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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
However, after the buyer makes his sixth payment, I give him title to the property, that is I make and record a Warranty Deed to him, and hold a Promissory Note and Deed of Trust in return as security. Finally, as boiler-plate, I have the buyer sign a Quit-claim Deed back to me which is annotated to only be recorded in the event of a default. This, in one stroke lowers my foreclosure costs from around $1,500 to hire an attorney to perform a trustee’s sale, down to about $27 to record the Quit-claim Deed. Since I create all the contracts and deeds myself from standard forms, I save immensely on attorney’s fees. Using this technique, I am prepared both for the long-term sale as well as, should it be necessary, a fast and easy foreclosure.
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.
Just like any sale of real estate, a land contract should begin with a purchase agreement. This is a legal document signed by a potential buyer making an offer on the real property for sale. The purchase agreement should indicate that the offer is for a land contract, and should state the purchase price, initial cash down payment, length of the payment term, and any other terms of sale.
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.
Have a pre-prepared contract and Form 1 statement at the ready, to be signed when you find yourself a buyer who is prepared to pay you the right price. You must remember that on most occasions purchasers have a right to “cool off” on a contract that they have just signed which they can exercise at any time and for any reason within 2 clear business days of signing the contract. It is therefore critical that you strike while the iron is hot.
If you have chosen to sell your land privately, then you need to know that there are several ways that you can advertise your property. The absolute easiest way is to put out a ‘For Sale By Owner’ sign. This might give you better results than you expect. Many people searching for land simply get in their cars and drive around looking for a for sale sign. Make sure that you have some contact information on your sign.
Comparables for land can be trickier than for home sales in your area. Although the assessor's valuation on your taxes can provide a starting point, consider factors like whether your property has utilities to the property line, views, zoning and any preapproved building plans to determine its worth. Location is always one of the most critical factors. In San Francisco's Pacific Heights area, for example, a buildable cul-de-sac lot of less than 4,000 square feet can sell for more than $9 million.
Bargain hunters: Of course, some buyers may find you even without a buyer’s agent. “If you have a great house, in a sought-after neighborhood, and you’re on a busy road where you’ll get a lot of visibility, then you might do fine working with only the unsigned homebuyers who discover your house on their own,” says Schorr. If you’ve got a charmer with a great kitchen in an affordable price range, they’ll find it online no matter how far off the beaten path you are.
To set your price, check around your neighborhood / community for comparable homes for sale. Get familiar with how other similar homes are priced. If you'd like a little more help in this area, the alternative to determining a price on your own is to use a professional appraiser. The initial cost of an appraiser is still much less than the end cost of commission. It's important to revisit your pricing strategy from time to time using all the available information you have.
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.
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.
When you sell land by yourself, this is called a private sale. So, you will need to find a private buyer. It may help you to talk with local farmers if you are looking to sell raw land; farmers have all kinds of experience in purchasing land for their crops. If you are selling your land on your own without the aid of a real estate agent, this next section is for you.
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.
With this in mind, I spent several months putting together a full-blown course that explains how this process works from start-to-finish. The course is designed specifically for people working in the land investing business, and it comes with dozens of video tutorials and document templates that give an in-depth explanation of each step along the way.
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.
I have a brokerage in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee that focuses specifically in land, so what I have done is created a nationwide advertising service to attract more buyers. I advertise on several investor channels like CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox Business and then also channels watched by people interested in land and the outdoors like the Outdoor Channel.