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.
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.
In the very least, your land contract should include the address of the property and a full legal description of the land. It should also include the down payment amount, purchase price, the number of payments that will be made, the monthly payment amounts, and any balloon payments that may be required. You may also consider creating and attaching an amortization schedule.

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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.
Carefully research information regarding the price and terms of sales in today’s real estate market. Investigate recent sale prices of properties similar to yours in your immediate area.  Know the property lot size, current tax information, and relevant property disclosure laws.  Then establish a realistic price for your property based on that information.
The land contract should also state how the payments are to be made, including the due date, any grace periods for late payments, late payment fees, and where the buyer should deliver each payment. Typically, the land contract buyer will be treated just like the property owner and thus will be responsible for the taxes on the property, the insurance, and any utility bills including water and sewer which are typically billed directly to the property.
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.
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?

Hi Dothan – thanks for asking! The package explains all of the standard steps for handling the closing in-house, but it’s geared more towards vacant land investors (and vacant lots are a bit simpler to close on than a standard home). If you’re working with a bank, they might even require that you go through a title company (and honestly, if the purchase price is $10,000 or higher, it should be fairly easy to justify the closing costs).
I have this document available for members of the REtipster Club to download for free, but it’s not something you can get here on the blog (because it’s pretty specific to land transactions, and I wouldn’t want people trying to use it for selling houses or other types of real estate, because it’s not really intended for that). Does that make sense?
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.
Demand a Title Insurance Policy. Title searches of the public records will also show liens or judgments filed against a buyer. The title company will likely ask for satisfaction of those encumbrances before it will insure the land contract on a title policy. Ask to see a copy of the preliminary title report (or commitment for title insurance) to determine if a search reveals anything about the buyer.
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.

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.
When you're buying a property for just a few hundred bucks (which is how most of my deals work) and you're already on a tight budget to begin with, it can be difficult to justify paying twice the amount of your purchase price just to close the darn thing. If you're in a situation where you need to act fast, acquire a property inexpensively and make the closing as easy as possible, closing it yourself may be the most advantageous way to move forward.
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.
To help avoid these issues, land owners in Brentwood or elsewhere should consider having overgrown properties mowed and any existing garbage or junk removed before showing. If the property is too large to mow the entire piece, sellers should consider at least creating a convenient mowed area for parking near the entrance. In addition, establishing a few mowed walking or driving trails throughout the land can help to encourage prospective buyers to explore and view the entire parcel.
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.
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.
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.

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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!
We are buying a home (FSBO) with cash from a friend, and want to avoid ridiculous closing costs. The seller is in Chapter 13 bankruptcy and the bankruptcy court has lifted the “stay” that had protected the house from foreclosure. We have contacted her bank (mortgage holder) and informed them we want to buy the house, and they have provided us with the payoff number. Does this package tell me everything I need to do to close this deal myself?
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.

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.

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.


At the showing, make sure valuables and other confidential items are put away so the potential buyers are free to walk around. Try and keep the number of people in the house to a minimum. Give them some time and space to look around on their own, but be available for questions. Gather receipts for heating costs, taxes, past repairs, or renovations; buyers interested in the house will want to know these details.

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.
Soil Terrain and Vegetation: Most small landowners will prefer a mixture of hill and valley, but level agricultural land is usually more expensive than hilly ground.  However, if your property is smaller, say less than eighty acres, there will probably be a better market for the mixed terrain that includes level bottomland and forested hills.  Likewise, the best overall market exists for small properties with a mixture of forest and meadow as opposed to all woods or all field.
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