How Does a Land Contract Work?

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If you want to sell a property to someone without involving traditional banks, it’s essential to protect your rights and assets. Land contracts will help you define the conditions of the sale, plus payment terms and more. However, ensuring you have the correct contract language enables you to avoid legal and financial mistakes in the future.

The article below details everything you need to know about land contracts and how they work.

What Is A Land Contract?

Land contracts are real estate contracts between buyers and sellers in purchasing or selling land or real property. They’re used specifically for seller financing and work similarly to a mortgage. However, instead of securing a bank loan, buyers make payments directly to the seller. A land contract defines the terms and conditions of this exchange.

Here’s an article about land contracts also.

How Are Land Contracts Structured?

There are several variations of land contracts. However, they’re all primarily structured in the same manner. Some agreements may require balloon payments , while others seek collateral after negotiations. Negotiating land contracts is a straightforward process so as long as both parties agree to the provisions.

Let’s look at a land contract example for clarity:

John wants to buy a $100,000 house from Mary. Both parties are amenable to a land contract arrangement as long as there are specific stipulations in place. Mary wants John to put his vehicle up for collateral and a 20% down payment while financing the rest in equal amounts for the next ten years plus interest. John agrees to the terms, and Mary drafts a contract for signing.

Before structuring your land contracts, the buyer and seller must agree upon a sale price, payment terms, cost allocations, and other limitations. Therefore, you should have the discussion after familiarizing yourself with essential assignments in land contracts.

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Important Terms

You don’t need a law degree to open the negotiation discussion of a land contract. The only exception to this rule is if the transaction is complicated and you strongly believe you need legal advice. Otherwise, you need to learn only a few terms to get started.

Important terms in land contracts include:

  • Property Deed : A property deed is a document that describes a property and assigns the ownership.
  • Financing : Land contract financing doesn’t involve banks, which means that these terms should be discussed in detail.
  • Collateral : Collateral is something tangible of value that the buyer agrees to place in holding for the seller’s benefit if the agreement defaults.
  • Down payment : Down payments are a tool that sellers use to reduce their risk when entering into land contracts.
  • Balloon payment : Balloon payments are similar to a down payment, but instead of falling initially, they fall at the end of the payment series.
  • Interest : A seller’s advantage is to collect interest payments from the buyer, so the rate should be negotiated carefully.
  • Costs : Determine whether the buyer or seller is responsible for mortgage notes , liens, insurance, property taxes, and more before signing on the dotted line.

You may need to include more specific provisions in your land contracts later. However, real estate lawyers can assist you in that aspect while drafting an agreement that resonates with the original intent.

Do Land Contracts Need to Be Recorded?

Land contracts don’t need to be recorded, unlike property deeds, conveyances, and warranties. Instead, they’re reserved for the private use of a buyer and seller. If a dispute or issue arises, the land contract is the standard by which decisions are made in negotiations, mediation, or civil court.

What Happens When Land Contracts Are Paid In Full?

The seller transfers the property deed to the buyer when land contracts are paid in full. They complete the process by filing the necessary legal documents with the County Clerk and Recorder’s Office in which the property is situated. The County Clerk will record the new ownership information. The buyer then becomes legally and financially responsible for the property.

This web page also discusses land contracts.

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Disadvantages of Land Contracts

The most significant disadvantage of land contracts is that there’s no transfer of ownership until paid in full. Due to the land contract structure, the seller generally retains the title. However, they are still liable for property issues as they arise. Ensure that you carefully choose your buyers when entering into a land contract.

Another drawback is that the buyer doesn’t build their credit history under land contracts since sellers don’t report to major bureaus. Property is likely the biggest asset one will ever purchase. Buyers may want to receive credit for their timely payments since it can affect their financial future.

Other Pros and Cons of Land Contracts

There are both pros and cons of land contracts. The significant advantage is that neither party needs to work with banks and is overall less expensive. In addition, both parties can create more individual wealth by engaging in this type of transaction versus a traditional mortgage.

Here are some other notable pros and cons of land contracts:


Bad credit can make it nearly impossible to finance a dream home. However, land contracts can ease these limitations. Owner financing allows you to purchase real estate if you can find a flexible seller. They may request that you put down collateral or make a balloon payment to initiate the process.


Sellers and buyers don’t have to pay for closing costs or origination fees under land contracts, which can range between two and five percent of the total purchase price. There are several cases in which the seller may not even ask the buyer for a down payment. As such, land contracts make the process more financially flexible.


The level of seller involvement makes land contracts even more secure for both parties. For example, if you miss several payments, the property doesn’t go into foreclosure unless the seller stops making mortgage payments. However, most land agreements contain provisions that direct the seller to pay the mortgage, if any, for it to remain intact.

Who Pays Taxes on a Land Contract?

The buyer pays taxes on a land contract. They are also responsible for additional expenses, such as property taxes, mortgage note interest, and insurance premiums. Buyers usually pay these expenses directly to the seller and may deduct them from their taxes. Sellers are not afforded the same opportunity.

Do Land Contracts Differ Across States?

Land contracts may differ across the U.S. There’s no standardized form in which land contracts must follow. As such, the structure, language, and terms will vary state-by-state. Real estate lawyers ensure that your land contracts are valid and enforceable under your state’s laws.

When Are Land Contracts Used?

Land contracts are used when a real estate seller agrees to take payments on a property until paid in full. Typically, the seller drafts the contract with their real estate lawyers and offers it to the buyer for acceptance. Once both parties have signed a land contract, the contract terms begin.

Land contracts are an essential component when selling land without the protection of a traditional bank. Without one, the buyer could take advantage of your vulnerable position and vice versa. Ensure that it reflects the intent of negotiations and verbal agreements by working with real estate lawyers in your state.

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