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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 you own a piece of land that you’re thinking about selling, you need to know how to sell your land the proper way and at the proper time in order to maximize your ROI. Land is one of the most significant investments that you can make in your lifetime. So, if you are thinking about selling your land, you need to be absolutely sure about your decision.
Part of the reason for a title company is not only to help facilitate the closing, but also to make sure everything is prepared properly, and (perhaps most importantly) to be a mediator who can handle the documentation and transfer of funds (making sure both parties do everything completely, and that you actually get paid). If there’s no title company involved with this closing, I would be sure your dad and the mortgage company get paid either before or at the same time your dad is signing his documents, to ensure that everything is completed, and you/he actually gets paid.
Hi Laura – in pretty much every case, you’ll have to at least sign the deed in front of a notary, so it’s a little strange they didn’t mention that. If they aren’t going to use a title company, that’s not necessarily a deal-killer thing, but it means they really need to understand what they’re doing, and how to get everything properly documented and closed (and if they didn’t mention the deed/notary thing, that makes me wonder).
Land contracts are security agreements between a seller, known as a Vendor, and a buyer, known as a Vendee. The Vendor carries the financing for the Vendee, which may or may not contain an underlying loan. A main difference between a land contract and a mortgage is the buyer does not receive a deed or clear title to the property until the land contract is paid off.
The county should be fully aware of this change in ownership because they recorded your deed, but in many cases – the city or township administration is in a completely separate office and they don't share the same systems with the county. As such, they need to be notified separately about the property's change in ownership (and if they aren't made aware of the change, they'll continue sending the property tax bills to the old owner).
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.

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.
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.
Hi Laura – in pretty much every case, you’ll have to at least sign the deed in front of a notary, so it’s a little strange they didn’t mention that. If they aren’t going to use a title company, that’s not necessarily a deal-killer thing, but it means they really need to understand what they’re doing, and how to get everything properly documented and closed (and if they didn’t mention the deed/notary thing, that makes me wonder).
If you have plenty of time and are not in a hurry to sell the property, and would like to do very little work I would suggest listing it with a broker. They will be able to create a listing for the property, answer phone call and emails, and handle the closing. The downside of this approach is comes at a price and you typically only get local exposure and most real estate agents who deal with both land and homes will most likely put more effort into selling their homes as the commissions are greater.
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