I do most of my own title searches these days, but only because I know what I'm doing. If you have no idea where to start (even after watching the video above), there's nothing wrong with playing it safe and hiring a title company to handle this for you. Pay attention to what they're doing, ask a lot of questions along the way and learn how to do it yourself for future reference.
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.

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.
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.
I have this document available for members of the REtipster Club to download for free, but it’s not something you can get here on the blog (because it’s pretty specific to land transactions, and I wouldn’t want people trying to use it for selling houses or other types of real estate, because it’s not really intended for that). Does that make sense?

We are buying a home (FSBO) with cash from a friend, and want to avoid ridiculous closing costs. The seller is in Chapter 13 bankruptcy and the bankruptcy court has lifted the “stay” that had protected the house from foreclosure. We have contacted her bank (mortgage holder) and informed them we want to buy the house, and they have provided us with the payoff number. Does this package tell me everything I need to do to close this deal myself?

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.


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!
We are buying a home (FSBO) with cash from a friend, and want to avoid ridiculous closing costs. The seller is in Chapter 13 bankruptcy and the bankruptcy court has lifted the “stay” that had protected the house from foreclosure. We have contacted her bank (mortgage holder) and informed them we want to buy the house, and they have provided us with the payoff number. Does this package tell me everything I need to do to close this deal myself?
The county should be fully aware of this change in ownership because they recorded your deed, but in many cases – the city or township administration is in a completely separate office and they don't share the same systems with the county. As such, they need to be notified separately about the property's change in ownership (and if they aren't made aware of the change, they'll continue sending the property tax bills to the old owner).
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?

Although the process of selling land is less complex than selling a piece of property with a home, this is still a process that requires the help of a professional. Real estate laws vary from state to state, so it’s important to work with an experienced real estate attorney when selling your land. The help of a professional becomes even more important if you’re creating a land contract.

Hi Sean! When I do my own title search, it’s because I’m NOT planning to get a title insurance policy (mainly because the property is so cheap, and the extra cost is difficult to justify). And yes, I am always sure to get a Warranty Deed from the seller. If I find any apparent problem in the title search, then I’ll usually walk away from the deal unless it’s VERY minor and/or we’re able to resolve the issue as part of my closing.

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.
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.
I have this document available for members of the REtipster Club to download for free, but it’s not something you can get here on the blog (because it’s pretty specific to land transactions, and I wouldn’t want people trying to use it for selling houses or other types of real estate, because it’s not really intended for that). Does that make sense?
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.”
×