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.
Some people prefer to cut out the middleman when selling property, which means selling land without a Realtor. If you go the for sale by owner, or FSBO, route, you don’t have to pay a commission to an agent. The drawback is that you’re likely to sell for less than you would at auction, and it might take considerably longer for the sale to go through. You also have to manage all the advertising, negotiations and paperwork yourself!
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.
Dino Di Rosa, the Founder and Principal of Di Rosa Lawyers, has over 25 years’ experience as a lawyer. Based in the heart of Adelaide’s legal precinct, he is the trusted adviser many South Australian business and property owners turn to whenever they need help in the areas of law that matter most: family law, wills and estate planning, deceased estates and property law and conveyancing.
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.
Seth, you are amazing and brilliant. People at work were talking about you. Now I know why they spoke so highly of your straightforward professional, easy to understand posts. I am excited to look into everything you have to offer. We are all grateful for yoor expertise and the time you take to share and help the novice RE folks out here. YOU rock! Thanks! Just had to say this now. More when I finish!
Limited pool of buyers: Most serious house-hunters are working with a real estate agent; the commission would normally get split between the buyer’s and seller’s agents. But without a commission on the table, no agent is going to bring clients to see your house. In fact, many shoppers are contractually obligated to purchase their home through their agent — meaning even someone who finds your house while out on a drive or surfing the Internet may not easily be able to buy it.
That's tricky. It is not as easy to find a buyer for land as it is for a residence. Not all buyers have the resources or the vision to do a project like that. I would say try marketing to a builder that will put something on it, or try marketing to those that would like to build. First, and most important is location. What is in the area. Is it a highly sought after residential area, is it a commercial area. Know what your zoning is, and who this piece of property would appeal to. You have to have some kind of a vision for who it would suit in order to know who and where to market it.
The land contract should also state how the payments are to be made, including the due date, any grace periods for late payments, late payment fees, and where the buyer should deliver each payment. Typically, the land contract buyer will be treated just like the property owner and thus will be responsible for the taxes on the property, the insurance, and any utility bills including water and sewer which are typically billed directly to the property.
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.
It’s possible to do all of the above tasks yourself, but most people prefer to have at least some of these (e.g. checking over the sale and purchase agreement, the transfer of the title) done by an experienced professional. In particular only people with a licence from Land Information New Zealand can transfer a title online, otherwise you need to do it manually.
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).
Make sure your land is in marketable condition. Ensure your land is aesthetically pleasing by doing some cleanup. Mowing, weeding and removing garbage from the land may be necessary. This will provide the land with more “curb appeal” and give the potential buyers a better first impression. Providing corner markers indicating the property boundaries are also helpful for a potential buyer.
If the sellers do find a buyer on their own, despite having a contract with an agent, they may be able to negotiate a reduced commission with the agent. But the sellers should be up-front about their potential to find their own buyer when drawing up the exclusive-right-to-sell listing agreement, says Markel. Maybe they know of a friend of a friend who is looking for a house, or they plan on marketing their home on social media.
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!
Buildings: This chapter is intended to address land-only sales. Obviously, if your land has buildings on it, those can add significantly to the value. If the buildings are of any value, that is, a livable house or a barn or shed in good repair, this may be harder for you to estimate or to compare with others. About the best you can hope to do is to compare the number of rooms/bedrooms, the square footage, the general condition, and overall appearance. If the buildings are of marginal value, give them appropriate ranking, however as advice to a potential seller of real estate (I’d tell a potential buyer something else) don’t discount that shack or hovel too severely. A lot of buyers seem to feel somehow assured if there’s a structure of any kind on a property. Maybe it seems less intimidating than starting with empty woods. So if it doesn’t leak too badly, and isn’t going to fall down in the next few years, you may consider bumping the price up a few thousand dollars, or leaving it where it is so that the building provides another inducement to buy.
Lack of advice or tools: You may miss an agent’s help throughout the process, starting with when you set a listing price. Online price calculators may not be sufficient to determine the fair market value of your home because they use completed sales, which tend to lag the market by a few months. Also, the algorithms don’t necessarily account for factors like curb appeal, landscaping, recent renovations, or school district lines.
Hi Seth, thank you for all this information, it’s a great post! I have a question hopefully you can help. My dad is selling his house to a company that buys “as is” in cash, they’re the ones doing all the work and they told me he would just have to sign the documents that they would send to closed the deal, (they’re also paying all closing cost) the thing is that the house is located in Georgia and my dad lives in Indiana, so they said they would send the documents to my email and he can do the e-sign. He already sign a Standar Purchase and Sale Agreement, I asked them if my dad needs to sign the documents in front of an attorney or notary and they said no, it’s this true? Since I don’t have any expertise on this I’m just helping my dad because he doesn’t speak English, I’m a little worry that I might be doing something wrong by not asking the right questions. Also for the payment they said they’re going to make the payment to the mortgage company and then send my dad the remaining money as a wire or cashier check whichever my dad prefers, is this also right? Help please!
Pricing your home correctly is crucial when putting your property on the market. A property that is badly priced will take longer to sell than one that offers fair market value. You would need to do your research and get to know the local market inside out. Buyers can ask an agent to provide a comparative market analysis – a list of similar properties sold in the area, research asking prices for similar properties on Private Property or purchase a report from a property research company like Lightstone. Once you have the information required, you can set your asking price.
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.
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.
Land buyers are going to be more interested in a property that’s in the right location than one that’s more far-flung. For example, a buyer looking to build up a housing development might be more interested in land that’s near the Kansas City metro area, as the houses built on that land will be more likely to attract buyers, especially buyers who work in the metro area.
Provide as much detail as you can. Land buyers want the facts, and they wanted them yesterday. When you’re listing your property, be sure to include the zoning, plus details on whether the buyer will be able to change the way the property is zoned. You also want to include details on taxes paid on the land and other typical expenses. If you can, include the tax-roll printout from your local land registry or county assessor and include the legal description of the land in the listing. You can also provide that detail when people come to look at the land.
Thanks for the quick response. When I took the documents, generated by the attorney, to the county recorder, they did not look at them. The attorney had explained to the buyer at the closing the significance of recording the deed, joking it would prevent me from reselling the property. In hindsight, the attorney was about to leave on a cruise, so he may have rushed through this transaction. I will contact the attorney for his assistance. Thank you again.
chattels: items that are not fixed to the land or building structure e.g. fridges and are only included if specifically mentioned in the sale and purchase agreement. If chattels are included in the sale, they should be listed in detail in the sale contract. Some standard sales and purchase agreements included common chattels such as stove, fixed floor coverings, blinds and curtains.
The buyer may want to pay to have a policy of title insurance issued on the property subject to the land contract. The buyer can hire a title agency to run a land record search and discover any potential interests attached to the property that may interfere with buyer obtaining a clean title from seller. The parties may agree to split this cost in the land contract agreement.