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.
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?
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.
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.
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 you have chosen to sell your land privately, then you need to know that there are several ways that you can advertise your property. The absolute easiest way is to put out a ‘For Sale By Owner’ sign. This might give you better results than you expect. Many people searching for land simply get in their cars and drive around looking for a for sale sign. Make sure that you have some contact information on your sign.
There are times when it is absolutely worth the money to hire a professional closing agent (I usually do it when I'm paying more than $5,000 for a property and/or if the property's fair market value exceeds $10,000), but when you're buying a property for pennies on the dollar, there are a lot of cases where you can easily close the deal yourself and get by without this added cost.
I've seen a lot of different situations and dealt virtually every type of buyer, seller, lender and property type imaginable. After working through many of the different scenarios that can materialize in the real estate closing process, I have to admit – I understand why most people are intimidated by the idea of closing a real estate transaction themselves. For understandable reasons – there can be a lot of confusion and fear about how to close a real estate deal without the assistance of a professional.
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.
Bargain hunters: Of course, some buyers may find you even without a buyer’s agent. “If you have a great house, in a sought-after neighborhood, and you’re on a busy road where you’ll get a lot of visibility, then you might do fine working with only the unsigned homebuyers who discover your house on their own,” says Schorr. If you’ve got a charmer with a great kitchen in an affordable price range, they’ll find it online no matter how far off the beaten path you are.
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.
Have a pre-prepared contract and Form 1 statement at the ready, to be signed when you find yourself a buyer who is prepared to pay you the right price. You must remember that on most occasions purchasers have a right to “cool off” on a contract that they have just signed which they can exercise at any time and for any reason within 2 clear business days of signing the contract. It is therefore critical that you strike while the iron is hot.
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.
In terms of paying off the mortgage, you’d have to work directly with the lender to make sure they get paid and that they discharge their mortgage. If you’re unsure about how the process works, then honestly – it probably is best to just work with a title company. It may cost a few hundred dollars more – but for a property like what you’re describing, that’s what I would be doing anyway (I use title companies for anything in excess of $10K). They will take all the guesswork out of this process and make it WAY easier to get the job done.
The first obligation of a vendor to the purchaser is to make sure they can provide clear title to the purchaser, in other words, ensure your property can be freed of any encumbrances or orders or conditions at settlement so that the purchaser has clear title to the property. Your lawyer or conveyancer can assist you with this but the obligation is on you so make sure these matters are worked out before you start signing contracts.
My neighbor and I both want to do this as inexpensively as possible. I’m not expecting to make much more than what is needed to cover the mortgage payoff and a little extra to cover closing costs. I’m not sure what level of professional help needs to be involved, but the realtor who handled the deal for the home I just bought said it was as simple as contacting a title company to cover the necessary paperwork. Is that true?
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.
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.
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.
Nowadays all of my favorite software packages come for the same price: free. So I’d check out what’s available at tucows.com or software.com. You can also make a tolerable web page using Microsoft Word (which probably came loaded on your computer) however, if you’ve never made any web pages before, you’ll probably also be needing web-space to put them on, and you can find both web-authoring software and web-space available cheap or free with a little thoughtful web-searching.
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?
Depending on the property, you may even find that closing the transaction yourself can be faster and less cumbersome for everyone involved. If for no other reason – I've found that it's extremely helpful to have a basic working knowledge of how real estate transactions actually work. It's important to understand why title companies require what they do in a closing, which documents are an absolute must, and which documents are more discretionary in nature.
One way you can do this is by using a third party escrow service like SafeFunds.com (I’ve never used them, but I know some who have and I’ve heard it works well). You could also give the cashier’s check to your mobile notary (if you’re using one) and they can deliver it to the seller after they’ve completed their documents. You could also just make a copy of the cashier’s check (to give the seller evidence that you have the money and it’s ready to go), and send this to them along with their docs to complete… and then you could mail it to them AFTER you receive everything from them.
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).
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.
Equally, if you are thinking of buying a particular property, you don’t have to wait for a property to go on the market or appear in the real estate section of the newspaper in order to make an offer to purchase it. There is nothing stopping you from approaching the owner directly and asking if they are prepared to sell their property if the price is right.
If you need to find a buyer fast, our company is in the land buying business. If you've got time to wait for a few months, then get it posted on your standard online sites (don't underestimate Craigslist!) and consider hiring an agent. If that doesn't work out or you don't feel like waiting, we've got a network of buyers at Landmark Property Buyers.