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).
While a land transaction is different in many ways from a real estate transaction in which improved property changes hands, it's still a real estate transaction. Land sales still involve escrows and title insurance and are still subject to transfer taxes. As with any other transaction, there are customs for who pays which expense at a closing, but the customs are also set aside when the purchase agreement for the land specifies a different procedure.
I sold a house in Illinois with assistance of an attorney four years ago. The attorney instructed the buyer to record the deed during the closing. The buyer has never done so. I still receive the tax bills that I pass on to buyer with requests that he record the deed. I took all documentation of the sale to the county recorder but was informed that only the buyer could record the deed. Any advice?
If you have created a land contract, youll also need a memorandum of land contract. This is, essentially, an abbreviated legal document that references the main contract created. This simply serves as a public notice that the buyer is interested in the property without you and the buyer having to disclose and record the entire land contract. Because the deed of the property will not be filed until youve received full payment on the purchase price indicated in the contract, this memorandum will be filed with the county and the city to serve as a record that the buyer is interested in the property.
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Demand a Title Insurance Policy. Title searches of the public records will also show liens or judgments filed against a buyer. The title company will likely ask for satisfaction of those encumbrances before it will insure the land contract on a title policy. Ask to see a copy of the preliminary title report (or commitment for title insurance) to determine if a search reveals anything about the buyer.
However, after the buyer makes his sixth payment, I give him title to the property, that is I make and record a Warranty Deed to him, and hold a Promissory Note and Deed of Trust in return as security. Finally, as boiler-plate, I have the buyer sign a Quit-claim Deed back to me which is annotated to only be recorded in the event of a default. This, in one stroke lowers my foreclosure costs from around $1,500 to hire an attorney to perform a trustee’s sale, down to about $27 to record the Quit-claim Deed. Since I create all the contracts and deeds myself from standard forms, I save immensely on attorney’s fees. Using this technique, I am prepared both for the long-term sale as well as, should it be necessary, a fast and easy foreclosure.
Whether you inherited a piece of property that doesn’t mesh with your goals, discovered that you simply need to live in another part of the world, or even if you bought a piece of property and later just fell out of love with it, selling land, particularly in a poor market, can appear to be a daunting task. The amateur’s first reaction is usually to list with a real estate agent and hope for the best.
When you're buying a property for just a few hundred bucks (which is how most of my deals work) and you're already on a tight budget to begin with, it can be difficult to justify paying twice the amount of your purchase price just to close the darn thing. If you're in a situation where you need to act fast, acquire a property inexpensively and make the closing as easy as possible, closing it yourself may be the most advantageous way to move forward.
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.
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.
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.
To set your price, check around your neighborhood / community for comparable homes for sale. Get familiar with how other similar homes are priced. If you'd like a little more help in this area, the alternative to determining a price on your own is to use a professional appraiser. The initial cost of an appraiser is still much less than the end cost of commission. It's important to revisit your pricing strategy from time to time using all the available information you have.
The steps above are fairly similar to transactions that involve owner financing. The primary exception is that a deal that involves owner financing requires a few additional documents. Depending on the state and the specifics of the transaction, some seller financed deals will make the most sense to use in conjunction with a land contract (aka – contract for deed), which I explain in this blog post). Likewise, other seller financed deals will make more sense to use in conjunction with a Promissory Note and Deed of Trust, which I explain in this blog post.
In recent years, however, a combination of extremely low interest rates on savings accounts coupled with fluctuations in the stock market have helped to increase interest in the purchase of land as part of an investment strategy. These conditions may seem negative, but they can be good news for land owners. If you currently own vacant property that you would like to sell, the following tips are designed to help you get your land noticed by more buyers, increase your chances of getting a great offer and move on to a successful sale.