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.
chattels: items that are not fixed to the land or building structure e.g. fridges and are only included if specifically mentioned in the sale and purchase agreement. If chattels are included in the sale, they should be listed in detail in the sale contract. Some standard sales and purchase agreements included common chattels such as stove, fixed floor coverings, blinds and curtains.
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.
Real estate agents typically charge a 4% to 6% commission on the sale price, so selling without an agent could certainly save you big bucks. Even after you pay $1,000 or so for your own online ads, open-house brochures, and a lawn sign, you would still probably clear an extra $14,000 on a $300,000 sale, $24,000 on a $500,000 sale, or $36,500 on a $750,000 sale.
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
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.
Owners wishing to sell their property privately, will not only save thousands of dollars in commission fees you will also not be paying the sometimes extraordinarily high adverting rates that most traditional agents charge the owners upfront. For our very modest marketing fee to list your property privately through our online service you can save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on this outlay alone.
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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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 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 all else fails, and you're still not happy, check to see if your contract has a cancellation clause. Depending on the situation, some agents may agree to nullify the contract, although they may charge you an early cancellation fee, says Realtor® David Welch, with RE/MAX 200 Realty in Winter Park, FL. If an agent won't release you from a contract, try speaking with a lawyer about breaking it. And remember, all listing agreements eventually expire, within three months to a year.
Hi Esther – if I were in your position, I would let the bank and/or title company handle the closing. They know these procedures inside and out, and with the closing costs involved, it usually makes more sense to let the professionals handle it… especially if you aren’t planning to do a lot of these “self-closings” on an ongoing basis (as a business).
Seth, you are amazing and brilliant. People at work were talking about you. Now I know why they spoke so highly of your straightforward professional, easy to understand posts. I am excited to look into everything you have to offer. We are all grateful for yoor expertise and the time you take to share and help the novice RE folks out here. YOU rock! Thanks! Just had to say this now. More when I finish!
Hi Walt – certainly. The delinquent tax list could be a solid way to get started. I typically look for land deals when I’m wholesaling, whereas most wholesalers are doing land… so that would be one key difference in the types of deals I look for (mainly because land is a much simpler type of property to work with – even though there may be fewer buyers for this type of property).
I’ve heard that it’s very hard to sell land/property with a quitclaim deed, and buyers (whether investors or the open market in general) will only want warranty deeds. So without me having to spend $2000 or so doing a quiet title or using Tax Title Services to make the deed fully clean and marketable and insurable, could you go into some depth explaining how to quickly flip/wholesale land parcels that I’m offering and advertising with a quitclaim deed I got from the county? What do I need to know for this, and how do I structure it to make it attractive, and what steps are involved? Is this something that investors/rehabbers are fine with accepting (if the price is attractive?)
And last but not least, you can advertise it for sale online. Three sites that I recommend, especially if you need to sell your land fast, are Bid4Assets.com, eBay, and Craigslist.org. The internet should be your medium of choice for those of you who are selling land that is located in very secluded and isolated areas of the country, far removed from civilization, since there won’t be any people nearby to see your “for sale” sign.
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.
Pricing your home correctly is crucial when putting your property on the market. A property that is badly priced will take longer to sell than one that offers fair market value. You would need to do your research and get to know the local market inside out. Buyers can ask an agent to provide a comparative market analysis – a list of similar properties sold in the area, research asking prices for similar properties on Private Property or purchase a report from a property research company like Lightstone. Once you have the information required, you can set your asking price.
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.
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.
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.
If you have unimproved land to sell, you may also find that the majority of agents are more interested in selling more expensive improved properties where they stand to make much larger commissions (and get fewer ticks) so your five acres of woods may get short shrift when it comes to exposure to the market. This wouldn’t be such a big problem were it not for the fact that these days, more and more brokers are insisting on exclusive listing contracts that obligate you to pay them a commission even if you sell the property yourself to the fellow next door.