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.
Agents, of course, will charge as much as 2.5% plus GST as commission on the sale of the property which, depending on the price, can be a significant sum. However, if you have done your homework, whether you are the buyer or seller (we call them “purchaser” or “vendor”), it is possible to cut a fair deal, and to have all the documents prepared properly and legally, without the cost involved in having a real estate agent.
With this in mind, I spent several months putting together a full-blown course that explains how this process works from start-to-finish. The course is designed specifically for people working in the land investing business, and it comes with dozens of video tutorials and document templates that give an in-depth explanation of each step along the way.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Once you’ve got the mechanics taken care of, all you need to do is collect absolutely everything you can think of that will describe your property, which may include, but will not be limited to, a written description, lots and lots of photographs, perhaps taken in different seasons, information about the local area, last year’s real estate taxes, aerial photos, road maps and perhaps a .pdf or .jpg copy of the survey, if available.
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.
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).
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.
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?
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.
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!
When you sell land by yourself, this is called a private sale. So, you will need to find a private buyer. It may help you to talk with local farmers if you are looking to sell raw land; farmers have all kinds of experience in purchasing land for their crops. If you are selling your land on your own without the aid of a real estate agent, this next section is for you.
A closing statement should be prepared to show an accounting of the debits and credits to each the buyer and to the seller as part of the land contract transaction. An attorney or a title agency can prepare a closing statement for the parties. The closing statement may also contain an amortization schedule showing the projected payments to be made from buyer to seller to fulfill the financial obligation of the land contract.
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.
If, for whatever reason, you don’t want to use Craigslist, another option is Facebook. Mark said, “right now, people are selling all day long on buy/sell groups on Facebook.” However, these are not the typical raw land investing or real estate buy/sell groups. “They’re going to Craigslist buy/sell groups, recreational vehicles buy/sell groups, hunting buy/sell groups, or fishing buy/sell groups.”