There always seems to be an endless pile of paperwork and a lot of legal hoops to jump through (everybody wants to protect themselves from liability, etc).  While some of this documentation is certainly good practice – I've learned that when you boil it all down, closing a real estate transaction is actually a fairly simple process – especially when it's an all-cash transaction (no financing or mortgages involved).
Hi Walt – certainly. The delinquent tax list could be a solid way to get started. I typically look for land deals when I’m wholesaling, whereas most wholesalers are doing land… so that would be one key difference in the types of deals I look for (mainly because land is a much simpler type of property to work with – even though there may be fewer buyers for this type of property).
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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.
So your home is for sale, and you've signed a contract with a real estate agent, but you were actually able to nab a buyer through your own efforts. Maybe it was through word of mouth or your aggressive push on Facebook (you should really apologize to your friends for posting so many pictures of your house!), but someone is writing you an offer and really wants to buy your house. Having found a buyer on your own, are you still legally obligated to pay real estate fees or commission? Here's how to know if you're on the hook.
A seller who accepts the terms of the buyer’s purchase offer should sign the offer making it an official purchase agreement. The seller may be required by law to provide certain disclosures such as of any known defects of the property, including the existence of any lead-based paint. Required real estate disclosures vary by state, and a real estate professional or attorney may be able to assist sellers with these forms. For details, see the Nolo articles under What Sellers Must Disclose About a House’s Condition in the Selling a House section of this site.
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.

Once you’ve got the mechanics taken care of, all you need to do is collect absolutely everything you can think of that will describe your property, which may include, but will not be limited to, a written description, lots and lots of photographs, perhaps taken in different seasons, information about the local area, last year’s real estate taxes, aerial photos, road maps and perhaps a .pdf or .jpg copy of the survey, if available.


Thanks for the quick response. When I took the documents, generated by the attorney, to the county recorder, they did not look at them. The attorney had explained to the buyer at the closing the significance of recording the deed, joking it would prevent me from reselling the property. In hindsight, the attorney was about to leave on a cruise, so he may have rushed through this transaction. I will contact the attorney for his assistance. Thank you again.
Purchase agreement: A purchase agreement is a document stating the buyer is going to buy the land for a given amount, and that you’re going to sell that land for that amount. A purchase agreement also lists any conditions that would allow either of you to back out of the sale, and includes any details of the purchase that have been met, such as the buyer making a down payment.
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.
The one technique for how to sell a piece of land that is the same for home sales is using imagery to help buyers get a feel for the property and to help them get a sense of what they can do with it. For example, when you’re selling a home, you want to include plenty of photos with the listing and hold open houses so people can get a feel for the house. You want to clear out clutter and stage your home so buyers can visualize themselves living there, without being distracted by photos of your kids.
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.
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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.
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.
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.

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).
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!

Next, it’s time to advertise.  Depending somewhat on the type and location of your property, you can find a handful of free advertising sites on the web and you should employ these, preferably with a link to your web-page(s) if that’s permitted.   However, few of these free sites bring you enough traffic to help much in the absence of some uncommonly good luck.


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.
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.
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.
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.

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.


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.
Next, it’s time to advertise.  Depending somewhat on the type and location of your property, you can find a handful of free advertising sites on the web and you should employ these, preferably with a link to your web-page(s) if that’s permitted.   However, few of these free sites bring you enough traffic to help much in the absence of some uncommonly good luck.

A seller who accepts the terms of the buyer’s purchase offer should sign the offer making it an official purchase agreement. The seller may be required by law to provide certain disclosures such as of any known defects of the property, including the existence of any lead-based paint. Required real estate disclosures vary by state, and a real estate professional or attorney may be able to assist sellers with these forms. For details, see the Nolo articles under What Sellers Must Disclose About a House’s Condition in the Selling a House section of this site.

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).
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.
That means, as it always has, that you’re going to have to pay for your advertising just as sellers always have, but take heart in the fact that you don’t have to pay nearly as much for national advertising as you did in the days of paper.  Better still, if you put a hit-counter on your web page(s), you’ll be able to keep track of how much traffic you get from each source. That will give you an idea of which ads are most effective.
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