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?
Make no mistake, though: Working without an agent requires a huge investment of time, knowhow, and effort. You need a wide range of skills, from home staging to salesmanship to negotiating. And you need to be able to completely divorce yourself from the emotions that can arise when a buyer takes a dig at your curb appeal or lowballs the offer on the beloved home where you raised your family.

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.

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.
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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.
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.
If your house gets lots of attention and you get good offers, stay the course and be prepared to give up a little of your savings to close the deal. But if the process drags on without any real bites, hire an agent. You’ve lost nothing but time, and you’ll enter the agreement with a far better understanding of how it works and how to get the most from your agent.
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).
Once you’ve decided that you want to sell, you should try to get your home in tip top shape. A well-maintained home will stand out from other properties for sale and create a better impression on buyers. Tend to any repairs and maintenance issues like leaky taps, faulty switches and broken windows. These obvious flaws will put buyers off or encourage them to try to negotiate you down because of them.
When you’re selling a home, you want to give buyers all the details about it, such as a list of all projects you’ve had completed and a list of all updates and maintenance work performed within the last decade. You also want to show off the most desirable areas of the home, such as the kitchen or recently renovated bathrooms. Buyers are looking for details on the community, such as nearby schools, the friendliness of the neighborhood and property tax information.
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).
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.
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.

Conducting a self-closed real estate transaction isn't appropriate for all people and situations. The process DOES require some significant attention to detail and organizational skills. Some people are very good at staying organized and keeping track of these details, and others aren't. Don't try to close your own deals unless you're willing to go slow and get the help you need to ensure you're completing each step in accordance with the laws and regulations of your state.


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).


However, if two or more people are buying or selling the property (like a married couple, for instance), you need to pay close attention to the details and verify how they should be holding or transferring the title. Some states use slightly different terminology – but these are some of the more common ways that two people can hold the title to a property.
Hi Esther – if I were in your position, I would let the bank and/or title company handle the closing. They know these procedures inside and out, and with the closing costs involved, it usually makes more sense to let the professionals handle it… especially if you aren’t planning to do a lot of these “self-closings” on an ongoing basis (as a business).
Next, it’s time to advertise.  Depending somewhat on the type and location of your property, you can find a handful of free advertising sites on the web and you should employ these, preferably with a link to your web-page(s) if that’s permitted.   However, few of these free sites bring you enough traffic to help much in the absence of some uncommonly good luck.

The land contract is its own legal agreement or contract, with all the terms and conditions agreed to between the buyer and seller. At a minimum, a land contract should list the address of the real estate and the full legal description of the property, the purchase price, down payment amount, the monthly payment amounts and term, number of payments to be made, and any balloon payment required. Attaching an amortization schedule to show the exact payoff schedule of applying the monthly payments to the total purchase price is helpful.
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.

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.
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.
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.
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!
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.

Negotiate the price with the buyer and finalize the paperwork. Once you’ve decided on a purchase price, you can write up your contract. Free contracts can be found online or you can contact a real estate attorney. Some states also require additional paperwork, such as a land disclosure form, so be sure to do your research before completing the transaction.


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.
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