction, you will have the guaranteed income to match your payments, or some such new purchases, including the interest.   You’ll also get to keep a lot more of the money you’ll receive, because you’ll only pay income taxes in small installments over the years, rather than all at once, which is likely to bump you into a higher tax bracket.

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.                    

Limited pool of buyers: Most serious house-hunters are working with a real estate agent; the commission would normally get split between the buyer’s and seller’s agents. But without a commission on the table, no agent is going to bring clients to see your house. In fact, many shoppers are contractually obligated to purchase their home through their agent — meaning even someone who finds your house while out on a drive or surfing the Internet may not easily be able to buy it.
Once you’ve decided that you want to sell, you should try to get your home in tip top shape. A well-maintained home will stand out from other properties for sale and create a better impression on buyers. Tend to any repairs and maintenance issues like leaky taps, faulty switches and broken windows. These obvious flaws will put buyers off or encourage them to try to negotiate you down because of them.
However, if two or more people are buying or selling the property (like a married couple, for instance), you need to pay close attention to the details and verify how they should be holding or transferring the title. Some states use slightly different terminology – but these are some of the more common ways that two people can hold the title to a property.
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?

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.


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.
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).

As with other real estate transactions, land contracts require a “closing” to prepare, sign, and file all necessary legal documents. This article discusses the common steps a buyer and seller should take to close on a land contract purchase. For information on land contracts in general, see the Nolo article, The Basics of Land Contracts. And for a variety of useful articles on real estate closings, see Escrow and Closing in Nolo’s Real Estate section.

The county should be fully aware of this change in ownership because they recorded your deed, but in many cases – the city or township administration is in a completely separate office and they don't share the same systems with the county. As such, they need to be notified separately about the property's change in ownership (and if they aren't made aware of the change, they'll continue sending the property tax bills to the old owner).
Nowadays all of my favorite software packages come for the same price: free.  So I’d check out what’s available at tucows.com or software.com.  You can also make a tolerable web page using Microsoft Word (which probably came loaded on your computer) however, if you’ve never made any web pages before, you’ll probably also be needing  web-space to put them on, and you can find both web-authoring software and web-space available cheap or free with a little thoughtful web-searching.
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.
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.
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.
Soil Terrain and Vegetation: Most small landowners will prefer a mixture of hill and valley, but level agricultural land is usually more expensive than hilly ground.  However, if your property is smaller, say less than eighty acres, there will probably be a better market for the mixed terrain that includes level bottomland and forested hills.  Likewise, the best overall market exists for small properties with a mixture of forest and meadow as opposed to all woods or all field.

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?
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).
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.
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.
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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