A seller who accepts the terms of the buyer’s purchase offer should sign the offer making it an official purchase agreement. The seller may be required by law to provide certain disclosures such as of any known defects of the property, including the existence of any lead-based paint. Required real estate disclosures vary by state, and a real estate professional or attorney may be able to assist sellers with these forms. For details, see the Nolo articles under What Sellers Must Disclose About a House’s Condition in the Selling a House section of this site.
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.
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.
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!
Hmm, I would think that most attorneys would want to control the recording process themselves rather than leaving it up to the buyer (because most buyers have no idea how to do this). Does the deed say that it was drafted by the buyer, or by the attorney? I’ve never heard of a rule where ONLY the buyer could record these things (maybe it works differently in Illinois, I’m not sure), but I know most recorders will only accept the original copies… so if you didn’t have the original copies (with “wet ink”), that could’ve been the issue too.
Just like any sale of real estate, a land contract should begin with a purchase agreement. This is a legal document signed by a potential buyer making an offer on the real property for sale. The purchase agreement should indicate that the offer is for a land contract, and should state the purchase price, initial cash down payment, length of the payment term, and any other terms of sale.
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.
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.
That’s why you may want to tackle the job on your own. These days, you can set your land apart from the crowd by marketing and selling it yourself. Since the advent of the internet, it’s easier and more effective than ever, and the phrase “for sale by owner” has a particular cachet about it that buyers seem to like. Many buyers assume that they’ll be saving the sales commission by buying directly from the owner. Of course, you’re probably assuming that you’re saving the sales commission by selling it yourself. Which of you is correct depends on how adeptly you handle your sale.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Agents are generally pretty good at protecting their clients’ position. They also have a vested interest in ensuring that settlement proceeds without delay so that they can get paid their commission. Without an agent, and in particular without a lawyer or conveyancer involved in the negotiation process, vendors and purchasers can sometimes commit to terms and conditions that are unworkable, ill-advised and even unlawful. For example, vendor finance clauses, rent-to-buy conditions, options and the like are very complicated even for seasoned investors. Getting conveyancing and in particular legal advice and assistance is the key.
Carefully research information regarding the price and terms of sales in today’s real estate market. Investigate recent sale prices of properties similar to yours in your immediate area. Know the property lot size, current tax information, and relevant property disclosure laws. Then establish a realistic price for your property based on that information.
If you have plenty of time and are not in a hurry to sell the property, and would like to do very little work I would suggest listing it with a broker. They will be able to create a listing for the property, answer phone call and emails, and handle the closing. The downside of this approach is comes at a price and you typically only get local exposure and most real estate agents who deal with both land and homes will most likely put more effort into selling their homes as the commissions are greater.