For some landowners, the idea of working with an agent is appealing. Real estate agents, especially those who specialize in land sales, know the market well and can help you get a reasonable price for your land. But the problem with working with an agent is you have to wait for the buyers to come to you. When they do come, they are often the ones dictating the terms of the sale, meaning you might end up getting less for your property than you had hoped.
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.
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 one technique for how to sell a piece of land that is the same for home sales is using imagery to help buyers get a feel for the property and to help them get a sense of what they can do with it. For example, when you’re selling a home, you want to include plenty of photos with the listing and hold open houses so people can get a feel for the house. You want to clear out clutter and stage your home so buyers can visualize themselves living there, without being distracted by photos of your kids.
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.
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.
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.
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 first thing you must do when you have signed a contract to buy a property, especially where there are professionals involved in representing the interests of either party, is to lodge a caveat to protect your interest in the property until settlement.  A caveat will stop the vendor from selling to someone else or encumbering the property without notice to you.
Closing a real estate deal involves a fair amount of work and attention to detail (and of course, there’s always the chance that you could do something wrong). With a property like what you’re describing, the value that a professional closing agent brings to the table is a pretty easy thing to justify spending money on. In Virginia, I believe either an attorney or a title agency could do the job (but this kind of thing varies from state to state, so you may want to ask a local real state agent what they recommend).
Access: While few in number, there are still some properties that don’t have legal access – that is, a deeded access-easement, or frontage on a public road.  This is what is known as “landlocked” property, and it is of considerably less value.  If you see an extremely low-priced piece of land for sale, it may be a bargain, or it may just not have legal access.  Curing this can be fairly simple, but don’t count on it.  If it were an easy matter, it would likely already have been fixed.  In most cases, legal access will require a deed from the neighbor whose land you’re crossing, and folks tend not to like to sign deeds unless they get something of significant value in return.
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.
When you’re selling land, you might have a potential buyer base in your backyard. It’d be peculiar for one homeowner to buy their neighbor’s home, but it’s not so weird for a neighboring farm or another nearby landowner to consider buying the property that’s just next door, so to speak. It could be your neighbors have been looking to expand their farm for some time now. You selling your land provides a mutually beneficial opportunity.

When we are buying land for our personal accounts, we always try to negotiate immediate possession for “purposes of making improvements.” This catch-all phrase gives us the opportunity to get a head start on simple improvements such as rotor mowing and clearing brush. You must be able to get the Prospects on the property before they can make an informed decision to buy. Often the prime spots which would normally “close the deal” are grown up in briars and brush. In many husband and wife instances, only one partner wants to move out in the country. The husband may be trying harder than we are to sell his wife on rural living, but if she can’t see the creeks, views, and big trees, then neither he nor we will be successful.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Closing a real estate deal involves a fair amount of work and attention to detail (and of course, there’s always the chance that you could do something wrong). With a property like what you’re describing, the value that a professional closing agent brings to the table is a pretty easy thing to justify spending money on. In Virginia, I believe either an attorney or a title agency could do the job (but this kind of thing varies from state to state, so you may want to ask a local real state agent what they recommend).

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.


When you're buying a property for just a few hundred bucks (which is how most of my deals work) and you're already on a tight budget to begin with, it can be difficult to justify paying twice the amount of your purchase price just to close the darn thing. If you're in a situation where you need to act fast, acquire a property inexpensively and make the closing as easy as possible, closing it yourself may be the most advantageous way to move forward.

We set up meeting at home this evening to pay “down payment” of $4500 and to throughly go over everything (house and paperwork wise) I am unaware of what the seller has in mind other than getting the money to hold it for us. Granted, we’ve only spoken twice to the man in charge from what I can tell. Once to say we were coming to look at the house (he was working so the brother and nephew showed us around and answered everything we threw at them) and again when we called him with our offer last night. Honestly, with as chaotic as it sounds it all seems legit to us and as you can tell we are through in every detail. Just want to be sure we’re going about the process the right way and not dreaming it up lol

Schedule and conduct inspections with qualified buyers. Learn how to separate the “lookers” from qualified buyers. Ask for names and phone numbers and be sure to follow up with telephone calls. Be prepared to negotiate with the buyer(s) as an impartial third party. Remain calm and refrain from any emotional outbursts that might spoil a sale or jeopardise your sale price.
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?
Comparables for land can be trickier than for home sales in your area. Although the assessor's valuation on your taxes can provide a starting point, consider factors like whether your property has utilities to the property line, views, zoning and any preapproved building plans to determine its worth. Location is always one of the most critical factors. In San Francisco's Pacific Heights area, for example, a buildable cul-de-sac lot of less than 4,000 square feet can sell for more than $9 million.
Comparables for land can be trickier than for home sales in your area. Although the assessor's valuation on your taxes can provide a starting point, consider factors like whether your property has utilities to the property line, views, zoning and any preapproved building plans to determine its worth. Location is always one of the most critical factors. In San Francisco's Pacific Heights area, for example, a buildable cul-de-sac lot of less than 4,000 square feet can sell for more than $9 million.
When you’re selling a home, you want to give buyers all the details about it, such as a list of all projects you’ve had completed and a list of all updates and maintenance work performed within the last decade. You also want to show off the most desirable areas of the home, such as the kitchen or recently renovated bathrooms. Buyers are looking for details on the community, such as nearby schools, the friendliness of the neighborhood and property tax information.
Consider all offers. An offer can be accepted, rejected or countered. You choose how to respond but it's important to remain focused on your bottom line. Don't take any offers personal. Buyers generally are looking out for their best interest; you need to look out for yours. As the seller, you may decide not to counter if you think that the buyer is not serious enough to continue negotiations.
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.                    
The first thing you must do when you have signed a contract to buy a property, especially where there are professionals involved in representing the interests of either party, is to lodge a caveat to protect your interest in the property until settlement.  A caveat will stop the vendor from selling to someone else or encumbering the property without notice to you.

Hi Ben, you could use these for houses as well (I have in the past). The only caveat is that most houses have a lot more variables to consider (inspections, mortgages, utilities, etc.) – so it’s not a bad idea to at least consult with a title company or closing attorney and ask if they know of any other items you’d be required to have completed in your state.

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.


Some people prefer to cut out the middleman when selling property, which means selling land without a Realtor. If you go the for sale by owner, or FSBO, route, you don’t have to pay a commission to an agent. The drawback is that you’re likely to sell for less than you would at auction, and it might take considerably longer for the sale to go through. You also have to manage all the advertising, negotiations and paperwork 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.
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.

Consider all offers. An offer can be accepted, rejected or countered. You choose how to respond but it's important to remain focused on your bottom line. Don't take any offers personal. Buyers generally are looking out for their best interest; you need to look out for yours. As the seller, you may decide not to counter if you think that the buyer is not serious enough to continue negotiations.
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.
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.
Provide as much detail as you can. Land buyers want the facts, and they wanted them yesterday. When you’re listing your property, be sure to include the zoning, plus details on whether the buyer will be able to change the way the property is zoned. You also want to include details on taxes paid on the land and other typical expenses. If you can, include the tax-roll printout from your local land registry or county assessor and include the legal description of the land in the listing. You can also provide that detail when people come to look at the land.
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.
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.
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