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.
So your home is for sale, and you've signed a contract with a real estate agent, but you were actually able to nab a buyer through your own efforts. Maybe it was through word of mouth or your aggressive push on Facebook (you should really apologize to your friends for posting so many pictures of your house!), but someone is writing you an offer and really wants to buy your house. Having found a buyer on your own, are you still legally obligated to pay real estate fees or commission? Here's how to know if you're on the hook.
Moreover, even though you’ll not have a lump sum of money to place against another piece of land or some other big-ticket item such as a vehicle or home construction, you will have the guaranteed income to match your payments, or some such new purchases, including the interest.   You’ll also get to keep a lot more of the money you’ll receive, because you’ll only pay income taxes in small installments over the years, rather than all at once, which is likely to bump you into a higher tax bracket.
1.  The Road:  The better the condition of the access road, the better impression your property will make.  If your land is three miles of bad county-road away from pavement, then I wouldn’t waste a lot of money making the access from the county road any better than the county road itself, but remember that you can do quite a bit to civilize a dirt driveway with a tractor and blade.   If you don’t have too much length to cover, there’s no substitute for a layer of 1” crushed rock (or larger rock in deep mud-holes).  One layer of 1” rock one lane wide will cost you about 75¢ per foot around my neighborhood.  Needless to say, if the property is on a road maintained by the county, or some other local government entity, and if this road has any work that needs to be done, this is an excellent time to complain politely about it to the wonderful folks on the Road Board.  Most counties grade their roads once or twice a year, but some roads that don’t get much traffic may be neglected if no-one complains.

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!

When we are buying land for our personal accounts, we always try to negotiate immediate possession for “purposes of making improvements.” This catch-all phrase gives us the opportunity to get a head start on simple improvements such as rotor mowing and clearing brush. You must be able to get the Prospects on the property before they can make an informed decision to buy. Often the prime spots which would normally “close the deal” are grown up in briars and brush. In many husband and wife instances, only one partner wants to move out in the country. The husband may be trying harder than we are to sell his wife on rural living, but if she can’t see the creeks, views, and big trees, then neither he nor we will be successful.


If you have created a land contract, you’ll 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 you’ve 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.
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.
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.
Land contracts are useful instruments for sellers who are selling a home and contemplating carrying the financing for a buyer. It gives sellers a built-in income and generally a better interest rate than rates offered on money market accounts or certificates of deposit. However, a prudent seller should take steps to protect equity and ensure the buyer can fulfill the terms of the land contract.
The first thing you must do when you have signed a contract to buy a property, especially where there are professionals involved in representing the interests of either party, is to lodge a caveat to protect your interest in the property until settlement.  A caveat will stop the vendor from selling to someone else or encumbering the property without notice to you.
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).
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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.

As for which states these forms work in, I definitely haven’t used them everywhere – but I have used them in a handful. The best way to verify their validity would be to contact a local title company and just send them both templates. As them, “If I get you the fully executed copies of these documents, will you be able to close the deal for me – or do you need to see something else?” This is usually a good way to test the waters before you actually go through the work of getting the contracts signed.


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!
It is unfortunate, but one of the most common phrases we hear from sellers is “I don’t want to do anything to the land, just sell it as is.” At that point we begin the education process, but sometimes to no avail. Some sellers are just determined to leave significant amounts of money on the table due to the lack of “curb appeal” displayed by their property.
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).
When you're buying a property for just a few hundred bucks (which is how most of my deals work) and you're already on a tight budget to begin with, it can be difficult to justify paying twice the amount of your purchase price just to close the darn thing. If you're in a situation where you need to act fast, acquire a property inexpensively and make the closing as easy as possible, closing it yourself may be the most advantageous way to move forward.
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.
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 all else fails, and you're still not happy, check to see if your contract has a cancellation clause. Depending on the situation, some agents may agree to nullify the contract, although they may charge you an early cancellation fee, says Realtor® David Welch, with RE/MAX 200 Realty in Winter Park, FL. If an agent won't release you from a contract, try speaking with a lawyer about breaking it. And remember, all listing agreements eventually expire, within three months to a year.
The memorandum of land contract is an abbreviated legal document referencing the land contract itself. This memorandum serves to put the public on notice of the buyer’s interest in the real property without the parties having to publicly disclose and record the full land contract and all of its terms, including price. Since the deed to the property is not filed until the seller receives payment in full of the purchase price indicated in the land contract, this memorandum is filed with the city and county to record the buyer’s interest in the property. The memorandum should list the address and legal description of the property as well as the names of the buyer and seller, and the date of the land contract. This document should be notarized and signed by the seller.
If the buyer has secured financing or is planning on paying with cash, a contract for sale will be necessary. This contract will specify the terms of the sale and may also specify other documents required before transferring the deed. This may include the financial documents that are necessary to secure financing. The contract may also indicate that title insurance will be provided. In this case, the title company may be involved in the transaction.
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.

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).

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.


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.

That means, as it always has, that you’re going to have to pay for your advertising just as sellers always have, but take heart in the fact that you don’t have to pay nearly as much for national advertising as you did in the days of paper.  Better still, if you put a hit-counter on your web page(s), you’ll be able to keep track of how much traffic you get from each source. That will give you an idea of which ads are most effective.


If you have unimproved land to sell, you may also find that the majority of agents are more interested in selling more expensive improved properties where they stand to make much larger commissions (and get fewer ticks) so your five acres of woods may get short shrift when it comes to exposure to the market.  This wouldn’t be such a big problem were it not for the fact that these days, more and more brokers are insisting on exclusive listing contracts that obligate you to pay them a commission even if you sell the property yourself to the fellow next door.
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