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.
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).
I do most of my own title searches these days, but only because I know what I'm doing. If you have no idea where to start (even after watching the video above), there's nothing wrong with playing it safe and hiring a title company to handle this for you. Pay attention to what they're doing, ask a lot of questions along the way and learn how to do it yourself for future reference.
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.
The steps above are fairly similar to transactions that involve owner financing. The primary exception is that a deal that involves owner financing requires a few additional documents. Depending on the state and the specifics of the transaction, some seller financed deals will make the most sense to use in conjunction with a land contract (aka – contract for deed), which I explain in this blog post). Likewise, other seller financed deals will make more sense to use in conjunction with a Promissory Note and Deed of Trust, which I explain in this blog post.
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
When people are selling their homes, they hear a lot about the value of staging to make the home look better and to speed up the sale process. While you can’t really “stage” your land — unless you want to strategically place a few cows or sheep here and there to make farmland look more “farmy” — there are several things you can do to speed up the process of selling your land.
For what it’s worth, I do know of at least one wholesaler who has worked in Florida for years (though he does use a title company for every deal, he doesn’t close them himself). Given the logistical challenges with assigning contracts, I wouldn’t recommend trying to do these types of deals without a title company – it requires A LOT more running around and coordination than just paying cash and buying the property yourself.
I found the affidavit that you linked to and I get how to fill it out but the thing I’m stuck on is the notarizing. It has to be signed by both the seller/buyer and notarized. Obviously we aren’t near one another; can this document be notarized separately? Should I sign/notarize and then send it to the buyer for them to do the same? Have a mobile notary go to them? Any best practices?
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?
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.
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.
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!
Now, far be it from me to discourage using an agent. This certainly is the easiest way and not necessarily the least profitable or most expensive, especially in a booming market. In a less-than-booming market however, it’s good to remember that listing your property with an agent will subject it to comparison with dozens, perhaps hundreds of other listings, all competing with yours in features and price. Selling your property then, will probably require that a potential buyer finds it to be either the best he sees… or the cheapest.
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.
Other options to consider are selling your land with owner financing which makes it easier for people to afford. Trying to find cash buyers can be difficult depending on your asking price and banks don't typically want to lend on vacant land. Also, if you have land you want to sell in a hurry and you'd like to get cash for it there are a number of wholesale land buyers that make be interested in making you a cash offer for your land.