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.
It is unfortunate, but one of the most common phrases we hear from sellers is “I don’t want to do anything to the land, just sell it as is.” At that point we begin the education process, but sometimes to no avail. Some sellers are just determined to leave significant amounts of money on the table due to the lack of “curb appeal” displayed by their property.
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.
If the neighbor isn’t interested, the next best option is to go to your buyer’s list. “What I like to do every single day,” said Mark, “is [to] do something to create some value or educate people on the benefits of owning raw land.” Then, he will end the content with a call-to-action. Two example of calls-to-action would be, “If you want to learn more, just opt-in here” or “Get $250 off your first land purchase.”
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.

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.
If there’s a lot of money involved in this deal (like, more than a few thousand dollars) and if you’re AT ALL unsure about their level of competence or trustworthiness – then I wouldn’t hesitate to push for a professional title company or closing attorney to get involved. That will resolve pretty much all of the issues that can come up in this kind of scenario. If you don’t know them well, then you have every reason to be skeptical for your own sake.
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.
Although the process of selling land is less complex than selling a piece of property with a home, this is still a process that requires the help of a professional. Real estate laws vary from state to state, so it’s important to work with an experienced real estate attorney when selling your land. The help of a professional becomes even more important if you’re creating a land contract.

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.
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Pricing your home correctly is crucial when putting your property on the market. A property that is badly priced will take longer to sell than one that offers fair market value. You would need to do your research and get to know the local market inside out. Buyers can ask an agent to provide a comparative market analysis – a list of similar properties sold in the area, research asking prices for similar properties on Private Property or purchase a report from a property research company like Lightstone. Once you have the information required, you can set your asking price.

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.
Advertise your property is for sale. Be sure to include location, price, dimensions and any other information that could add value to the land. For example, if your land has a lake view or beach access, it is important to mention that on the listing as well. Advertising mediums such as newspapers, television, signage or the Internet can be used to promote the sale of your property.
I’ve heard that it’s very hard to sell land/property with a quitclaim deed, and buyers (whether investors or the open market in general) will only want warranty deeds. So without me having to spend $2000 or so doing a quiet title or using Tax Title Services to make the deed fully clean and marketable and insurable, could you go into some depth explaining how to quickly flip/wholesale land parcels that I’m offering and advertising with a quitclaim deed I got from the county? What do I need to know for this, and how do I structure it to make it attractive, and what steps are involved? Is this something that investors/rehabbers are fine with accepting (if the price is attractive?)

Consider all offers. An offer can be accepted, rejected or countered. You choose how to respond but it's important to remain focused on your bottom line. Don't take any offers personal. Buyers generally are looking out for their best interest; you need to look out for yours. As the seller, you may decide not to counter if you think that the buyer is not serious enough to continue negotiations.


For some landowners, the idea of working with an agent is appealing. Real estate agents, especially those who specialize in land sales, know the market well and can help you get a reasonable price for your land. But the problem with working with an agent is you have to wait for the buyers to come to you. When they do come, they are often the ones dictating the terms of the sale, meaning you might end up getting less for your property than you had hoped.
The first obligation of a vendor to the purchaser is to make sure they can provide clear title to the purchaser, in other words, ensure your property can be freed of any encumbrances or orders or conditions at settlement so that the purchaser has clear title to the property.  Your lawyer or conveyancer can assist you with this but the obligation is on you so make sure these matters are worked out before you start signing contracts.
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While a land transaction is different in many ways from a real estate transaction in which improved property changes hands, it's still a real estate transaction. Land sales still involve escrows and title insurance and are still subject to transfer taxes. As with any other transaction, there are customs for who pays which expense at a closing, but the customs are also set aside when the purchase agreement for the land specifies a different procedure.

Some people prefer to cut out the middleman when selling property, which means selling land without a Realtor. If you go the for sale by owner, or FSBO, route, you don’t have to pay a commission to an agent. The drawback is that you’re likely to sell for less than you would at auction, and it might take considerably longer for the sale to go through. You also have to manage all the advertising, negotiations and paperwork yourself!

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.
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.

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.


My neighbor and I both want to do this as inexpensively as possible. I’m not expecting to make much more than what is needed to cover the mortgage payoff and a little extra to cover closing costs. I’m not sure what level of professional help needs to be involved, but the realtor who handled the deal for the home I just bought said it was as simple as contacting a title company to cover the necessary paperwork. Is that true?
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!
Provide as much detail as you can. Land buyers want the facts, and they wanted them yesterday. When you’re listing your property, be sure to include the zoning, plus details on whether the buyer will be able to change the way the property is zoned. You also want to include details on taxes paid on the land and other typical expenses. If you can, include the tax-roll printout from your local land registry or county assessor and include the legal description of the land in the listing. You can also provide that detail when people come to look at the land.
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.
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.
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!

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.
Hi Ben, you could use these for houses as well (I have in the past). The only caveat is that most houses have a lot more variables to consider (inspections, mortgages, utilities, etc.) – so it’s not a bad idea to at least consult with a title company or closing attorney and ask if they know of any other items you’d be required to have completed in your state.
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.

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.

Make sure the deposit is held by the conveyancer of the vendor, not the vendor if unrepresented.  A conveyancer has professional obligations with respect to the retaining of deposits which are effectively held on trust for both parties in a transaction pending completion of its terms.  A lay vendor has no such professional obligations, although they of course have legal obligations but those obligations can often only be “policed” in Court.
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!
If you have plenty of time and are not in a hurry to sell the property, and would like to do very little work I would suggest listing it with a broker. They will be able to create a listing for the property, answer phone call and emails, and handle the closing. The downside of this approach is comes at a price and you typically only get local exposure and most real estate agents who deal with both land and homes will most likely put more effort into selling their homes as the commissions are greater.
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