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.
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).
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.
With a Warranty Deed, the seller is giving the buyer their “Warranty” (i.e. – Guarantee/Promise) that the title to the property is free and clear and the buyer will receive all reasonable rights to the property. This deed should only be used when the buyer knows for a fact that the property's title is clear of any liens and encumbrances. Most educated buyers will strongly prefer this type of deed (and if a lender gets involved – it will be required).
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.
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.
When people are selling their homes, they hear a lot about the value of staging to make the home look better and to speed up the sale process. While you can’t really “stage” your land — unless you want to strategically place a few cows or sheep here and there to make farmland look more “farmy” — there are several things you can do to speed up the process of selling your land.
Hi Dothan – thanks for asking! The package explains all of the standard steps for handling the closing in-house, but it’s geared more towards vacant land investors (and vacant lots are a bit simpler to close on than a standard home). If you’re working with a bank, they might even require that you go through a title company (and honestly, if the purchase price is $10,000 or higher, it should be fairly easy to justify the closing costs).
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.
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.
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.
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.
And last but not least, you can advertise it for sale online. Three sites that I recommend, especially if you need to sell your land fast, are Bid4Assets.com, eBay, and Craigslist.org. The internet should be your medium of choice for those of you who are selling land that is located in very secluded and isolated areas of the country, far removed from civilization, since there won’t be any people nearby to see your “for sale” sign.
If the sellers feel as if they are doing all the work, they might also be able to modify the existing agreement and add a termination if the broker doesn't meet certain obligations, like selling the home within a certain time frame, says Sandy Straley, a real estate agent in Layton, UT. Other obligations for the listing could include organizing open houses, creating and distributing printed materials, and even the posting of videos shot by drones, says Markel.
Comparables for land can be trickier than for home sales in your area. Although the assessor's valuation on your taxes can provide a starting point, consider factors like whether your property has utilities to the property line, views, zoning and any preapproved building plans to determine its worth. Location is always one of the most critical factors. In San Francisco's Pacific Heights area, for example, a buildable cul-de-sac lot of less than 4,000 square feet can sell for more than $9 million.
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.
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.
While it can take some work to find out what some people want, that’s just not the case with homebuyers. They aren’t going to play their cards close to the chest or make you guess about what they’re looking for. No, homebuyers are an upfront bunch. They know what they want, and if a house doesn’t deliver, they’ll let someone know — just watch an episode of House Hunters if you don’t believe us.
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.