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.
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.
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.
Land contracts are useful instruments for sellers who are selling a home and contemplating carrying the financing for a buyer. It gives sellers a built-in income and generally a better interest rate than rates offered on money market accounts or certificates of deposit. However, a prudent seller should take steps to protect equity and ensure the buyer can fulfill the terms of the land contract.
Additionally, the land contract should indicate how many payments will be made, their due dates, grace periods (if applicable), fees for late payments, and how the buyer should deliver each payment. Under a land contract, buyers are usually treated just like a property owner, and will be responsible for paying property taxes, insurance, and any utility bills associated with the land use.
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.
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.
1. The Road: The better the condition of the access road, the better impression your property will make. If your land is three miles of bad county-road away from pavement, then I wouldn’t waste a lot of money making the access from the county road any better than the county road itself, but remember that you can do quite a bit to civilize a dirt driveway with a tractor and blade. If you don’t have too much length to cover, there’s no substitute for a layer of 1” crushed rock (or larger rock in deep mud-holes). One layer of 1” rock one lane wide will cost you about 75¢ per foot around my neighborhood. Needless to say, if the property is on a road maintained by the county, or some other local government entity, and if this road has any work that needs to be done, this is an excellent time to complain politely about it to the wonderful folks on the Road Board. Most counties grade their roads once or twice a year, but some roads that don’t get much traffic may be neglected if no-one complains.
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.
A somewhat surprising fact about selling real estate is that it can be far more difficult to find a buyer for a piece of vacant land than it is for most types of existing homes. The reasons for this are many, but often they are related to either the location of the land or the amount of work or expense that might be necessary to improve vacant land for a specific usage.
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.
No, the purchase agreement doesn’t need to be notarized – however, in some states (like Michigan, for instance), you technically need to get a witness signature to go along with each party’s signature (the witness doesn’t need to be a notary, it can be pretty much anyone). That being said – there’s nothing “wrong” with getting a notary’s signature on this, it’s just overkill.
Perhaps you’ve inherited some land, decided to sell some investment property or are just in need of some extra cash. Either way, selling land by owner can require some extra work but in the long run will ultimately be more profitable than selling with a real estate agent. There are a few things you must keep in mind before deciding to sell land by owner.
Hi Seth, and thanks for the quick response! I’ve looked at the steps you’ve outlined, and, other than a few required disclosures when selling a house, the steps seem the same to me. I’m just not willing to pay a third party 2300 bucks to close a cash deal on a 54k property. It’s just not right that I can go pay cash for a 54k car, but somebody else’s hands have to be in the pot when I buy a 54k house for cash! Arghh! I’m going to buy title insurance because the owner is in bankruptcy, but I really don’t see anything else that I can’t do by myself. I’m waiting on a couple of quotes from different title companies, but I’ll likely buy your package and go from there. Even if it doesn’t work out for this deal, I’m sure I’ll be able to use the info on future land only deals!
Bargain hunters: Of course, some buyers may find you even without a buyer’s agent. “If you have a great house, in a sought-after neighborhood, and you’re on a busy road where you’ll get a lot of visibility, then you might do fine working with only the unsigned homebuyers who discover your house on their own,” says Schorr. If you’ve got a charmer with a great kitchen in an affordable price range, they’ll find it online no matter how far off the beaten path you are.
Hi Seth, I am selling my house as is cash only. I have two buyers. One is using a loan from Chase bank. I am a senior citizen and my first time to sell a house free and clear (bought it cashed). Should I just let the bank do all the paper work on closing the deal? not sure what to do and I don’t want to loose my house for nothing because I am only getting social security retirement.
If you need to find a buyer fast, our company is in the land buying business. If you've got time to wait for a few months, then get it posted on your standard online sites (don't underestimate Craigslist!) and consider hiring an agent. If that doesn't work out or you don't feel like waiting, we've got a network of buyers at Landmark Property Buyers.