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.

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.


Have a pre-prepared contract and Form 1 statement at the ready, to be signed when you find yourself a buyer who is prepared to pay you the right price.  You must remember that on most occasions purchasers have a right to “cool off” on a contract that they have just signed which they can exercise at any time and for any reason within 2 clear business days of signing the contract.  It is therefore critical that you strike while the iron is hot.

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.
They are contractors looking to sell and move out of state for work. We viewed yesterday. They are renovating most flooring and walls due to sloppy relative that used to rent while they were out of town for work. Being contractors, I’m sure most materials are cheap or free for them to obtain, but they are finishing this before leaving. We are aware that it is a fixer but it’s totally liveable! Mainly cosmetics or personal preference will remain and we’ll own it.
Make no mistake, though: Working without an agent requires a huge investment of time, knowhow, and effort. You need a wide range of skills, from home staging to salesmanship to negotiating. And you need to be able to completely divorce yourself from the emotions that can arise when a buyer takes a dig at your curb appeal or lowballs the offer on the beloved home where you raised your family.
In terms of paying off the mortgage, you’d have to work directly with the lender to make sure they get paid and that they discharge their mortgage. If you’re unsure about how the process works, then honestly – it probably is best to just work with a title company. It may cost a few hundred dollars more – but for a property like what you’re describing, that’s what I would be doing anyway (I use title companies for anything in excess of $10K). They will take all the guesswork out of this process and make it WAY easier to get the job done.

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.


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?
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?
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.
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.
To set your price, check around your neighborhood / community for comparable homes for sale. Get familiar with how other similar homes are priced. If you'd like a little more help in this area, the alternative to determining a price on your own is to use a professional appraiser. The initial cost of an appraiser is still much less than the end cost of commission. It's important to revisit your pricing strategy from time to time using all the available information you have.
Buildings: This chapter is intended to address land-only sales.  Obviously, if your land has buildings on it, those can add significantly to the value.  If the buildings are of any value, that is, a livable house or a barn or shed in good repair, this may be harder for you to estimate or to compare with others.  About the best you can hope to do is to compare the number of rooms/bedrooms, the square footage, the general condition, and overall appearance.  If the buildings are of marginal value, give them appropriate ranking, however as advice to a potential seller of real estate (I’d tell a potential buyer something else) don’t discount that shack or hovel too severely.  A lot of buyers seem to feel somehow assured if there’s a structure of any kind on a property.   Maybe it seems less intimidating than starting with empty woods.  So if it doesn’t leak too badly, and isn’t going to fall down in the next few years, you may consider bumping the price up a few thousand dollars, or leaving it where it is so that the building provides another inducement to buy.
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They are contractors looking to sell and move out of state for work. We viewed yesterday. They are renovating most flooring and walls due to sloppy relative that used to rent while they were out of town for work. Being contractors, I’m sure most materials are cheap or free for them to obtain, but they are finishing this before leaving. We are aware that it is a fixer but it’s totally liveable! Mainly cosmetics or personal preference will remain and we’ll own it.

Depending on the state in which the property subject to the land contract sale exists, the buyer will want to file additional forms to gain the benefits of being the property owner, even though technically, the buyer does not have a true legal title to the property until full payment of the purchase price is made. Such forms may be a property transfer affidavit, which you may be required to file with the city assessor’s office for tax purposes, or a principle residence exemption, which gives the buyer a tax break for using the property as the buyer’s principle residence.


If you have created a land contract, you’ll also need a memorandum of land contract. This is, essentially, an abbreviated legal document that references the main contract created. This simply serves as a public notice that the buyer is interested in the property without you and the buyer having to disclose and record the entire land contract. Because the deed of the property will not be filed until you’ve received full payment on the purchase price indicated in the contract, this memorandum will be filed with the county and the city to serve as a record that the buyer is interested in the property.
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.
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.
Each approach has it’s pros and cons – and it does take more hassle to close it yourself rather than using a title company or closing attorney… so these are definitely things to keep in mind if you decide to go this route. You’ll definitely save money by doing an in-house closing, but it’s also a bit more complicated and time-consuming to handle everything yourself.

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.
For what it’s worth, I do know of at least one wholesaler who has worked in Florida for years (though he does use a title company for every deal, he doesn’t close them himself). Given the logistical challenges with assigning contracts, I wouldn’t recommend trying to do these types of deals without a title company – it requires A LOT more running around and coordination than just paying cash and buying the property yourself.
If the buyer has secured financing or is planning on paying with cash, a contract for sale will be necessary. This contract will specify the terms of the sale and may also specify other documents required before transferring the deed. This may include the financial documents that are necessary to secure financing. The contract may also indicate that title insurance will be provided. In this case, the title company may be involved in the transaction.

The disclosure statement is actually something I put together for myself (it’s not a template you’ll find anywhere). It’s not technically a requirement, I just use it to cover myself from any potential liability, in case a buyer didn’t do all their homework and tries to blame me for something, this is their way of stating that all their own due diligence is up to them to complete.


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.
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.
In the very least, your land contract should include the address of the property and a full legal description of the land. It should also include the down payment amount, purchase price, the number of payments that will be made, the monthly payment amounts, and any balloon payments that may be required. You may also consider creating and attaching an amortization schedule.
Conducting a self-closed real estate transaction isn't appropriate for all people and situations. The process DOES require some significant attention to detail and organizational skills. Some people are very good at staying organized and keeping track of these details, and others aren't. Don't try to close your own deals unless you're willing to go slow and get the help you need to ensure you're completing each step in accordance with the laws and regulations of your state.

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.
If you have created a land contract, you’ll also need a memorandum of land contract. This is, essentially, an abbreviated legal document that references the main contract created. This simply serves as a public notice that the buyer is interested in the property without you and the buyer having to disclose and record the entire land contract. Because the deed of the property will not be filed until you’ve received full payment on the purchase price indicated in the contract, this memorandum will be filed with the county and the city to serve as a record that the buyer is interested in the 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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