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.
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 Brandy, thanks for reaching out! Most of the deals I close in-house are vacant land, so there isn’t much work involved with contractors or improvements. If I were you, I would probably bring this kind of deal to a title company or closing attorney, simply because they’ll be able to handle the moving pieces a lot better than you can on your own (and the cost should be reasonably low – low enough to justify the value they’ll be bringing to the table).
Access: While few in number, there are still some properties that don’t have legal access – that is, a deeded access-easement, or frontage on a public road.  This is what is known as “landlocked” property, and it is of considerably less value.  If you see an extremely low-priced piece of land for sale, it may be a bargain, or it may just not have legal access.  Curing this can be fairly simple, but don’t count on it.  If it were an easy matter, it would likely already have been fixed.  In most cases, legal access will require a deed from the neighbor whose land you’re crossing, and folks tend not to like to sign deeds unless they get something of significant value in return.
You may also want a lawyer to produce and review contract documents; some states actually require you to hire one. Although you can find much of the paperwork online, Schorr says, “you need to tailor it to your deal — and the way you fill it out is just as important as what the boilerplate language says.” You’ll probably pay $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the cost of living in your area, but you’ll get an experienced pro who’s in your corner and can make sure the deal gets done right.
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.
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.

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.
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.
While a good agent can certainly help with the negotiation process, he or she also has a vested interest in the transaction. “And closing the deal may in some cases be more important to the agent than getting you the absolute best price,” Schorr says. If you’re a good negotiator and can handle the process without emotion and with clear eyes, you might do better on your own.
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.
If you’re providing seller financing, you’ll still need to draft a deed, but this deed will be held in escrow until the final payment is made. Once that payment is made, the deed will be filed with its respective government agency, typically the county clerk. You can have an attorney, title agency, or a financial institution hold the median in escrow for you until the buyer makes the final payment.
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).
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.

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.


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!

When deeds are drafted as a part of a land sale, they have to be recorded to become a matter of the public record and protect the buyer's ownership rights. It is customary for buyers to pay for the cost of recording -- after all, it's the buyer that benefits from having his interest in the property entered in the public record. However, this custom isn't always the case, and some areas assign the fee to the seller, or to both parties equally.
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.
Additionally, the land contract should indicate how many payments will be made, their due dates, grace periods (if applicable), fees for late payments, and how the buyer should deliver each payment. Under a land contract, buyers are usually treated just like a property owner, and will be responsible for paying property taxes, insurance, and any utility bills associated with the land use.
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!
We are buying a home (FSBO) with cash from a friend, and want to avoid ridiculous closing costs. The seller is in Chapter 13 bankruptcy and the bankruptcy court has lifted the “stay” that had protected the house from foreclosure. We have contacted her bank (mortgage holder) and informed them we want to buy the house, and they have provided us with the payoff number. Does this package tell me everything I need to do to close this deal myself?
Interested buyers will be in touch to view your home. You can decide whether to host a show day or appointment-only viewings. If you decide to host a show day, we will send out a show day notification to our database of buyers to promote it. We can also supply show day boards for the outside of your property. Appointment only viewings pose fewer security risks and are easier to manage but would mean that your home would need to be show ready at any time.

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.
Additionally, the land contract should indicate how many payments will be made, their due dates, grace periods (if applicable), fees for late payments, and how the buyer should deliver each payment. Under a land contract, buyers are usually treated just like a property owner, and will be responsible for paying property taxes, insurance, and any utility bills associated with the land use.

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2.  Clean Up the Junk:  If you didn’t do this when you bought the place, now is the time.  Other than buildings of value, get rid of everything that didn’t grow there.  This doesn’t have to be a major ordeal.  First check out local laws regarding what, if anything, can be burned at your location.  Nearly all states have laws against burning old tires and many forbid burning other items such as other rubber products; wire; treated, painted or finished wood; plastics; garbage; heavy oils; asphalt materials; building materials, especially those containing asbestos; paints; and agricultural and household chemicals.  Then, if you have anything combustible, and plenty of water and a way to disperse it, go ahead and burn what you can, but make absolutely, positively certain the fire is out before you leave.  “Out” in this case means cold to the touch.
A lot of attorneys would love you to believe you have to cough up $1,000+ every single time you need to close a deal. There may be the occasional case where you have a VERY complicated deal that ought to be handled by an attorney (and in some states, the involvement of an attorney is required – see this blog post for more information), but I've found that in many cases, there is nothing wrong with using these basic templates to close transactions in-house.
The buyer may want to pay to have a policy of title insurance issued on the property subject to the land contract. The buyer can hire a title agency to run a land record search and discover any potential interests attached to the property that may interfere with buyer obtaining a clean title from seller. The parties may agree to split this cost in the land contract agreement.
Disclaimer: Please be aware that I am not an attorney and the information in this article should not be interpreted as legal advice. Every state has different laws and every real estate transaction has unique variables that can affect these standard documents listed below. Even though these are the exact steps & documentation that I use in my closings – don't assume that this information is fully applicable to your situation. Before you act on anything described below, be sure to consult with an attorney or legal professional in your area to confirm you're following the right steps and procedure.
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.
Hi Brandy, thanks for reaching out! Most of the deals I close in-house are vacant land, so there isn’t much work involved with contractors or improvements. If I were you, I would probably bring this kind of deal to a title company or closing attorney, simply because they’ll be able to handle the moving pieces a lot better than you can on your own (and the cost should be reasonably low – low enough to justify the value they’ll be bringing to the table).
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.
Sellers have a choice between using an estate agent to market their property or selling privately. There are benefits to using both and it is up to the buyer to decide which option to take. Selling privately has an obvious cost benefit and puts you in control of the selling process. You get to decide who to show the property to and when to allow buyers access to your home. You, as the seller, also have intimate knowledge about the home’s history and the area, and will be able to add value to the buyer. Sellers should however have some knowledge of the property market and decent negotiation skills if they decide to go down this route. .
Access: While few in number, there are still some properties that don’t have legal access – that is, a deeded access-easement, or frontage on a public road.  This is what is known as “landlocked” property, and it is of considerably less value.  If you see an extremely low-priced piece of land for sale, it may be a bargain, or it may just not have legal access.  Curing this can be fairly simple, but don’t count on it.  If it were an easy matter, it would likely already have been fixed.  In most cases, legal access will require a deed from the neighbor whose land you’re crossing, and folks tend not to like to sign deeds unless they get something of significant value in return.
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