As with other real estate transactions, land contracts require a “closing” to prepare, sign, and file all necessary legal documents. This article discusses the common steps a buyer and seller should take to close on a land contract purchase. For information on land contracts in general, see the Nolo article, The Basics of Land Contracts. And for a variety of useful articles on real estate closings, see Escrow and Closing in Nolo’s Real Estate section.
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?
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.
Make sure your land is in marketable condition. Ensure your land is aesthetically pleasing by doing some cleanup. Mowing, weeding and removing garbage from the land may be necessary. This will provide the land with more “curb appeal” and give the potential buyers a better first impression. Providing corner markers indicating the property boundaries are also helpful for a potential buyer.
Personally, I’ve had good experience with Google Adwords where you can set your ad budget to as little as one dollar per day.  (You may be able to set it even lower, but let’s get serious, you DO want to sell this place don’t you?  Adwords also coordinates with Google Analytics, which will tell you far more than you need to know about the traffic you’re getting to your pages.  Also provided are ways to see how effective the ads you write are proving to be.  LandWatch.com is another favorite source of mine which consistently supplies better-quality leads, that is, more serious clients, than Google and others.
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.
Hi Sean! When I do my own title search, it’s because I’m NOT planning to get a title insurance policy (mainly because the property is so cheap, and the extra cost is difficult to justify). And yes, I am always sure to get a Warranty Deed from the seller. If I find any apparent problem in the title search, then I’ll usually walk away from the deal unless it’s VERY minor and/or we’re able to resolve the issue as part of my closing.
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.
California's basic transfer tax is $1.10 per $1,000 of value, and generally the seller pays the cost. If a $575,000 piece of land changes hands, the seller will pay the entire $632.50 tax at closing. Some cities also impose transfer taxes, which vary from $1.10 to $15.00 per $1,000 of value transferred, depending on the value of the property and the community in which it is located. The custom is for the buyer and seller to equally split the tax in most cities, but in some areas sellers customarily pay the entire tax.
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.
Hi Seth, I am selling my house as is cash only. I have two buyers. One is using a loan from Chase bank. I am a senior citizen and my first time to sell a house free and clear (bought it cashed). Should I just let the bank do all the paper work on closing the deal? not sure what to do and I don’t want to loose my house for nothing because I am only getting social security retirement.
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.
A somewhat surprising fact about selling real estate is that it can be far more difficult to find a buyer for a piece of vacant land than it is for most types of existing homes. The reasons for this are many, but often they are related to either the location of the land or the amount of work or expense that might be necessary to improve vacant land for a specific usage.

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!


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.
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.
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.
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).

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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.
If you have an underlying loan, given a choice between a straight contract or a wrap-around contract, offer the wrap-around land contract. It will give you an override on the existing interest rate of the first mortgage. Ask for legal advice about an alienation clause. The lender could call your loan due and payable if the lender discovers you have sold the home through a land contract.
Back in the day, there was so much available land in the U.S., especially in Kansas and other Midwestern and Western states, that the federal government was giving it away for next to nothing. Thanks to the Homestead Act of 1862, settlers who made their homes on land and stayed there for at least five years could take ownership of up to 160 acres, all for the price of a small filing fee.
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.
Whether you’re selling your land yourself or with the help of a real estate professional, it’s important to ensure that you have all the necessary documents to complete the transaction. It’s highly recommended that you consult with an attorney to ensure that your contract includes all of the necessary information and to ensure that you aren’t missing any important documentation. If you plan on selling the land yourself, be sure to do your research to avoid complications during the sale process.
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.

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We set up meeting at home this evening to pay “down payment” of $4500 and to throughly go over everything (house and paperwork wise) I am unaware of what the seller has in mind other than getting the money to hold it for us. Granted, we’ve only spoken twice to the man in charge from what I can tell. Once to say we were coming to look at the house (he was working so the brother and nephew showed us around and answered everything we threw at them) and again when we called him with our offer last night. Honestly, with as chaotic as it sounds it all seems legit to us and as you can tell we are through in every detail. Just want to be sure we’re going about the process the right way and not dreaming it up lol
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.

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).


Each approach has it’s pros and cons – and it does take more hassle to close it yourself rather than using a title company or closing attorney… so these are definitely things to keep in mind if you decide to go this route. You’ll definitely save money by doing an in-house closing, but it’s also a bit more complicated and time-consuming to handle everything yourself.
Whether you’re selling your land yourself or with the help of a real estate professional, it’s important to ensure that you have all the necessary documents to complete the transaction. It’s highly recommended that you consult with an attorney to ensure that your contract includes all of the necessary information and to ensure that you aren’t missing any important documentation. If you plan on selling the land yourself, be sure to do your research to avoid complications during the sale process.
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.
Hi Sean! When I do my own title search, it’s because I’m NOT planning to get a title insurance policy (mainly because the property is so cheap, and the extra cost is difficult to justify). And yes, I am always sure to get a Warranty Deed from the seller. If I find any apparent problem in the title search, then I’ll usually walk away from the deal unless it’s VERY minor and/or we’re able to resolve the issue as part of my closing.
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.
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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