An attorney’s office or a title company can prepare closing documents for a land contract sale, but only the parties themselves or an attorney can prepare the actual land contract document and land contract memorandum. It is important to keep copies of all documents involved in closing on a land contract to verify required filings are performed and to protect each party’s interests in the sale.
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.
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If you feel that your agent isn't performing to your expectations, engage in an open conversation with them explaining what you feel isn't being done. Refer to the services spelled out in the contract. It's possible that miscommunication is the problem, and tour listing agent should get the opportunity to make it right. If you still don't see results, talk to other brokers at the firm carrying your listing and see if they can meet your needs.
If, for whatever reason, you don’t want to use Craigslist, another option is Facebook. Mark said, “right now, people are selling all day long on buy/sell groups on Facebook.” However, these are not the typical raw land investing or real estate buy/sell groups. “They’re going to Craigslist buy/sell groups, recreational vehicles buy/sell groups, hunting buy/sell groups, or fishing buy/sell groups.”
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.
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.
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 should work out a budget for advertising, because it can get pretty pricey. Although it’s not mandatory, it’s a good idea to get a selection of photos of your house showing it at its best, and using these in your advertising. Make sure any advertisements include accurate details about how and when you can be contacted. If you don't want calls from agents offering their services you can include the words “no agents please” in your ads.
One way you can do this is by using a third party escrow service like SafeFunds.com (I’ve never used them, but I know some who have and I’ve heard it works well). You could also give the cashier’s check to your mobile notary (if you’re using one) and they can deliver it to the seller after they’ve completed their documents. You could also just make a copy of the cashier’s check (to give the seller evidence that you have the money and it’s ready to go), and send this to them along with their docs to complete… and then you could mail it to them AFTER you receive everything from them.
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).
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.

Lack of advice or tools: You may miss an agent’s help throughout the process, starting with when you set a listing price. Online price calculators may not be sufficient to determine the fair market value of your home because they use completed sales, which tend to lag the market by a few months. Also, the algorithms don’t necessarily account for factors like curb appeal, landscaping, recent renovations, or school district lines.
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.
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.

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.

There are times when it is absolutely worth the money to hire a professional closing agent (I usually do it when I'm paying more than $5,000 for a property and/or if the property's fair market value exceeds $10,000), but when you're buying a property for pennies on the dollar, there are a lot of cases where you can easily close the deal yourself and get by without this added cost.

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).

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.

You'll want to have a real estate lawyer ready to go once you start entertaining offers. If you are new to selling privately, getting familiar with some common language such as deposits, conditions, adjustments, closing dates, etc., might be a good idea. Remember, you would need to get the services of a real estate lawyer to help close the transaction no matter what method you chose to sell. This is not an added expense to selling privately.


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.
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.

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.
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.
Mark has never been stuck with a piece of raw land because he always makes the deal irresistible. When selling the land, the typical deal structure is seller financing. Mark gets an initial down payment, which will usually cover his current out-of-pocket costs. Then, he gets monthly passive income in the form of a payment based on the seller financing terms.
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