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.
I had a question related to buying land lots from over the counter tax deeds (stuff people didn’t buy from tax deed auctions), which I know isn’t what you mainly focus on here going after owners BEFORE the tax auction (but I have nothing for a marketing budget now). As I understand it, if you buy land tax deeds over the counter, the county gives you a quitclaim deed. We are probably going to be getting quitclaim deeds anyway from many customers we buy land from as well, so I guess there is some relevance to this question.
A deed to transfer the legal title of the property from the seller to the buyer should be drafted and signed by the seller at the closing. This deed will be held in escrow until the final payment is made on the land contract and then filed with the appropriate government agency, such as the county clerk in the county where the property is located. Held in escrow means that the deed is held until a triggering event, payment of the land contract. A title agency, an attorney, or a financial institution may hold the deed in escrow for the buyer and seller.
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In the very least, your land contract should include the address of the property and a full legal description of the land. It should also include the down payment amount, purchase price, the number of payments that will be made, the monthly payment amounts, and any balloon payments that may be required. You may also consider creating and attaching an amortization schedule.
The land contract is its own legal agreement or contract, with all the terms and conditions agreed to between the buyer and seller. At a minimum, a land contract should list the address of the real estate and the full legal description of the property, the purchase price, down payment amount, the monthly payment amounts and term, number of payments to be made, and any balloon payment required. Attaching an amortization schedule to show the exact payoff schedule of applying the monthly payments to the total purchase price is helpful.
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.
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.
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 its important to work with an experienced real estate attorney when selling your land. The help of a professional becomes even more important if youre creating 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!
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.
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).
The title company charges for the escrow services that it provides. These services include holding the funds, providing a place for the closing and having one of their staffers calculate the cash flows in the transaction. Typically, the buyer pays all of the costs, but in some areas they can be split between the two parties, or they can even be paid by the seller, although this is rare.
There always seems to be an endless pile of paperwork and a lot of legal hoops to jump through (everybody wants to protect themselves from liability, etc). While some of this documentation is certainly good practice – I've learned that when you boil it all down, closing a real estate transaction is actually a fairly simple process – especially when it's an all-cash transaction (no financing or mortgages involved).
It is unfortunate, but one of the most common phrases we hear from sellers is “I don’t want to do anything to the land, just sell it as is.” At that point we begin the education process, but sometimes to no avail. Some sellers are just determined to leave significant amounts of money on the table due to the lack of “curb appeal” displayed by their property.
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.
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.
Some states have laws that treat a land contract similar to a trust deed, and those land contracts provide for a trustee, giving a trustee "power of sale" to initiate foreclosure proceedings in the event the Vendee defaults on the contract. Other states give buyers a longer period of redemption, similar to those under a mortgage. For these reasons, it is important to reduce the chances of default by pre-qualifying the Vendee.
Left unattended, vacant land quickly becomes overgrown with weeds, sprouts, saplings and other vegetation that can make it difficult for interested parties to view the property or imagine its suitability for a specific purpose. Even worse, prospective buyers may discount any offer they do make on land that is very overgrown or filled with garbage or other waste.